Feeling let down that Tiger Woods is skipping the first event of the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup, The Barclays? WorldGolf.com's Chris Baldwin says the Tour needs to come up with a way to make the pro golfers take the FedEx Cup seriously.
HARRISON, N.Y. - Golf nut Pat Greco called up his buddy Al Mattera as excited as could be. The FedEx Cup playoffs were coming to Westchester Country Club, which made Greco sure of one thing.
Tiger Woods would be there - and so would he.
"I told him, 'We've got to go see Tiger Woods'" Greco remembers, poking Mattera in the arm for emphasis. "That this could be our last chance to see him out East for a while."
Greco and Mattera turn to each other and shrug. They are at soggy Westchester Country Club. Woods, of course, is nowhere to be found.
"It's the playoffs right?" Mattera asks. "That's what I don't get. When I heard it was the playoffs, I thought for sure Tiger would be here. How can he just skip the playoffs? That doesn't seem right."
And there you have what is really wrong with the FedEx Cup. All the stories written about PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem's personal baby - and there have been hundreds of them, with the overwhelming majority negative - have missed out on the real fallacy of the setup. The Cup isn't leaking because the points system is confusing or because it's a new artificial competition that can never measure up to the majors.
The big problem is that it still leaves tournaments like The Barclays, playoff tournaments that are supposed to be important, subject to the whims of star players. The tragedy of this FedEx Cup is that regular fans like Greco and Mattera can still be screwed over, that Tiger continues to be allowed to make a tourney look minor if it suits his agenda.
Greco and Mattera are the kinds of fans Finchem should be panting after. The two retired teachers from Long Island play golf together with a bunch of other devotees who dubbed themselves "The Over The Hill Gang Golf Club." They're the type of fans who are completely wowed by PGA Tour players and don't try to hide it.
"You learn that you should have taken up bowling watching these guys," Greco laughs.
There is a real love for Finchem's Tour here. Which didn't stop Greco and Mattera from being robbed of a chance to watch the best golfer in history - after they'd got their tickets expecting Tiger.
The PGA Tour and Barclays should be offering refunds to any fans who bought tickets to this tournament before Tiger withdrew. Without making the fans put the cash in a retirement fund either.
This isn't just about money though. It's about treating your fans with respect, about not allowing star players (even if it's the one mega star from another galaxy) to deem particular venues beneath them.
It's common knowledge that Tiger does not like Westchester CC. Maybe, as everyone speculates, he doesn't feel like it suits his game. Maybe he just despises the type of mints put on his pillows at the area's five-star hotels. Maybe he doesn't want to let Elin loose with his American Express card in New York City. Whatever the real reason, Woods never plays Westchester.
Just like he never ever plays a number of other PGA Tour stops - essentially holding those tournaments hostage and reducing them to minor league status.
The FedEx Cup was supposed to help change this, though. It was supposed to enhance the standing of after-the-majors tournaments that were otherwise largely forgotten. Instead, Woods can still make the fans at Westchester feel like second-class scoundrels ("I don't know why he hates us," New Yorker Sarah Lawler wonders).
Now Phil Mickelson is getting in on the act, suggesting he might not play all four playoff tournaments either.
Enough. It's time for Finchem to grow some guts. WorldGolf.com's Jeff White is right in pointing out that those ripping the FedEx Cup without offering any alternatives have little credibility. Here's your must-implement alternative: If a golfer misses a playoff event, he's out for the rest of the playoffs.
Tiger needs his rest this week? Fine. He cannot play again until after the Tour Championship just like the scrubs who finished below 144th on the FedEx points list.
This would destroy the FedEx Cup, you scream? That's as hogwash as Hogwarts. Do you really think Tiger would just walk away from the chance to play in the Tour Championship and other playoff tournaments he likes (and has sponsorship ties to) like the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston?
Please. The reason Tiger acts like a bully with his schedule is because no one has ever called him on it.
Shaq would probably skip all road trips to Salt Lake City if the NBA let him.
Yes, the PGA players are technically "independent contractors." And? This does nothing to preclude Finchem from enforcing a Tour rule.
By putting in this you-don't-play-you're-eliminated rule, Finchem would immediately make the rest of the players take the FedEx Cup seriously. For the first time.
The Top 10 players actually at Westchester are clearly being careful not to come right out and criticize Woods - and end up on a Tiger hit list, a la Rory Sabbatini. But many of them are also unmistakably perturbed by Tiger bailing.
Vijay Singh - the rare pro who can see perspectives past his own nose - puts it best by remembering a past that didn't include a hundred millionaires on Tour.
"You go back 30, 40 years and give the same opportunities to the guys that were playing then ... they will swim to the tournaments," Singh says. "I think it's a great thing that we have. You should be proud of what The Tour has done for us and we should be really happy that we have a Tour to play in."
Finchem needs to remind Woods and every other star that the PGA Tour's fans actually matter. That when two golf crazies like Greco and Mattera hear playoffs and think Tiger they're not made to look the fool.
Play or be eliminated. Simple choice. No need to break out the quantum physics. Just make the damn Cup matter.
August 23, 2007
Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Davis Love III, who played the final 57 holes of the Children's Miracle Network Classic without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at the Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Florida. It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, he needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
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