HARRISON, N.Y. - Players like to say, "Show me the money!" The PGA Tour is countering with, "Let us hold your money."
It's hard to find a PGA Tour player competing here at the first FedEx Cup event, the Barclays, this week who hasn't cracked a joke about the $10 million winner's check that will go into a deferred retirement account rather than the champion's pocket when the playoffs are over next month. It's easily becoming one of the most ridiculed parts of a playoff system that is taking more hits than the Titanic.
PGA Tour officials are trying to counter the criticism over the winner's check by pointing out the tax benefits of the arrangement to golfers.
The argument goes like this: If a player received the $10 million right away, he would owe the government $3.5 million for that $10 million immediately. Under the retirement plan prize, the $10 million grows tax free until it is taken out. Players have been shown what they've been told are conservative financial models that the $10 million should more than double if it's left untouched in investments for at least 10 years.
All the financial models and talks from Certified Public Accountants who helped come up with the plan have not come close to squelching the dislike for it however.
"I can see if they're trying to protect a guy like John Daly" (who isn't even in the FedEx field) "from himself," said a Tour veteran. "But we're big boys. We should be able to take responsibility for our own money.
"It's not the Tour's job to be our babysitter or tax accountant."
In the end, Tour players did not have much of a say in the system. The final call between handing out a $10 million immediate prize like every Tour purse or a $10 million retirement fund was made by the nine-person Tour Policy Board. Only four players are on that board however, meaning they can be outvoted.
Geoff Ogilvy - one of the players on the board - says that was not the case. Players on the board voted for the retirement fund as well, he said. But that doesn't mean the players here at Westchester Country Club are happy with the decision.
For some, like Phil Mickelson, it's not only about not getting to control your own money. It also has to do with the drama factor.
Mickelson thinks the Tour missed a great chance to build excitement in the Cup. Why not have $10 million spill out of a FedEx truck or something theatrical like that on the 18th green of the Tour Championship?
"Let's make it a little exciting," Mickelson said.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said everything about the first FedEx Cup playoffs would be reviewed after they conclude, but he declined to get into any specific possible changes including how the prize money is awarded.
Tiger Woods may not be hurting himself significantly in the FedEx Cup standings by skipping The Barclays (he can drop no lower than seventh place even without hitting a single shot). But he could be doing a major blow to his image in the New York market.
A number of fans at the course have been very vocal about their disappointment at Woods' decision to snub a playoff event in the shadow of the U.S.'s biggest media center.
"We love Tiger - until today," said 23-year-old college student John Lane, who'd come to Westchester with a half dozen buddies. "The bastard doesn't show up. He's off my list.
"I'm not buying his (video) game anymore."
So who did Lane and his buddies follow with Woods MIA? Mickelson, long Tiger's closest thing to a foil on Tour.
Briny Baird comes into The Barclays in 102nd place in the 144-man FedEx Cup standings. So the 35-year-old journeyman's not exactly thinking of winning it all after his 66 in the first round put him two shots back of the tournament lead.
"I played 250 Tour events without winning," said Baird, who hasn't won a tournament anywhere since a 2000 Nationwide Tour win. "That would be pretty good if I suddenly win two of four or two of the next three to get into the fourth."
"Definitely it's doable," he said.
When asked if he'd need the golf equivalent of a Hail Mary touchdown pass, Baird didn't hesitate. "A couple," he said.
The three major winners from this year in the field did not exactly put themselves in great position in the first round. Masters champ Zach Johnson did the best with a 2-under 69, still a full six shots back of the lead. British Open champ Padraig Harrington posted a 1-over round and U.S. Open Tiger-tamer Angel Cabrera struggled to a 3-over 74, placing himself in serious danger of missing the weekend cut.
August 24, 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.
... full article »