PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem disputes some of the players' complaints about the new FedEx Cup playoffs. Complaints overshadowing FedEx Cup chase as PGA Tour playoffs move to Cog Hill

With a total of $28 million in cash and $35 million in deferred compensation being paid out over four weeks in the PGA Tour's playoffs, one might assume that the world's best golfers would be bending over backwards to be a part of the FedEx Cup chase.

Instead, it seems that some of the sport's biggest names are bent on criticizing the first-year system, which was designed to generate interest in golf once all the year's majors were over.

The complaints range from the schedule, which has the four playoff events contested on consecutive weeks, to the $10 million deferred prize, to the notion that PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem and his organization didn't use any input from the players when designing the system.

The biggest drawback so far has been the highly publicized no-shows. With Phil Mickelson opting to skip this weekend's third playoff event, the BMW Championship at Cog Hill and Country Club in Lemont, Ill., and Tiger Woods not playing the opening FedEx Cup event at The Barlcays, the playoffs have been contested without the points leader in two of three events.

Other name players who have skipped or will skip this week's tournament include Ernie Els and British Open champion Padraig Harrington. Apparently, the four consecutive weeks of FedEx Cup play, coupled with the events that come before and after the PGA playoffs, is too taxing for some players - with the possible exception of noted grinder Vijay Singh.

"If you combine the total for the guys who are playing The Presidents Cup, it's seven out of nine weeks, end of the year, end of the summer," Woods told reporters Wednesday. "Guys are finding it tough to play seven out of nine weeks, except for Vijay. He's the only one."

As for the strain of playing so many events in a row, Finchem contends that the playoffs aren't supposed to be easy.

"We have a very high percentage of players playing all four weeks," Finchem said. "Some of them are finding that their bodies are having difficulty handling it and having to play around it. That's not unexpected. We always said that stamina was going to be a factor in this time of the year."

Els, who skipped last week's Deutsche Bank Championship to return home to rest and take care of some family matters, said it's unfortunate that players weren't consulted about the scheduling of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

"They asked those questions, but they didn't come out and say, ‘OK, look, this is what we're going to do, what do you think?'" Els told reporters. "It wasn't directly asked, and unfortunately, we are in this position now because they didn't either listen or they just went on with the decision, and this is where we are."

When asked about Els' comments, Finchem portrayed the situation in a much different light. He said numerous players' meetings were held in regard to the FedEx Cup and a plethora of information has been circulated to players via both e-mail and hard copy.

"In hindsight I feel comfortable that we did a good job in reaching out to players on the details," Finchem said. "Now, over the last six months, we've discovered that a lot of players, regardless of the amount of information that might have been discussed, didn't necessarily - for whatever reason - want to pay much attention to it."

In regard to the deferred prize money, Finchem said there are several misconceptions. First and foremost, Finchem said, it's not an annuity.

"If you win the Cup you have $10 million in your account," Finchem said. "It's not an annuity that you buy something for a certain amount of money and it grows and you get $10 million a number of years from now. That's not what happens. It's $10 million that's earning interest tax-free.

"You earn the money and get the money right away in your account. You can spend it starting at 45 or when you retire, whichever is later."

Still, players like Woods contend that the $10 million would be more impressive if it was a cash prize.

"How great would it be like in the World Series of Poker, at the first tee starting the first day of the Tour Championship, that's all you see is it stacked up there and that's what you're playing for," Woods said. "That would create a lot of buzz."

With so many complaints about the tour's playoff system, Els was asked why he was one of the players who agreed to take part in TV commercials promoting the event.

"I think we like them," Els said. "You almost have fun with them, and you kind of meet people. I think a lot of players do a lot for the tour. Let's face it, the tour does a lot for us, too."

Obviously, Finchem would prefer everyone to simply focus on the golf.

"I think the important thing about the FedEx Cup and the playoffs is, is it accomplishing what it was designed to accomplish, not whether we have little details in the structure of it that players didn't focus on or we need to look at going forward," Finchem said. "And in my view, my strong view, it's accomplishing what it set out to do: create a better end of the season, create some really powerful events in business markets around the country, get the best players playing, and most importantly, give the fans something that they can enjoy. I believe strongly that's happening over the first two weeks."

September 6, 2007

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