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Fedex Cup Playoffs Grow Past Growing Pains

Norton, Massachusetts | They may be onto something with this FedEx Cup thing. This is the seventh year of the PGA Tour’s so-called playoffs and it finally feels like something more than a series of tournaments linked together by millions of dollars and a couple of guys who are really quick with calculators. Don’t ask me to explain how the points work. My math skills don’t reach much beyond a meat and two vegetables at lunch but after a few tweaks, a couple of wrinkles and a gentle tug or two, the FedEx Cup has become a natural part of the PGA Tour season. To put it another way, it’s growing on me. It won’t send otherwise rational people into a tizzy the way the start of fantasy-football season does but it keeps tournament golf relevant between tailgate parties. The idea was to create a big-bang finish to a season that started in Hawaii, wandered from the West Coast to the East Coast and various places in between before withering away in the shadow of football season. Now next season starts next month but that’s another story. It might not be golf’s Super Bowl but this beats ending the season with a whimper, the way it did before Tim Finchem stacked up $67 million and, to borrow a NASCAR phrase, said “Boys, have at it.” Money can buy a lot of things but it can’t buy time and that’s what the FedEx Cup needed more than anything once it was created. It doesn’t have the career-defining relevance that comes with winning a major championship and never will but it is developing its own history. Admittedly, the library is still small. There’s Bill Haas splashing his ball out of the water at East Lake two years ago. There’s Jim Furyk turning his cap backward in the rain three years ago. There’s Tiger Woods holding the FedEx Cup trophy beside Phil Mickelson holding the Tour Championship trophy in 2009. There’s the photo of Tiger kissing the FedEx Cup trophy in … No, he didn’t do that despite the urging of photographers and perhaps a commissioner or two. Halfway through the 2013 version of the playoffs, it’s been hard to argue with the entertainment value and that’s a big part of what this whole thing is about. It gets the best players together at a time when many of them would be home watching football like so many of the rest of us, it puts them in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty for a weekend, groups Woods, Mickelson and Adam Scott for two days in suburbs of Boston and promises to have it all wrapped up before the annual Texas-Oklahoma game. Watching Woods and Scott react to Mickelson’s adventures on Saturday was part of the fun. Mickelson made golf look like geometry with all the different angles of the shots he hit. He’s Indiana Jones with a Phrankenwood. Without the playoffs, the three of them would have been in three different corners of the world on Labor Day weekend.
Could the playoffs be better? Sure, especially if the rain that drenched the Deutsche Bank Championship would stay away, but it’s pretty good the way it is. This isn’t a sport set up for playoffs unless you have a match-play bracket so it has to be contrived to some degree. Whether Bob Estes makes it to the third week or not isn’t nail-biting stuff but the play-well-or-go-home element adds a layer to the middle two events. Through the years, they’ve tinkered with the points to make sure no one had locked up the championship before the final event, the way both Woods and Vijay Singh did in what might be called the early years. How many people would watch the Academy Awards if they knew Meryl Streep had already won? Okay, lousy example because watching the Oscars is second only to watching the Super Bowl in terms of unofficial American holidays but don’t solve the who-dunit in the third act of a four-act play.


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