November 19, 2007

Newsmakers 2007: FedEx Cup

Whether you loved it or loathed it, the FedEx Cup innovation definitely created conversation during the 2007 season. When golfers in Hawaii during the first couple of weeks of January complain that they're already weary of fielding questions about the new playoff and points system, you know you have something. Exactly what that something was depends on the eyes of the beholder, and the rights holder. For public consumption at least, TV networks and sponsors considered the NASCAR-type finish a success, as did its chief architect, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who noted more than often that if you don't make changes and move forward, you're standing still. And let there be no doubt that, under previous guidelines, the golf buzz diminished significantly when king football arrived. So, implementing a more compressed schedule, the FedEx mechanism featured a year-long race, after which points were re-set and players seeded for a four-pronged "postseason." Participating events produced drama and worthy champions -- Steve Stricker at the Barclays, Phil Mickelson the Deutsche Bank and Tiger Woods the BMW Championship. Woods then romped by eight strokes at the Tour Championship to earn the first FedEx Cup (which he did not kiss) and the $10 million jackpot (which was deferred.) Was there confusion? No more than exists in annointing a No. 1 team in college football every year, and all that does is generate debate 24/7. Was there anxiety? Absolutely, especially after Woods skipped the first playoff, Ernie Els the second, Padraig Harrington and Mickelson the third. By winning the whole enchilada despite sitting out the Barclays, Woods at once validated the experiment and exposed its flaws. Also, no sooner did Mickelson accept his trophy in Boston than he mentioned having "some issues" with Finchem about the entire process. Finally, following his conquest at East Lake GC, Woods told Golf World, "we played a lot in a short time ... next year will be worse unless they do something." Well, they did. Just recently, the tour revised its 2008 docket so there won't be four straight weeks of playoffs followed immediately by a Ryder Cup. The payout will be sooner rather than later, too. Whether these "tweaks" satisfy the golfers, only time will tell. But as Finchem said, unless you make changes, you're standing still.