The Kodak Challenge is another one of golf's sponsor-driven gimmicks, a tricked-up contest in which golfers post their best scores on 18 of 30 designated holes throughout the season with a $1 million prize on the line. And what do you know -- it's turned out to be rather interesting, and it's going to come down to the final tournament of the year after all.
Rookie Troy Merritt (far right) is in the lead, having posted an aggregate 17-under across all his holes. But right on his heels are Rickie Fowler (near right) and Aaron Baddeley, both at 16-under. Merritt can't fare any worse than 17-under, but Fowler and Baddeley obviously close the gap with a birdie.
Which won't be easy. At Disney, the challenge hole is the 485-yard par-4 17th. It's a tee shot over water, with a tight, bracketed green. "Give me a 4 here and I'll run to 18," Lanny Wadkins once said. Should the Challenge end in a tie, the competitors will immediately go to a sudden-death shootout on the 17th.
Fowler has committed to Disney, and after his globetrotting of the last few weeks, that means he's taking this Challenge seriously. Merritt is too, obviously; a seven-figure check means a lot more to him than it might to most pros. And when asked if he'd play 17 a little differently even though he's also trying to get his tour card, he gave a refreshingly honest answer:
"I think so. Just because throughout the last few months, I've always paid a little extra attention to the Kodak holes because it was always a goal of mine to get myself as high as I can to give myself a chance to win ... Once I hit 17, there might be a little bit of a different mind-set, especially, let's say, if Aaron and Rickie are there and they make a birdie to tie me, definitely I'll pay a bit more attention to it. And also, maybe if I'm not even playing that well, maybe going to miss the cut, then I'll do my very best since I'll only get one crack at it and to lock up the Kodak."
What we need to do is put more at stake for the Kodak Challenge, not just positively, but negatively. Win it and you get a cool million; lose it and you lose your tour card. Now that's drama. And not at all contrived or tricked up. Not at all.