Year Two of the FedEx Cup playoffs starts this week, and let's face it: We're all as confused as we were last year.
Oh, for the simplicity of a sporting playoff like March Madness, the NFL playoffs, or synchronized diving, where nine different judges from various countries assign decimal points for difficulty and execution and you toss out the highest and lowest scores, then average the remaining seven scores with equal emphasis on difficulty and execution and … wait, never mind. Scratch synchronized diving from this list. While we're at it, let's scratch synchronized diving from our minds forever. I mean, two people jumping in a pool at the same time? That's not an Olympic sport. That's the pool scene from Caddie Day (1 to 1:15 p.m.) at Bushwood.
So the FedEx Cup is here, and like you, I need answers. All I remember from last year's FedEx Cup is that Tiger got a lot richer, and Phil dissed the Commish by saying he might not play, and then football season started and I pretty much lost track. Sounds familiar, huh?
Let's try to answer some questions with one of those handy-dandy Fan Guide Q&As. And a note to the Tour: If we have to resort to handy-dandy Fan Guide Q&As, your playoff system is probably too complicated.
Q: What is the FedEx Cup?
A: The answer the Commish wants to give you is that it's a top-flight, year-long competition of the world's best players, all vying for the right to play in a four-week, season-ending sequence of tournaments in which the field narrows with each passing week. At the end of the fourth tournament, the Tour Championship, the player with the most points wins a big, shiny trophy and – oh yeah, almost forgot – 10 million clams. As David Letterman might say, that's enough to buy some chewing gum.
The more accurate answer is, the FedEx Cup is the PGA Tour's way of saying, "Hey! What about US?" In a golf world that has spent the better part of 100 years valuing the U.S Open, British Open, Masters and PGA Championship as the most exalted trophies in sports, the Tour feels left out, like the uncool kids trying to rush Delta Tau Chi in "Animal House.” Not wanting to be like Flounder, the Tour wants the FedEx Cup to be as valued as a major trophy.
Q: Is the FedEx Cup as valued as a major trophy?
A: What are you, nuts?
Q: How can we follow the progress of the FedEx Cup starting this week at Westchester?
A: What do you mean, "follow the progress"?
Q: Like, who's doing well?
A: Um, how about looking at the top of the leader board?
Q: So only the top 10 advance, or what? You mentioned "points.”
A: No, the top 120 advance. Don't ask me to explain the points. Just look for the guy making birdies.
Q: So how can I keep track of who's at 120?
A: CBS will help, but you don't really care, do you?
Q: You're probably right. I only care who wins.
A: Of course. You're an American. That's what we do. We value winners, like Michael Phelps.
Q: Are we digressing into our own conversation here?
A: Yes, now how about another golf question, buddy.
Q: Is Tiger playing?
A: Now you're just being a smart guy.
Q: Is Phil playing? What about Ernie? Vijay? My guy Anthony Kim?
A: Yes, yes, yes, and yes.
Q: What about Kenny Perry? Doesn't he skip all the big events?
A: You're a funny man, pal.
Q: So that's pretty cool, eh? How can you make fun of an event that draws the best players on Tour for a four-week dash to the finish?
A: In truth, I was very much against the FedEx Cup when it was announced, partly because I'm a grump, and partly because it seemed an elaborate and confusing and artificial injection into a golf season that already had its natural arc: Masters-U.S. Open-British Open-PGA Championship-Ryder Cup/Presidents Cup. And in many ways, it is still too elaborate and confusing and artificial. But if you're going to look on the bright side of life, we get the best players on Tour on back-to-back-to-back-to-back weeks. In the past, that wouldn't have been the case. That counts for a lot, and as a result, we'll watch with interest, just to see excellent golf. Being brutally honest here, the alternative is a Carl Pettersson-Scott McCarron showdown at Greensboro, and while they're nice guys and good players, it ain't exactly Kobe-LeBron "Redeem Team,” is it? Heck, it might not even be synchronized diving.
Bring on the FedEx Cup! Our TVs await.
Scorecard of the week
75-70-69-71 – Michelle Wie, Canadian Women's Open, 3-under, tie-12th.
And so we arrive at a crossroads. We like crossroads. They force people to choose a road, and we can learn from their choice. Robert Frost built a whole poem around the concept.
Michelle Wie is out of bullets in 2008. She has no more sponsor's exemptions, and she did not earn enough for her LPGA card in 2009. Her choices now: Go to Q-School, like any other hopeful pro, or spend 2009 tilting at the same windmills as before: sponsor's exemptions, a PGA Tour start or two, more quixotic dreams. We'll see what choice she makes. It's not too late for Wie to become an excellent pro. It probably is too late for her to re-write golf history, as some of us thought she would five years ago as a preternaturally gifted 13-year-old. But becoming an excellent pro is still a noble goal.
The vote here says: Go to Q School. What does a golfer do when the game gets away? We go back to basics: grip, stance, alignment. Wie needs to go back to her grip-stance-alignment phase, and go to Q School, get that card, and begin the process of learning to win.
Then again, the vote here has no weight in Camp Wie. And, sadly, Camp Wie has spent the past half-decade making a series of poor decisions.
We shall see.
Mulligan of the week
On the flip side of the Michelle Wie quandary, we have Yani Tseng. Tseng, with none of the hype and all of the game Wie wishes she had, already has a major championship (the LPGA Championship in June) and, at age 19, was headed for win No. 2 in Canada when she woke up with a four-shot lead on Sunday morning.
What followed was a day only Greg Norman can relate to: a double bogey, five bogeys and a final-round 77, to finish third, two back of Katherine Hull.
On the one hand, that's a layer of scar tissue that will be hard to scrape off.
On the other hand, she's 19, has a major, and now is piling up experiences that will make her tougher in the long run.
Still, you hate to see it happen. Let's go back to Sunday's first tee, and somebody … give that young lady an all-day mulligan!
Broadcast moment of the week
"The Vil-lages/Flor-i-da's friend-li-est home-town … " – Insanely ubiquitous TV spot that's run all year during golf telecasts, selling a retirement community in the Sunshine State.
Let's face it, we're all pre-occupied by thoughts of spending the golden years at The Villages. Not only is it Florida's friendliest hometown, you've got the lap swimming, the golf and – my favorite image of the year – the IM softball team! I won't rest until somebody breaks down the Xs and Os of The Village's softball league. I want BALCO-like controversies, I want slugging percentages, I want team names. Why do I feel one of the teams is named "Del Boca Vista's Dingers?” Fans of "Seinfeld,” you hear me.
Where do we go from here?
FedEx Cup at Ridgewood! Tonight, we ride!