Hate to be Rude: There’s a twist

Tiger Woods could finish the FedEx Cup season 1-1-2-2-1-1-2, end the year with seven victories and not win the Cup and $10 million bonus. What’s more, someone like Ernie Els or David Toms could win his first title of the year by a stroke over Woods at the Tour Championship and claim the Cup.

You could perceive that as a system flaw, as perhaps the PGA Tour’s worst hypothetical nightmare. Last year there was an anticlimax at East Lake. This year could serve such perceived injustice. The Tour needed to do something to ensure a bang at the end; maybe it overreacted a bit by resetting points before the final of the four playoff events. Now anyone in the top five entering the Tour Championship can claim the FedEx Cup with a closing victory.

The FedEx playoffs – whose pure beauty lies in the fact premier players compete head to head four times post-PGA Championship – aren’t perfect largely because the word playoffs doesn’t jibe neatly with golf.

If we are to get our minds and arms around this current FedEx process, it would behoove us to focus on the word playoffs rather than season-long. Think of the Tour Championship as something of a Super Bowl. Think New England Patriots. They went 18-0 but didn’t win the big one.

Heath Slocum beat heavyweights Woods, Ernie Els, Padraig Harringto and Steve Stricker by a stroke at the Barclays, the playoff opener.

What to make of this? One, that’s golf. Two, Siena just upset Duke in the first round of NCAA hoops.

• Mr. Jeff Maggert recently (Golfweek Forecaddie, Aug. 29) labeled as unfair the fact that Nos. 126-150 in FedEx Cup points have to wait five weeks through the playoffs before playing again in the Fall Series. “I wouldn’t say it’s a very fair system for those guys, but obviously they don’t care about us,” Maggert said. “It’s one guy at the top that they’re worried about.”

The Tour is a membership organization that must provide playing opportunities for its members, which it does with the Fall Series to appease lesser lights. That’s more than fair because the Fall Series is probably more than the general golf public wants.

The Tour also is about entertainment and about having as many competitions that bring together the world’s premier players. The FedEx Cup playoffs do that – and wisely with limited overlap with football season.

We can assume the “one guy at the top” is Woods, not Slocum. We can also assume not just the Tour is interested in Woods; so is the public, as television ratings tell us. Because the public is enamored, because Woods moves the needle rather than those in the 125-150 category, Tour purses  have grown from $65.95 million to an estimated $277.3 million this year since Woods turned professional.

Given that water from the gusher flows deep downhill, Woods has helped make other players rich. It follows that quotes like “one guy at the top that they’re worried about” could be perceived as ill-advisedly coming from a lack of gratitude.

Jack Nicklaus won the 1986 Masters at 46. Tom Watson almost won this year’s British Open at 59. What do they have in common other than uncommon skill at an uncommon age?

“Their left heel comes off the ground,” said Lanny Wadkins, World Golf Hall of Fame Class of 2009. “No matter what their age is, it enables them to turn behind the ball and helps their rhythm.”

When Watson was a kid, his father used to tell him his swing was too long. But Watson’s longtime instructor, Stan Thirsk, would tell the kid not to listen to Dad because a longer swing would be an ally later in life.

You might say Turnberry validated the advice.

• CBS Sports is headquartered in the heart of Manhattan. But judging by its obsession with New York City views during the weekend telecasts of the Barclays, you’d have thought the Eye was seeing the Apple skyline, Statue of Liberty and Hudson River for the first time.

Camp Ponte Vedra couldn’t have gushed more.

Kenny Perry has replaced longtime caddie Fred Sanders with son Justin. This type of change is nothing new during the big-dollar years of the Woods Era.

Other longtime Tour caddies have fallen victim to what they call the Buddy System – when a Tour player replaces a veteran looper with a friend, relative, assistant pro from back home or a friend of a friend.

In one sense, it’s sad for professional bag men who face dwindling job openings and who must live by the tenet, “You’re only one shot from being fired on any given day.” In another sense, it’s a compliment to the profession of caddying, a more attractive pursuit than ever. These days a top bag can turn a looper into a millionnaire.

CEOC could’ve meant Caddies Eat Oatmeal Consistently years ago. Now it can mean CEO Compensation.

• As it happened, Annika Sorenstam and husband Mike McGee gave their new baby girl, Ava Madelyn, the two names that got the most poll votes on Annika’s Web blog. Ava led the voting with 24 percent, and Madelyn received 20 percent.

A couple of thoughts on this: One, Web Poll McGee sounds like an appropriate nickname (or Webby or Polly for short). Two, should I father another child (not bloody likely) or have a grandchild, I’ll poll the public with these early contenders: Sherwood B. Rude, I.M. Rude and S.O. Rude.

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