Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The PGA Tour Playons

I like golf. You can tell by my charicature and my recent pics from Thailand. So I was pretty excited to hear that the PGA tour decided to have its version of playoffs this year. Well, after the opening two rounds of the "playoffs" the excitement has disappeared for me. They can no more be considered playoffs than the race for the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party. You think they didn't know Hu was going to win? Ar ar.

In fact, while playoffs create extra excitement in fans and desperate, balls-out, do-or-die play in the participants, the format for the "playoffs" in the PGA has accomplished the opposite. So they're anti-playoffs. Instead of calling them "playoffs" I'm going to call them "playons" from now on. Cuz that's what they are. Let me splain.

There ARE some things that make the playons look like playoffs. I'll start with those. There are some players who are knocked out of the playoffs based on poor play during the year. Only 144 players collected enough Fed Ex Cup points during the season to reach the playons. The other players have 4 weeks to steal tournaments from the lower level players on the Nationwide, Nike, or the Canadian tours where players sleep in cars, wives caddy and guys often spend more on travel expenses than they win. Screw the "have-nots". How much more capitalist can you get?

I'll tell you. There are four rounds in the playons. Like the NHL, my personal favourite playoff format. But it's just not the same. The first round is the Barclays at Westchester. Purse 7 mil. Winner gets 1.26. Bottom 24 players are cut. NOT the bottom 24 scorers at the Barclays but the bottom 24 after the screwy Fed Ex point tabulations. Next is the Deutsche Bank Championship. 7 mil. purse. Winner gets 1.26 mil. Bottom 50 players are cut. NOT the bottom 50 scorers from the Deutsche Bank but the bottom on the list of Fed Ex points. Then comes the BMW Championship at Cog Hill. That's this week. The top 70 vie for a purse of - you guessed it - 7 mil. Winner gets 1.26. 40 are cut and the top 30 play in the final. The Tour Championship presented by Coca Cola. Purse 7 mil. Winner gets 1.26 mil PLUS a bonus of 10 mil!!! That's capitalism!

There is a trophy for the winner. The Fed Ex Cup has never been kissed. Look at the sponsors of this travesty. Fed Ex, Coke, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, BMW. All huge corporations. Do they like golf? Nope. Do they like money? Yes. This whole thing is designed as a promotional gimmick to draw more attention to golf, their tournaments and their businesses. Huge corporations don't put up huge amounts of money unless there are even HUGER amounts of money to be made by doing so. Do you think they want little known players like Steve Stricker (-24), Rory Sabbatini (-23), Arron Oberholster (-20), Aaron Baddeley (-16), Rich Beem (-15), Sean O' Hair (-13), Heathcliff Slocum (-13), or Fredrik Jacobson (-9) to be the first to touch their lips to this shiny, silver trophy? Of course not! That would cut the profits significantly. There is a short list of guys who are supposed to win. The only two of the big guns performing well are Phil Mickelson, who won this past week and leads in combined score with -27 and Geoff Ogilvie who is -22. Way to go Phil and Geoff!

The scores accrued by the golfing elite over the first two rounds of the playons are: Tiger Woods -14 (since he took the first week off that's pretty good); Vijay Singh +5 with one missed cut (shameful); Charles Howell III +4 (terrible); Zach Johnson -9 (not too bad); John Rollins -3; Adam Scott -14 (great scott); Boo Weekely -7 (pretty good). And some players out of the top 10 the sponsors would like to see win: Ernie Els -12 (excellent considering, like Tiger, he took one week off); Sergio Garcia -11 (so far so good); Padraig Harrington -2 (pretty weak for the open champ); Retief Goosen +2 (pedestrian); Luke Donald +2 (boring); and Davis Love III even (that score sounds more like a Davis Like III).

Now for the reason I said the Fed Ex point system is whacky. Three of the top four guys have taken a round off! Woods just wanted to relax, K.J. Choi got hurt and withdrew and Phil is relaxing at the top of the list THIS week. And no matter what happens they'll all still be there or thereabouts for the Tour Championship next week. But they'll be well rested.

Come on! I mean COME ON! Who takes a round OFF in the playoffs??!!?? Guys in REAL playoffs like NFL or NHL have been known to play with broken legs, concussions and such.

Vijay Singh who I love but who has stunk the course out both weeks dropped from 6th place all the way down to 6th place! Jim Furyk, who shot the cut line with even par last week and was beaten by 55 guys went from 7th place all the way down to 7th. Ernie Els wasn't even there and he went from 10th down to 14th. Conversely, Phil Mickelson, who won the tourney and played spectacularly only moved up 4 places.

Rich Beem has played better than seven of the top ten and he's already been eliminated. Same with Fredrick Jacobson. A lot of the guys playing this week will play better than the guys who make it to the Tour Championship but they'll have to watch it at home on TV.

I don't think this is the playoffs. I think it's just a promotional scheme. It certainly isn't any more exciting than regular golf. If the bottom guys can't win and the top guys can't get knocked out, where's the excitement?

None of the players are really playing harder because their fates are pretty much sealed. Jose Maria Olazabal, who dropped from 98th to 100th last week, has the right idea. He hasn't played at all in the playons. Until they make the playons into playoffs I just might take the month off of watching them. Might that is. I don't think the new NASCAR or LPGA playoffs will do any better if they make the season points so important. The regular season should give a small advantage to the top players. That's it. The playoffs should be an entirely NEW season where everyone has a chance to win and everyone is also vulnerable.

I hope they change it next year.

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