Tour Championship and No Grass

So Tiger Woods will likely win the inaugural FedEx Cup. But he’ll [photopress:eastlake.jpg,full,alignright]do it without rolling the rock on grass apparently.

East Lake in Atlanta, site of the tournament, has greens without grass. That means the PGA Tour has had to make some fascinating and unprecedented moves:

Record heat over the last month in Atlanta has caused so much damage to the greens at East Lake that PGA Tour officials cancelled the pro-am at the Tour Championship and told players they would not be able to set foot on the greens until the first round Thursday.

It was an unprecedented move to essentially eliminate practice before one of the tour’s showcase event, and it could spoil the finale of a FedEx Cup competition that so far has produced riveting golf.

“They don’t need this to be an issue,” Geoff Ogilvy said. “It’s a shame.”

Sure a lot of players will already know East Lake, but one has to think the Gods are against PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem at this point. First Tiger skips the first event. Then Phil skips the second. And just when things look to be back on the rails, the Tour Championship is being played at a course without grass. Finchem must feel someone (Mickelson?) has placed a curse on him.

According to the tour:

“All greens were impacted to varying degrees, and several greens are and will remain in poor conditions through the tournament.”

Not everyone is happy with the tour’s decision to stay the course so to speak:

Tour player Robert Allenby was not sympathetic to the club’s troubles. “They’ve had all year to prepare and to say it’s not ready is pretty disappointing, especially for a major event. We’ve come down to the final event and it’s a non-event. It could be Mickey Mouse. Who knows what the greens are going to be like?” (source)

As ESPN’s Bob Harig notes, the situation can’t get much worse:

So the show will go on, but with another blight. At The Barclays, it was the absence of Woods and mediocre crowds for the first-ever playoff event. At the Deutsche Bank, it was the absence of Els plus Phil Mickelson’s veiled criticism of PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. At the BMW, it was Mickelson’s no-show and the tournament’s leaving Chicago every other year.

Now this. A player could have a putt on the 18th green at East Lake to win a $10 million bonus — and it might not resemble a putt or a green at all.

Maybe a sense of humor is in order.

“I don’t think it’ll matter to the public,” Mark Calcavecchia said. “We’ll have a tournament. Somebody is going to win. Someone is going to finish 30th. And I think I know who the favorite for that position is.”

The full story is here.

Oh, and if you’re a betting golf fan, you might want to consider this man as the likely winner of the first FedEx Cup. I’m sure he’s excited about the $10 million annuity, especially given the $100 million contract he signed with Gatorade last week.

Personally I’m finding it really difficult to care about this at all now. What’s your take?

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

9 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Maybe it is good that Tiger didn’t show up at the first event since if he had won that event then the FedExCup race would already be over. Even if he had come second in that event he would have pretty much locked it up. It would kind of be like playing the 7th game of the Stanley Cup finals with one team already having won 4 games or playing the bottom of the 9th of a baseball game that the home team is winning.

    As it stands now there are only 3 guys with any chance of winning the tournament – what’s the point of anybody other than Tiger, FIGJAM and Stricker playing this week? Won’t it be anti-climactic if Woody Austin and Heath Slocum are playing it out to see who wins the Tour Championship but Tiger will already have the title locked up?

  • Wayne – that’s exactly why the FedEx Cup format needs to be changed. The winner of the last tournament is not necessarily the $10 million annuity winner.

  • why not a knock out tournament instead..with some handicap benefits

    Base it on a 16 round tournament…with the top 144 playing in it.

    First week, give the top players a bye….

    on the first week, the 70th-144 players play it out. Top 20 make it to the next round….

    the 2nd week, these 20 players mix it up with the 31-70th ranked players for four days. top 20 make it to the 3rd week.

    3rd week the 1-30th ranked play along with the 20 who qualified from the week before….Top 30 make it into the last week

    4th week…tour championship…..

    as for money…offer a little cash for the first two rounds and then raise the purse until the last weekend…

    This way, it’s not a forgone conclusion who the winner is…there’s a big cash prize at the end of it…upsets can happen and maybe an underdog ranked 144 can make it through….

  • DC – Hmmm – let me see – I want to host/sponser/attend a PGA tournament where the only guys playing have had a terrible year and/or I’ve never heard of them before.

    The whole idea of this was to get the best players playing more after the PGA. The guys struggling for their card always played a lot near the end anyway.

    Try again.

  • I think the idea of offering the best 10 or so a pass into the second round has possibilities. Or what about having two weeks on, one week with no event, and two weeks to finish? Either way, you have to set rules, in my mind, that say if you don’t play in one of the tournaments you are eligible for then you don’t get to continue.
    In some ways the PGA Tour is lucky that Woods skipped the first event. If he’d played and played well, then there would be no need for him to even consider tackling East Lake’s bumpy greens. He’d just skip it, having won the playoff regardless.

  • There should be two list os invitees:

    1) FedEx Cup points – top 140, 120, 70, 30 just like they have now
    2) People who make the cut the week before should automatically qualify to play in the following week. Yes, this will open up the # of players, but they can continue having cuts at the 3rd and 4th events

  • just like all playoffs in other sports, some of the best stories come from the first round, but when crunch time starts and that’s when i’m watching a lot. You don’t get superbowl numbers on the opening weekend of the playoffs.

    if the sponsors are worried, then have a lot less money/purses for the first two rounds….lump all the money on the last two tournaments. Tiger’s suggestion of having 10 million cash on the table on the first tee should get some first hole jitters out of these guys.

  • Why does there have to be a Fedex Cup or a playoff format period.
    Golf would be much more interesting if Tiger had a rival or rivals that challenged him every big tournament. There is nothing more boring than Tiger 3 shots ahead on Sunday. If Tiger started to get beat regularly, golf would be great, a shootout every big tournament. Unfortunately that happens a couple times a year.

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