Sep
8
2009
Why the FedEx Cup Is Actually Getting Interesting
By Stephanie Wei under General

I ripped into the FedEx Cup last week. Perhaps I was being a bit unfair and it was premature to predict how the changes the PGA Tour made to the system would play out. While I’m still not a huge fan, I’ve reassessed and the format isn’t that terrible. After the Deutsche Bank Championship, it now appears the playoffs are intriguing for both fans and players. Finally.

Another Look at How It Works

The changes the Tour imposed were meant to reward players for consistent play in the regular season and put more significance to their performance in FedEx Cup events. Well, it’s actually working (shocking) somewhat now. We’re seeing how many spots players can move up if they finish well and how it doesn’t affect others much if they’ve played pretty well all year.

Steve Stricker won the Deutsche Bank Championship, the second “round” of the FedEx Cup. As a result, he moved to first place in the points standings, dethroning Tiger Woods, who held the lead for most of the season. So, it’s not going to be so easy for Tiger to win the whole thing.

Stricker has been playing solid with three wins and ten top-10 finishes. More important, he placed second and first in the past two weeks — he’s stepped up when it matters, which is the whole idea of playoffs.

But I find it absurd that Heath Slocum is still ranked third in the standings. I mean, seriously, he didn’t even make the cut this week! Not to mention Jim Furyk is only in 18th. He has made 18 of 20 cuts and has eight top-ten finishes.

What Made the Deutsche Bank Championship Compelling

First of all, the players like the venue, TPC Boston. The tournament was focused on the actual golf instead of the (poor) course design and for that matter, the awe-inspiring views.

Tiger made one of his Sunday-come-from-behind runs, shooting a 8-under 63. Even though he couldn’t complete it, it’s always entertaining and exciting to watch.

Had Jason Dufner or Scott Verplank won instead of Stricker, it would have been another ho-hum outcome (a la The Barclays, but a playoff between them would have made it OK). Stricker birdied the last two holes for the win, no less. (I was at the tournament and watched him play the 17th — he made a great clutch putt. He had that look in his eye that said, “I’ve got this. I will win.”)

Overall, the leaderboard was interesting. It was filled with big names, a few of which we hadn’t seen up there in a while, like Angel Cabrera, Geoff Ogilvy, Sean O’Hair and Retief Goosen.

Why We Care Now

With two events remaining, Tiger is no longer the points leader. And, well, we know how he feels about second place.  It’s doubtful he thinks of these tournament as anything “special” per se, but fact of the matter is that he cares about winning. Regardless of how he feels about the FedEx Cup, there’s still something on the line to lose (not money, duh). He’s shown a new level of frustration over the past two weeks — to say the least — and he hasn’t been hiding it well (5-hop clubthrow into the bushes in the first round).

Needless to say, Tiger is fired up and looking for redemption, and let’s face it — when that happens, it always make things more engaging. And, it likely won’t be him running away from the field. He’s up against Stricker, a very worthy opponent, who has shown that he will be tough to beat. Even better.

The FedEx Cup has my attention. For now.

[Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images]