Surprise, surprise. The FedEx Cup ended on Sunday and the champion was Tiger Woods. And no, it wasn't even close.
Jason Sobel and Bob Harig look back at Tiger's impressive performance and what tweaks may be made to next year's FedEx Cup in this week's edition of Alternate Shot.
Sobel: This just in, Bob: That Tiger Woods guy is pretty good. I mean, how ridiculous are these numbers: He shot 64-63-64-66 at the Tour Championship to win by 8 strokes, his fourth victory in five starts and 61st career PGA Tour title. Usually, Woods impresses everyone but himself, but even he seemed pleased with his play at East Lake. He talked about being able to work the ball both ways with the proper distance and amazed himself at how many putts he holed. It wasn't quite 1997 at Augusta National or 2000 at Pebble Beach, but that was a truly dominating performance. I think my thesaurus has officially run out of superlatives.
Harig: And just think: A little over a month ago, we were wondering if you could consider this a great season or just a good one. Then he goes out and wins the PGA Championship, finishes second at the Deutsche Bank Championship, and wins the BMW and the Tour Championship. He has just gone 1-1-2-1-1 -- grabbing as many wins as Rory Sabbatini has in his career.
Sobel: Ouch. Poor Rory never saw that one comin'. He called Woods "beatable" earlier this year, but that's looking more and more like a foolish statement as Tiger continues piling up trophies. How's this for a sign that he's playing some good golf? On Sunday he shot a final-round 66 and it was his worst score in his last six rounds. Scary.
Harig: What is scary is what Tiger can do when he drives the ball well. Sure, we saw him miss a few fairways here and there, but his driving percentage in the past month is way up over his average for the year. Mark Calcavecchia called him the best putter he's ever seen, and when he combines the two, we see this kind of run.
Sobel: I don't care if Tiger hits the ball in the fairway or not. With his length off the tee and the amount of greens in reg that he hits, Woods is unstoppable when he putts like he did this past week. Tiger led the field in both total putts and putting average, which is a dangerous combo for most players, but downright lethal for Woods.
Harig: It's almost too bad the season is over. Well, it's not over. But it is for him. After the President's Cup in two weeks, we won't be seeing Tiger for awhile. No overseas trips. None of the seven Fall Series events (not that we expected him to play any). He'll be back at his Target tournament in December, which is unofficial. Then the speculation will begin about his 2008 schedule.
Sobel: That brings up an interesting question: If you were Tiger, are you happy with finishing the season by winning four of your last five? Or would you rather have gotten hot earlier in the season, catch a few more majors during the streak and have more time to see how long the performance could last? You and I both know he measures himself by the majors and I don't care how much differently those courses were set up; if he played the Masters, U.S. Open or British the way he did this week, he would have won. No doubt in my mind.
Harig: I have to believe that Tiger is satisfied with what he has accomplished. He is not one to look back and play the "what if'' game. Two years ago, we tried to take him down that road when he came so close at the U.S. Open and PGA, having won the Masters and British Open. He just doesn't go there. He makes no excuses. He didn't have it in those weeks. Sure, he probably wishes he had worked out the kinks in his swing back in June, where he missed a playoff at the U.S. Open by a shot. Or at the British Open, where he never seemed to be in it. But he found it soon after and has been on one of the rolls that we marvel about.
Sobel: On to other pressing matters, I believe we've found the first tweak for next year's edition of the FedEx Cup. I was OK with the fact that only five players had a chance to win the title entering the Tour Championship. And obviously, I believe that the most deserving player won it all. (For those who think players should have to play all four weeks, my question is, "Why?" Players should do whatever it takes to win and if taking a week off keeps a guy fresher and more ready for the other three, then more power to him.) But when it was revealed that Tiger didn't even have to show up for the final event and he still would have been the FedEx champion, well, that's where I see a problem. Perhaps the PGA Tour needs to weight the Tour Championship with double or triple points, opening the competition up to more players and ensuring the champion would at least need to have a strong finish.
Harig: There is no question that Tiger is a deserving FedEx Cup champion. He led the regular season then won two events and finished second in another to easily win the title. But no doubt, there is something wrong with a scenario that would have allowed him to win the whole thing without even playing the Tour Championship. Sorry, but no season champion in any sport wins it by sitting out. Here's how crazy the whole thing ended up: There was a scenario by which Tiger would have won the FedEx Cup simply by winning the Tour Championship. Had Steve Stricker finished 3 strokes worse and all of the other players received the same points through the competition, Tiger could have skipped New York, Boston and Chicago, won Atlanta and still received the $10 million bonus.
Sobel: What that means is Tim Finchem needs to put the math geeks who founded the points system back to work soon, in an effort to ensure this doesn't happen again. On the bright side, I thought the playoffs -- if we can really call them that; I think the postseason should be referred to as a "chase" or "series" instead -- were a great success. During the early part of football season, people were talking about golf. Other than the Ryder Cup, when was the last time that actually happened?
Harig: Rarely, if ever. Golf was all but forgotten. So while I wouldn't consider the FedEx Cup playoffs a great success, it certainly was a huge step in the right direction. It can be better. Tweaks can be made. But for the first year, it accomplished a longtime goal, which was to get the best players in the same tournaments. All three tournaments leading into the Tour Championship had the best fields they have ever had. And the Tour Championship had all 30 players who were eligible. It's an excellent start.
Sobel: The tweaks will come, no doubt. The tour will review everything from the points system to players skipping tournaments and it will be interesting to see what gets changed. But like it or not, the FedEx Cup is here to stay. We might as well get used it.