SBD/August 25, 2011/Events and Attractions

PGA Tour Tees Off Fifth FedExCup At The Barclays With Mixed Expectations

The Barclays tees off without Woods, but with plenty of storylines
The fifth iteration of the FedExCup teed off this morning today and the playoff format "still has flaws," but four tournaments "with strong fields on appealing golf courses beats the alternative," according to Edgar Thompson of the PALM BEACH POST. The FedExCup points system is "arcane and the field for the playoff opener, The Barclays, is too big." While the event may be "good for golf, it hasn't won over mainstream sports fans." Still, two-time U.S. Open winner Curtis Strange said, "It has added some excitement in the later months of the year. You've seen the top players continue to play well into September, which ordinarily isn't the case" (PALM BEACH POST, 8/24). YAHOO SPORTS' Busbee & Bacon discussed the level of excitement heading into the playoffs, and Busbee wrote, "The PGA Tour's experiment in creating a 'postseason' has drawn wide criticism, some justified, some just flat-out griping because it's something different." He added, "But this year, with the field open, there's something really on the line week-to-week, and I gotta confess ... I'm looking forward to it." Bacon responded, "I'm actually looking forward to it as well, for exactly those reasons." Busbee: "I think that the playoff system is the ONLY way to inject interest into a lot of these late-season tournaments beyond the golf hardcores" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/24).

BETTER THAN THE ALTERNATIVE: GOLF CHANNEL's Jason Sobel wrote, "If you're searching for a favorite entering the quartet of upcoming events, there are plenty of options. ... The current format may not be perfect, but this sentiment didn't exist five years ago and beyond" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 8/22). ESPN.com's Bob Harig writes the current format "no doubt needs some sort of change if it is to live beyond the 2012 season," but for all the "bashing the FedExCup endures, it still brings enormous value." Harig: "Simply put, golf, specifically PGA Tour golf, would be all but forgotten as this week's Barclays begins and we head into September. ... Call it what you want, bu it beats the alternative, which is a completely irrelevant final two months of official golf to all but those fighting for their playing privileges" (ESPN.com, 8/25). NBCSPORTS.com's Ryan Ballengee wrote, "After a couple of rough years in looking for Goldilocks, the porridge seems much closer to just right and the Kool-Aid tasty enough for the players to imbibe and support the idea" (NBCSPORTS.com, 8/24).

A STAR IS BORN: YAHOO SPORTS' Brian Murphy wrote, "The next four golf tournaments are to be enjoyed on their own merit, for climactic finishes on the 72nd hole or for the arrival of a potential star like Webb Simpson or for one more blast of glory from a player like Ernie Els." Murphy: "How the golfers advance, and what algebraic logarithms needed to figure out who's advancing, I'll leave to Tim Finchem's numbers guy. After all ... how may of you remember who won the $10 million at the close" of last year's FedExCup (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/22). GOLF CHANNEL's Sobel wrote it is "inarguable that the competitors don't care about their impending result over the next four weeks" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 8/23). In N.Y., Mark Cannizzaro noted the FedExCup is coming to New Jersey this week "without Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy in the field, with Phil Mickelson struggling and with star power in the game a bit dimmed." But if we "learned anything" from this year's PGA Championship, it is that "we don't need the game's flashiest stars dueling down the stretch to create fascinating tournament theater" (N.Y. POST, 8/21).

MISSING YOU: GOLF.com writers debated the impact Woods' absence will have on the FedExCup, and Alan Shipnuck wrote, "We're used to life without Tiger. Interest will be high because all the other players we care about will be there. And a lot is up for grabs, not least player of the year." But Stephanie Wei wrote, "Joe Sports Fan was planning to watch because he wanted to see Tiger, but now he'll enjoy one of the last weekends of summer." Damon Hack: "I think it's a tough sell without Tiger. The format was designed to compel the big boys to play more. Even a diminished Tiger is still the biggest selling point in the game. The TV ratings will tell the tale." Gary Van Sickle added, "It's hard to gauge the interest levels. I've heard from two regular golf fans who said they have zero interest in watching golf the rest of this year. The tournaments are always interesting because they have good fields and appealing courses, but I'm not sure how fired up the average fan will be. ... If Phil Mickelson wins or contends in any of the events, TV will be saved" (GOLF.com, 8/21). Golf World's Tim Rosaforte said it is "certainly strange" contesting the playoffs without Woods. But he added, "You know what? You wouldn’t know it based on the amount of tickets they’ve sold out here. It’s a sellout for a playoff event and I think it just proves the value of rotating this tournament around the state of New Jersey” (“Golf Central,” Golf Channel, 8/24).

EXTREME MAKEOVER -- PGA TOUR EDITON: PGA Tour Exec VP/Communications & Int’l Affairs Ty Votaw discussed the FedExCup format and said, "We've kept it the same the past couple of years to see how it plays out." Votaw: "You get a number of different opinions. Is there too much volatility? Is there not enough volatility? Those have been some of the questions that have taken place over the past four years leading into this fifth FedExCup. ... We talked about the points, we talked about the various machinations of what's going to happen, but I would say the single biggest issue that's come forth over the past couple of years: ‘Is there too much volatility?’ If someone wins this week and moving too far up the points list going into Deutsche Bank." He said the PGA Tour likes the various opinions "to make it better." Votaw: "Someone spends four or five hours writing a column trying to make it better, they're writing about the FedExCup. We like that. If the FedEx Cup didn't exist, what would they be writing about?" ("Morning Drive Playoff Preview," Golf Channel, 8/24). However, GOLF CHANNEL's John Feinstein wrote it is "time for a complete revamping, a makeover, a do-over" of the PGA Tour playoffs. In other major sports, there is "a clear delineation between the regular season and the postseason." In those sports, "no one is given a head start -- except in the NFL." Feinstein suggested, "Start everyone off at zero and let them all play hard for three weeks to get into the Tour Championship" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 8/23). SI's Shipnuck wrote of the FedExCup, "I'm already burnt out on the endless discussion of the arcane points system and relentless promotion of the Cup" (GOLF.com, 8/23).
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