Blog 60, 9/26/10 - Furyk 'Saves' FedEx Cup?


Jim Furyk, a deserving FedEx Cup champion
The FedEx Cup suffered a miserable two weeks in the run-up to the final nine holes of the Tour Championship this afternoon. After Martin Laird had risen from 95th to third in the standings on the back of his playoff defeat at the Barclays, Charley Hoffman had gone to number two after his win at the Deutsche Bank (and been in a great position to win the FedEx Cup despite not having played in a single major this year, and winning more points for his win than a player who happened to win all four majors would have), and Kevin Streelman made it to Atlanta despite being 67th on the PGA Tour money list, the system for determining players' positions in the standings took an awful lot of flak.
The system had, of course, remained unchanged from last year because it was Tiger Woods (FedEx) and Phil Mickelson (Tour Championship) who held aloft the trophies on East Lake's 18th green twelve months ago - it doesn't get any better for people trying to sell the FedEx Cup to a dubious audience than to have Woods and Mickelson grinning like Cheshire cats at the prize-giving ceremony.
This year, however, that same system caught a bad break or two when Woods didn't even qualify for the final event, and Mickelson played at his erractic/frustrating worst/best during the playoffs.
Laird, Hoffman and Streelman's situations therefore received perhaps more attention than they otherwise would have. But worse, way worse, was to come. Because storms were forecast for today's final round, tee-times were bought forward two and a half hours. Instead of altering its schedule to accommodate this development, however, NBC decided to stick with its original programming and show the grand finale of the FedEx season with a tape-delay. Fortunately for the Tour, a two-hour suspension of play due to rain starting at 1.10pm local time meant that when NBC did eventually catch up with the golf, it could show live action. But for many, the damage had already been done - the TV network had apparently slighted the event by not deeming it worthy of live coverage.
In addition to that, because the rain was pretty heavy, most of the gallery went home, meaning that when play could resume, it appeared that fewer people were outside the ropes than at one of the more obscure European Tour events. That, together with the continuous rain, obviously sucked a lot of the drama out of the telecast, which was further impeded by regular visits to the whiteboard for an explanation of what exactly was going on and who needed to do what in order to win the FedEx Cup.
To be honest, despite the best efforts of the excellent Steve Sands (Golf Channel), and the NBC analysts, it was all rather unsatisfactory.
But then Jim Furyk holed the putt to win it all and did something no one could have expected. He flung his putter on the ground, turned to the crowd and punched the air more vigorously than ever before - his reaction when winning the 2003 US Open at Olympia Fields was nothing like as animated. The man was clearly very excited (okay, he'd never won $11.35million at one tournament before) and later, when he pointed to the FedEx Cup after being asked which prize - the silver FedEx Cup, or crystal Tour Championship trophy - meant more, he gave the season-long competition another badly-needed shot in the arm. "It's only four years old," he said of the FedEx Cup. "But 40 years from now, there should be a lot of history in this trophy. And to have 'Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk' ... I'm very proud of that, because those two can flat play -- two of the most dominant players of my era, for sure."
Furyk's delight won't save the FedEx Cup its blushes, nor the tweaking it definitely has coming to it. But thanks largely to the 40-year-old's reaction upon winning it - despite having missed the Barclays because he failed to show up on time for the pro-am - it will live to fight/entertain/captivate/irritate/confuse/baffle/bore another day.

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