Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Tour Championship Update

"But this IS my
funny face."
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem was recently quoted as saying, “we’re at a point of total parity.  Anybody out here can win any given time.  So far the fans seem to really like it, and it’ll be interesting to see what develops in that regard going forward.”  Allow me to translate.  “We’re at a point of total desperation.  Chez Reavie or Jason Duffner could win the FedEx Cup.  So far the fans we still have are tuning in because, as the existence of the Golf Channel proves, there are enough diehards out there to keep us in the conversation with NASCAR and hockey as the Zeppo Marx of American sports.  (Now that’s old school, even for this blog).  Thank God CBS just renewed our deal so I don’t have to sell my boat.”

Parity doesn’t work for golf and tennis for the same reason it doesn’t work for the NBA.  People watch those sports to (a) see the superstars win, and (b) OCCASIONALLY see the superstars get upset by a likeable underdog.  We would’ve been ok with Rocco Mediate beating Tiger at the U.S. Open but, if Bob May had pulled-off the upset at the PGA, it would have been a disappointment because we’d never met Bob before and frankly his story wasn’t that interesting.  The fact that he looked like an Easy Method driving instructor didn’t help. 

"Mmmm doughnuts.  Is
there anything they can't do?"
That parity was on full display at the Tour Championship as six players finished within two shots of the lead and at least that many had a shot at the FedEx Cup if they could have made one or two more putts after Webb Simpson essentially walked into a crowded bar, set the bag of money on the table and asked everyone to watch it while he went to take a leak.  You know he’s replayed every one of his 282 shots in his head and figured out which two most cost him the $7M difference between first and second place.  I do that when I lose $50.  I wish someone would invent one of those memory erasing devices from Men in Black.  That and a healthy doughnut.  If you eat two doughnuts and two fish oil pills, would that be the same as eating a salmon sandwich?  I wish someone had brought doughnuts in today.      

OK I’m back.  The designers of the FedEx Cup did everything right.  They manufactured a dramatic finish that hinged on the outcome of the Tour Championship with multiple outcomes in play right down to Baddeley’s birdie putt on 18.  The problem is that there are two kinds of drama.  You have the kind I care about like the showdown between Omar Little, Brother Mouzone and Stringer Bell (don’t watch this until you’ve completed your required viewing of the full run of The Wire http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqbxZG6FMeI) and then you have a playoff between Bill Haas and Hunter Mahan who are the embodiment of parity.  They are both swell fellows but the over/under on majors they will combine to win is 2 and I’m not sure you’d want either one of them playing in the last match with the Ryder Cup on the line. 

"Any of you guys step in
my line....and I'll kill you."
There was a big group of players in contention down the stretch for whom this would have been a signature win but they couldn’t close the deal.  Luke Donald could have justified his #1 world ranking but he did what he always seems to do which is lip out a couple of key putts on Sunday and finish between 3rd and 5th.  K.J. Choi would have been player of the year if he had added the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup to his win at the Players but he came up a stroke short.  Adam Scott blew it with a 74 on Saturday and is now back to not quite playing-up to his ability status.  (The positive byproduct of this development is that Steve Williams is back to just being a guy who carries a golf bag).  Jason Day huffed and stamped his feet around the back nine Sunday like a kid trying to get out of going to church and ended-up with another near miss.  (Jason Day wins the “Lighten-up Francis Award” for 2011.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrllCZw8jiM).

So who is the player of the year?  Bill Haas had a solid season and then won the 5th or 6th most important tournament of the year.  Keegan Bradley had two wins including a major.  Luke Donald won the matchplay, the most money (so far) and is ranked #1 in the world.  Nick Watney and Webb Simpson each had two quality wins.  Steve Stricker won the Memorial and finished in the Top 20 in all four majors.  That’s six prime candidates with pretty substandard credentials.  You know the other problem?  You would gladly have any one of those guys marry your sister which is great for the image of the Tour but lousy for generating buzz.  If you’re going to have total parity, then you at least need a bad guy in the mix to polarize people.  In short, the Tour needs an Omar and as far as I can tell, Omar’s not comin’.

(No spoiler here - just a classic Omar clip - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UmtuRRhtGQw).