Four years ago when Tim Finchem walked into the big man’s big office and looked behind the big cigar, he found himself facing a big problem.
“Hey Tim,” said the big guy to the US Tour boss, “We got a problem. Joe Palooka loses interest in your golf boys after the USPGA every year. That’s August Tim, AUGUST, but we gotta keep televising this crap for another couple of months. Do something about it. Do something about it or the money honey stops dripping. Y’know what I mean Tim?”
Tim knew exactly what he meant and so several weeks after a posse of the keenest marketing brains in American sport were herded into a hut somewhere in the desert outside Tucson; they emerged to announce their solution: all hail the FedEx Cup.
So now here we are in 2010 and the excitement is mounting everywhere as this year’s FedEx Cup reaches its climax in Atlanta and a man already too rich for his own good gets to bank another $10million. Excitement? Don’t be silly. If you’re anything like me then you will have been confused, not excited.
I have tried to follow the logic behind the points system of Finchem’s big idea, really tried to understand how it works, but just as I breath a sigh of relief and reckon I have it cracked, the whole shebang implodes again and I’m left marooned on a small island that is shrouded in fog. Is there anybody out there? No one, it seems, who can speak plain English.
Take the way the play-off events are top-loaded with points in contrast to anything else on offer throughout the season. Win the Grand Slam and you get 2,400 FedEx points. Win a play-off event and you pocket 2,500. This is what Charley Hoffman – who? – did a few weeks ago.
Charley did not even qualify for the Masters, the PGA or either of the Opens but he was in Atlanta and bidding for the big bucks. Actually I hope he wins the damn thing – this is being written before the final tournament – if only to underline the daftness of it all in its present shape.
At the start of the play-offs the top five were Ernie Els, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose. Going into Atlanta the top five had transmogrified into Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, Hoffman, Stricker and Paul Casey.
The US Tour commissioner has said that the FedEx will identify the year’s top player in the USA. Good luck Tim. One thing you can be sure of is that the big man with the cigar will schedule another meeting very soon. Apparently he has looked at the list of 30 players in the final week and noted, somewhat sombrely, that among others there is no Tiger, no Rory and no Rickie.
By contrast the European Tour’s Race to Dubai is easy to follow, simple to analyse and, judged by last year’s debut finale, all but guaranteed to tee up a proper climax to the season while wholeheartedly identifying the credentials of their number one golfer of the year. It helps that Europe’s top-60 leading golfers make it to Dubai.
Because he tried too hard to please the TV people, Finchem has managed to frustrate almost everyone else. This now includes the TV people. Mulled over how you like, this FedEx Cup is a mess. Yes, it is true that the US season once whimpered to a close, but now it is a laughing stock.
To date they have fiddled with the points system every year since 2007. This time they need to dismantle the foundations and come up with something that we all not only understand, but that makes real sporting sense.