Say hello to the FedEx Cup, a season-ending conclusion being offered this year on the PGA Tour.
The FedEx Cup is supposed to create fan buzz. Will it? Only time will tell. The top 144 points earners, starting with this month’s opening event through mid-August, will compete in four playoff tournaments at the end of the season, each with diminishing fields. The player with the most points after the Tour Championship wins the Cup and $10 million in prize money.
The LPGA created a similar system that fed into last year’s season-ending ADT Championship. I’m sure you’re still talking about rookie Julieta Granada’s surprise win that earned her the LPGA’s first million-dollar winner’s check.
OK, that’s not a fair comparison, but I’m not sure the FedEx Cup will deliver any excitement either. What would get people excited is a golfer — preferably an American — stepping up to create a sustainable rivalry with Tiger Woods.
GO WEST YOUNG MEN: As the players head toward the best coast for the West Coast Swing, you may remember that South African Rory Sabbatini dominated the opening part of the campaign by winning the Nissan Open at Riviera and finishing in the top 10 in four of the seven events he entered. He wasn’t the only visitor taking home American cash. Five of the top 10 finishers on the West Coast Swing were foreign: Sabbatini, Stuart Abbleby, Vijay Singh, Na-than Green and Geoff Ogilvy.
The nine-tournament swing can make a player’s season. Sabbatini ended 2006 with only one more top-10 finish but was 12th on the overall money list.
The depth of field for this year’s West Coast Swing is pretty good. Now let’s see who comes out of the gate the fastest.
THINKING OUT LOUD: It’ll be interesting to see if moving the Acc-enture Match Play Championship from Carlsbad to Arizona (February 19-25) hurts the field for the Nissan Open at Riviera, played one week earlier. The week before that, the Tour is up north for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Will a number of big-name players pass up L.A. and head straight from Monterrey to Arizona to prepare for the match-play event? The purse and first place-prize money is 40 percent bigger than the Nissan.
FEARLESS FORECASTS: Here is my list of golfers who will step up and challenge Tiger Woods on tour this year: Luke Donald (England), Adam Scott (Australia), Camilo Villegas (Columbia) and Henrik Stenson (Sweden). Did anyone notice my list didn’t include an American?
MORE PREDICTIONS: I made a few calls to local golf pros and asked them for their predictions and New Year’s resolutions.
Ben Smith, head pro at Sierra Lakes in Fontana, predicts that “weather won’t adversely affect the Southern California golf business,” which wasn’t the case the past two years with a sizzling summer and record rains. Smith also resolves not to change clubs and putters as much as he did in 2006.
Scott Huntsman, general manager of the Pacific Palms Resort and Industry Hills Golf Club, predicts “some crazy golf course will have a 300-yard par-3 hole.”
Eric Lohman, general manager at Black Gold in Yorba Linda, predicts “NASCAR will get so confused over the PGA Tour’s new FedEx Cup they’ll forget to show up for Nextel Cup, opting instead to drive their Chevys and Fords to the Tour Championship.” SG
Eric Tracy is also known as The Mulligan Man. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.