Leonard Shapiro, Sports Columnist

FedEx Cup Is as Good as Tiger's

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By Leonard Shapiro
special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, August 22, 2007; 3:00 PM

No matter what happens in the inaugural FedEx Cup competition over the next four weeks, is there any doubt as to who will be the player of the year, or for that matter, who will probably win the Cup, as well?

Never mind that Tiger Woods is skipping this week's Barclays Championship at the Westchester Country Club, the first event in the PGA Tour's four-tournament attempt to keep the public and media interested in golf in the weeks after the final major championship of the season.

Sadly, Woods sort of reneged on his season-long commitment to play in all four FedEx Cup events -- New York, the Deutsche Bank in Boston, the BMW in Chicago and The Tour Championship in Atlanta.

He had said all along his "intent" was to play in all of them, but last week he said on his web site that he was simply worn out from the stress and strain after winning back-to-back mega-events -- the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron three weeks ago, followed by his sweat-soaked triumph at steamy Southern Hills in the PGA Championship.

The fittest athlete in the game, arguably any game on the planet, too tired to play golf for four straight weeks, even after a week off after winning the PGA? It strains credulity, but it's Tiger's World, and the rest of us just live in it.

While PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem has publicly expressed his disappointment that Woods is a no-show this week, most of Woods playing peers probably welcome his absence, if only because it will give the other 143 men in the field a far better chance of winning the $1.26 million championship check or a larger chunk of change from the $7 million purse.

"If you want to look at it from a playoffs standpoint," Woody Austin said on Tuesday, "maybe (Woods) figured he had a first-round bye."

Whatever the case, Woods has to be the overwhelming favorite to take home the first Cup and the $10 million that goes with it, and probably win one or more of the remaining three events he'll enter.

Woods is well aware of anything involving his personal legacy, and in addition to all those majors titles, player of the year awards and millions in the bank, winning the first FedEx Cup also will look good in the history books, as well.

Woods, of course, is one of the reasons this competition was started in the first place. He and Phil Mickelson, among others, have been saying for several years that the tour's schedule needed to be shortened. This year, the Tour Championship will be played seven weeks earlier than in years past, with another week of rest before the top players head for the Presidents Cup in Montreal the last week in September.

Finchem and his minions came up with the FedEx Cup in order to create some NASCAR-like Nextel Cup excitement. And while the concept has been criticized in some quarters -- particularly the tour's non-stop talking points hype to promote the new series -- now that's it's here, the players surely aren't complaing about the $35 million in Cup money available, in addition to the $28 million they can earn in the four tournaments.

"I haven't struggled with the format since it was announced," British Open champion Padraig Harrington said this week. "It's quite clear cut. It gives someone like me a great chance of winning a playoff compared to the old system of winning player of the year. I will probably need to win twice, so I need to get hot for four weeks."


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