Phil Arvia: FedEx Cup proves golfers are spoiled, whiny, privileged

Phil Arvia

Unquestionably, the FedEx Cup is a success.

If, by success, you mean "has succeeded in making golfers appear even more spoiled, whiny and privileged than the general public previously perceived them to be."

Already this week, Phil Mickelson proved he has brass beyond his sand wedge, informing the PGA Tour that coming to greater Chicago on Thursday to play golf was a hardship he was unwilling to endure. This is a message he conveyed while playing golf in greater Chicago on Tuesday.

Thus, three weeks into golf's new four-week season wrap-up, events have been skipped by Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Mickelson. Which, essentially, is like holding Rolling Stones tickets to shows without Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts or Keith Richards.

As Mickelson spends quality time with his kids Amanda, Sophia, Evan and Corporate Outing, most of the rest of golf's Players Who Matter have descended upon a not surprisingly soft and vacant Cog Hill for something that is not the Western Open.

Just ask Woods, who confessed disappointment at the size of his gallery during the first round of the BMW Championship, adding, "It's a totally different atmosphere."

But we are not here to harp on what is lost (the name of the grandest tournament this side of a major, the perfect weekend on the Chicago sports calendar, the would-be Sunday galleries who will now be parked in front of the Bears game, the tour's annual presence in one of the largest markets in America ... ). Rather, we seek to help.

We seek to tweak the FedEx Cup, which is the name given to (or, if you prefer, branded upon) what is loosely described as golf's new season-ending playoffs.

PGA Tour policy board member Stewart Cink said the FedEx Cup is designed to determine a season-long champion and to provide a story line that ties an entire season's tournaments together, thus making the end of the season more interesting to hard-core golf fans and casual watchers alike.

The aim ought to be to make the players and fans care. The first we accomplish by allowing the best players to earn a week off rather than be criticized for it, and by giving them prize money they can spend now rather than in retirement. The second, by making the stakes more immediate and understandable.

The best playoffs - the NFL's, pro baseball's - merely use the regular season to establish brackets for the postseason. The most convoluted - NASCAR, golf - try to combine a contrived postseason with what has come before.

San Diego wasn't cheated after leading the NFL with 14 regular-season wins last season then failing to win the Super Bowl. It merely failed to live up to its seeding.

I don't think it would be so terrible if Tiger Woods, after winning five tournaments during the regular season, were to fall short of a championship in the playoffs. On the other hand, I do think it would be terrible if he were to win five tournaments just to get lumped in with the middle-tier mopes at the start of the postseason, save a slight difference in some impenetrable points system.

So here's what we're going to do:

The Barclays, otherwise known as Tourney No. 1 of the Playoff 4, becomes my wild-card round. Everyone in the top 30 gets the week off. The Barclays field of 144 then plays for the remaining 90 spots in the 120-player Deutsche Bank Championship.

The Deutsche Bank and the BMW would be played as individual tournaments, albeit without Friday cuts. Instead, the cut would come between tourneys, with the Deutsche Bank's field of 120 becoming 70 for the BMW, becoming 30 for next week's Tour Championship.

And at the Tour Championship, we don't start from scratch. Every shot taken by its 30 players over 12 rounds determines the winner.

Seems to me that gives the best player a pretty good chance to win. Any pro can get hot for four rounds and drop a 12-under to beat Tiger by a shot. But let's see somebody try to match Woods' score of something like a 48-under total of 816 over 216 holes.

As we stand now, not even the players know what they have to shoot from week to week to keep going. Jonathon Byrd, 30th heading into this week's event, has no idea what it will take to keep him playing next week.

"I can't say, ‘I've got to finish 15th this week or I'm not getting in,’ ’’ he said.

This was after shooting a 64. No one should ever shoot that score and be confused.

Unfortunately, with the way golf is trying to crown a champ, only confusion reigns.

Phil Arvia can be reached

at parvia@dailysouthtown.com

or (708) 633-5949. Read his blog at http://blogs.dailysouthtown.com/arvia