Now that theRyder Cup--that pomped-up exhibition against a bunch of boozy Euros who beat usbecause they know the difference between foursomes and four-ball--is over, it'stime to focus on the real jewel of the golf season. I'm talking about golf'sgrand finale, el huevo humongo. The Fall Finish.
The fireworksstarted on Sept. 4, when Tiger Woods and 10 others racked up the first FFPs(Fall Finish Points) of 2006. From now through the end of the Tour Championshipin November, every top 10 finish will mean FFPs for defending Fall guy CarlPettersson, three-time champ Vijay (Autumn-matic) Singh and other pros, many ofwhom are at least dimly aware of the program, which pays a $500,000 bonus tothe winner, $300,000 for second place and $200,000 for third and isofcoursesponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Fall Finish loredates to 2000, when Woods won the first one. Tiger was fired up, all right, butnot for the reason you'd think. According to SI.com, "Tiger reached hisboiling point last week when he won the Fall Finish program." He was tickedthat PricewaterhouseCoopers, a rival of his sponsor American Express, wanted tocongratulate him publicly. Since then Tiger has skipped a slew of Fall Finishevents, pretending not to care who wins. Thus his Fall Finish lead on JackNicklaus is only 1-0.
Who can forgetBob Estes's dominance in 2001, when he clinched the title with a week to spare?On the eve of that year's Tour Championship, sensing his place in history,Estes said, "I get a big check no matter what I shoot."
The Finish haslong inspired such memorable utterances. "Our sponsorship of the FallFinish," PricewaterhouseCoopers spokesman Dean Kern announced in 2003,"is an exceptional opportunity for us to strengthen business relationships,reach our target audience and provide exciting entertainment for all of thosewho love golf." Two years later, equally jazzed by the '05 event, Kernshowed Singh-like consistency. "Our sponsorship," he said, "is anexceptional opportunity for us to strengthen business relationships, reach ourtarget audience and provide exciting entertainment for all of those who lovegolf."
As Kern might bethe first and second to say, you don't fix something that ain't broke. Butthat's what the Tour plans to do next year. It will replace the Fall Finishwith a NASCAR-style bonus-points playoff called the FedEx Cup ChampionshipSeries and a late-season, also-ran circuit that will be known as the Quest forthe Card.
Nice going,FedEx. Thanks to you, PricewaterhouseCoopers is looking at a season of lousybusiness relationships, missing its target audience and providing aid andcomfort to those who hate golf.
In hopes ofeclipsing the FF, the FedEx Cup will provide a winner's share of $10 million.Nice idea, but by this time next year, with the new two-tier Tour awash inFedEx Cup bonus points and playoff permutations, we may be pining for theturn-of-the-century charm of the Fall Finish.
At least thePlayers Championship is safe. Not even the radicals of Ponte Vedra Beach wouldmove the fifth major from its hallowed spot in March.
Golf Plus willnext appear in the Oct. 30 SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.
by JAMES P. HERRE
Not awarding the Vardon Trophy to Tiger because he's around short is silly.
Nick Faldo adds lead analyst at CBS to his growingtelevision résumé
21 EVENTS + 3 EVENTS + BRITISH OPEN - 15 EVENTS -ROADKILL = THE VOICE OF GOLF
SCOTT HALLERAN/GETTY IMAGES (SINGH)
MR. OCTOBER In '02 Singh celebrated the first of his three Fall Finish titles.
COURTESY OF THE GOLF CHANNEL (LOGO); COURTESY OF ABC (LOGO)
PGA TOUR PHOTO SERVICES/PGA TOUR/WIREIMAGE.COM (MILLER, WADKINS); STAN BADZ/PGA TOUR/WIREIMAGE.COM (FALDO)