NORTON, Mass. For any sports fan, September might be the most wonderful time of the year. Major League Baseball begins its playoff stretch in earnest and the new, extra Wild Card spot means the world to fans in cities from Baltimore to Tampa Bay to Oakland to St. Louis to Los Angeles, amongst others.
Ask an NFL football fan to a Sunday or Monday night dinner and movie and you’re likely to get the grand blow-off.
Have you seen your neighbor with the Notre Dame flag flying on his house lately? Well, he might be in an Irish state of mind this weekend rooting against the Midshipmen.
Tennis anyone? Hardcore tennis fans from far and wide travel to New York every Labor Day for the U.S. Open, one of the great spectacles of American sports.
Golf you ask? Even the most savvy golf aficionado might struggle to explain the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup system to determine the PGA Tour Champion, now in its sixth year.
Like the fiasco that is college football’s BCS or the (just insert sponsor name here) NASCAR championship, the PGA created a complicated points system in 2007 to crown its playoff champion. Sounds fine, right?
Fine, except for the fact the FedEx Cup rules have been tweaked so often by the tour hierarchy and its promotional partner, FedEx, the average sports fan needs a 30-minute video tutorial rather than a simple bracket sheet.
What’s the good news, you might ask? The PGA Tour FedEx Cup system seems to be catching on with players and fans alike and there is no better person to explain that fact than Tiger Woods, who shot a scorching (-7) 64 to take a share in the lead at the Deutche Bank Championship on the outskirts of Boston.
“I think we’re just trying to play for position in the Tour Championship,” said Woods to the assembled media at the TPC in Boston, “because we know if we’re in the top five and we win the Tour Championship, you automatically win the FedEx Cup. The guys are just trying to position themselves and, somehow, try and get there.
“It’s one of those weird things, you could win all three of these events (the early round PGA playoffs at the Barclays/Bethpage, Deutsche Bank Championship/TPC Boston and the BMW Championship/Crooked Stick GC in Carmel, Indiana) and still lose the FedEx Cup,” said Woods, smiling at the dilemma.
“The argument would be, unfortunately for you (New England) Pats fans – what was it? 18-0? And, they, unfortunately, lost one. That’s kind of the argument, but that’s also why they set it up that way. Just because you sweep the playoffs, doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed that you’re going to win the overall title.”
While New England Patriots fans and coach Bill Belichick might cringe at the comparison, as would Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs (NBA regular season champion each of the last two years with no rings since 2007), the fact of the matter is underlined by Woods’ point – sweeping the early rounds of the playoffs doesn’t earn a thing come Super Bowl, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals nor any other sport.
The key is positioning and being at your best when the PGA Tour tees it up at the annual Tour Championship, scheduled this year for September 20-23 at the East Lake GC in Atlanta, Ga.
Do you think the system is gaining some momentum with the fans, Woods was asked by DigitalSports Desk?
“Absolutely,” he said without hesitation. “The fans are starting to understand it, they’re starting to get it, and we, as players, are starting to get it, too.
“The format has changed. The points structure has changed, and I think we’re trying to figure it out now and starting to have a better understanding of what’s going on.”
Terry Lyons is co-founder of MediaForward.tv and serves as Editor-in-Chief of DigitalSportsDesk.com (http://www.digitalsportsdesk.com) On Twitter, follow – #DigSportsDesk