"Tiger's decision to blow it off sends a message to everyone — other players, sponsors, fans — about how unimportant it really is." **
Here I was going to begin the PGA Tour "Playoffs" with a special watch to see who would be the first to declare the FedEx Cup a "disaster."
Well shoot, they haven't even begun the darn playoffs and already SI's Jim Gorant uses Tiger's absence to pretty much say so, while Sportsline's Steve Elling is even tougher, declaring it the FraudEx Cup.
Gorant writes of Tiger's pass:
The aftermath is nothing short of a disaster. The Tour is attempting to change its entire business model, and this is the first tournament ever in the four-event playoff series. Tiger's decision to blow it off sends a message to everyone — other players, sponsors, fans — about how unimportant it really is. If he returns for the last three weeks and still wins the cup, a distinct possibility, it won't make everything all right. It would only reinforce the original message and exaggerate it. "Told ya it's no biggie to skip the Barclays."
Tiger has begged every columnist in the country to ask: In what other sport can you skip a quarter of the playoffs and still win? If the FedEx Cup survives, which is not a given, the Tour should reconfigure it so that no player can win if he skips a playoff tournament. Otherwise the entire thing stands to become a joke.
The killer is that part of the reason behind the remaking of the schedule was Woods's lobbying for a shorter, more compact season. He was consulted during the planning stages and gave the entire program his approval (although he was and still is unhappy about the $10 million first prize being a deferred payment). To turn his back on it now damages the entire undertaking.
Among Elling's finer points:
After more than a year of incessant self-promotion and endless hype, playing the opening round of the so-called playoffs minus the game's top star is a blow that no amount of creative slant can correct. But that didn't stop the tour from trying.
"We're disappointed that Tiger will not be playing The Barclays next week," said Ty Votaw, an executive vice president with the tour. "It's clear from Tiger's statement he remains focused on winning the FedEx Cup. Whether he can do it will be one of the many exciting things our fans will be following over the next four weeks."
Maybe he meant mini-exciting things.
Spin control? You bet. The first tee ball of the inaugural playoffs just sliced badly out of bounds, into your living room and through your plasma TV screen.
"Any good strategy involves all of the stakeholders buying in," said sports-marketing expert Paul Swangard of the University of Oregon. "Does one infer by his absence that not everybody bought into the idea?"
Seems that way, professor, though Woods indicated he sees value in the ballyhooed new plan and hopes to win the $10 million annuity awarded to the winner, the biggest bonus in pro sports.
Because he's been seeded No. 1 in FedEx points, the first prize remains statistically within his reach, which upon closer examination, is a systemic flaw worth fixing going forward. The tour has been pimping the FedEx Cup for months, to the point where even the true-believers have been rolling their eyes at the overkill. Earlier this month, for example, tour official and cup architect Ric Clarson likened it to the precursor to the biggest sports event of the year.
"I wonder if the members of the Green Bay Packers, when they won the very first Super Bowl in 1967, which wasn't even called the Super Bowl then, realized their place in history," he said. "Thus, we embark on a new era in golf called the FedEx Cup."
More like the FraudEx Cup now that Woods has disembarked. Did Bart Starr skip the first AFC-NFC Championship Game?
Elling also looks at Tiger's tendency, well, regular habit of entering tournaments at the last second and the ramifications for the PGA Tour and reminds us that Tiger skipped the Nissan Open in part to film FedEx Cup promotional spots. What a high point for all involved.