"We're pleased by the support the players have given the playoffs, in particular, and the FedEx Cup throughout the year," Finchem said. "During the year, total starts of our top players -- whether you look at top 30 in the world rankings, the top 30 from last year's money list, the top 50 -- the total starts players have made this year compared to last year is up and moving in the right direction. So we're pleased to see that."
He won't be pleased to see this. Because we did look, and unless the "right direction" is downward, these assertions are pure myth.
In fact, of those who finished in the top 30 on the 2006 money list he cited, only six had played in more events through the completion of the FedEx Series last week. The series, mind you, signaled the end of the season for many top players, including the guys who sell the majority of the tickets and drive TV ratings.
Let's do some verifiable math, so that there's no gray area here. Using Finchem's own yardstick, a review shows that the top 30 in earnings from '06 have combined to play in 60 fewer events this year, an average of two starts per player. Since those in the current top 30 in earnings have averaged 20.2 starts this year, that's a dropoff of nearly 10 percent across the board.
But what do I know? I attended public schools.
The only scintilla of credibility to his 90-degree verbal shank is that Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have combined to play three more times than in 2006, which can be partly attributed to Woods skipping two months last year while mourning the death of his father. The big hitters? As a group, Woods, Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk, Vijay Singh, Adam Scott, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen have combined to play in two fewer events this year than in 2006. Still, it's a slight drop.
Let's apply a more current measure. Of the 24 players in this week's top 30 in the world golf rankings who were members of the U.S. tour last year, eight have played in more events in 2007. A total of 13 have played fewer times and three had no change in total starts. All told, those 24 players have competed in 27 fewer events vs. their combined 2006 total.
While we're spouting trends here, let's back up another year and get a bigger dose of reality.
The star-filled group of Woods, Mickelson, Furyk, Goosen, Garcia, Scott and Singh have made 16 fewer starts this year compared to 2005, or more than two per player. (We did not include Els, because he suffered a major knee injury and made only 11 starts).
Note to the corporate spin artistes in Ponte Vedra: Sometimes when you bother to actually crunch the numbers, the numbers can crunch you.
The desirable length for a good course is from 6,000 to 6,400 yards. But bear in mind that it is quality, not quantity, that counts. In my work I repeatedly have had trouble making committees see the force of this. They seem possessed with the idea that length is the main desideratum. It is beyond all argument that many a long course is noticeably uninteresting, in contrast to shorter ones that are well thought-out and skillfully constructed. DONALD ROSS