Sat, Aug 18, 2007 - Page 19 News List

FedEx Cup hopes to end golf season with a bang

AP , TULSA, OKLAHOMA

A blockbuster end to the US golf tour season. A season-long points competition. A bonus worth five times the typical first-place check.

If that sounds like the FedEx Cup, turn back the calendar to the age of persimmon woods and Sansabelt pants.

This was the Vantage Championship in 1986, designed to give the US tour a compelling finish. That became the precursor to the Tour Championship, which soon became a tournament for the rich to get richer at the end of a very long year in golf.

Enter the FedEx Cup, the biggest shake-up in Tim Finchem's 13 years as PGA commissioner.

For the last 50 years, the US golf season has been defined by four major championships that begin in April with the US Masters and end in August with the US PGA Championship. The FedEx Cup is a points race that starts with the opening tee shot at Kapalua and concludes with four "playoff" events that start next week outside New York.

The winner gets US$10 million, which the tour touts as the richest prize in sports.

Phil Mickelson compared it with a new event in 1934 called the Augusta National Invitation Tournament, which later became known as the Masters and now ranks among the most prestigious in golf.

"There's a good chance the FedEx Cup will one day have that same allure," Mickelson said. "There's also a chance that four years from now, it will be a flop. I don't know."

Under this cloud of uncertainty, the FedEx Cup heads toward a conclusion when The Barclays starts on Thursday at Westchester Country Club with 144 players who qualify for the "PGA Tour Playoffs."

Week by week, the field will be whittled down until the top 30 reach Atlanta for the Tour Championship at East Lake.

"It's going to be interesting to see how everything holds up," Tiger Woods said. "It's a lot of golf later in the year."

"The reason other sports find it easy to define their seasons is because it's always about the end," Finchem said when he first started to put together the pieces of the FedEx Cup. "We need a culminating event that's special and that you have to play hard to get into."

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