I’d say that, in the long run, Sean O’Hair said it more succinctly.
The Tour Championship was done. Phil Mickelson had not just won, he had blitzed the field. Eighteen holes with five birdies and nary a bogey, a round of 65, five strokes better than Tiger Woods, who finished second.
But in the winner’s circle there were two champions to crown.
O’Hair had spent the day partnering Mickelson — he shot 69 and finished third — and he was trying to answer questions about how the day had gone. You see, not a lot of us, including the players, have a clear idea of how the FedEx Cup competition works.
“Did Tiger make a par there?” he asked, speaking of the 17th hole.
Assured that Tiger had, he said, “So he won the FedEx Cup then.”
Yeah, Phil won the battle, but Tiger won the war, meaning that Mickelson had won the Tour Championship, but Tiger had won the oddly designed FedEx Cup, and the loot.
“I’d prefer, I think, to have the $10 million dollars in my pocket,” O’Hair said.
Phil Mickelson had won the crowning event of the PGA Tour, but the Tour Championship doesn’t mean what it says. And therein lies a muddle of confusion.
You win the World Series, you win the Super Bowl, you win any championship event and the prize is yours.
You win the Tour Championship, you only win what it says — Tour Championship. The rest of it is a confusion of numbers and calculations that have even the participants in a quandary.
Steve Stricker, who was in it down to his bogey at the 16th hole, said that he had taken his calculator the night before and tried to figure out what he had to do to win. He thought he had to finish second alone.
Woods himself said, “There’s been three different systems, and this year we had a kind of lot of unknowns. And because of the resetting, guys could have gone the whole year without winning an event and still have won the FedEx Cup.”
So there you see how this sends us all home in a querying mind. In the closing press conference, Mickelson was presented as “winner of the Tour Championship, but second in the FedEx Cup.” His prize was the champion’s check for $1,350,000.
“I’d felt better if I had played better in the first events. I don’t know enough about the system to understand it, but if you play well, it will work out,” he said, his face the color of a bronzed warrior.
Woods won the first FedEx Cup in 2007, when he closed out the act winning the Tour Championship. Last year, Camilo Villegas won the championship, but the cup went to Vijay Singh in a rather awkward ceremony that interrupted the telecast of the final round at East Lake.
Singh had a plane to catch.
Mickelson had started the final round tied in third place with O’Hair. Kenny Perry held the lead, two strokes ahead of Woods, birdied the second hole and never another.
Woods never birdied until the par-5 15th hole, but Mickelson was out of sight by that time.
He had followed the suggestion of his longtime caddie, Jim “Bones” McKay, and consulted Dave Stockton, a twice PGA champion long recognized for his putting genius.
“It was Bones’ idea,” he said, “after two years of floundering, and he had some great ideas.”
In the end, it turned a reverse weekend into a sweet success. Saturday night he had watched his alma mater Arizona State lose to Georgia in Athens.
This was considerably sweeter redemption for that loss.