Winning the Tour Championship should mean more

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.

22 comments Add your comment

Michael Thomas

September 29th, 2009
7:17 pm

Flawed logic. If you want to compare world series and nfl to golf playoffs you are ignorant. Having said that Mickelson would have been eliminated well before the tour championship. Tiger beat him by 35 strokes repeat after me 35 strokes in the 4 events. You probably think Nascar cup champ wins the last race too.


September 29th, 2009
7:44 pm

…it was great golf….fun to watch all involved, but hard to understand how those who won nothing could be champion and pick up 10 mil…..Phil, Tiger…thank you both. regarding the prize…rules are rules (for this year)…in the future….let’s consider an intelligent change to this silly lottery.

Bobby Jones

September 29th, 2009
8:56 pm

Michael @7:17:

Phil kicked Tiger’s ass. It was beautiful. Who cares if Tiger got the 10 mil. he lost.


September 29th, 2009
9:25 pm

You forgot to mention the $3,000,000 additional that Phil won for second in the Fed-Ex Cup … thats a total of over $4 mil. Not bad, not bad at all.


September 29th, 2009
10:54 pm

Really, what an amazingly naive article. The Fed Ex Cup is season long. Tiger had a great season, Phil did not – how is this hard to understand?

The PGA is caught between wanting a true season long prize, but also wanting some end of season excitement (hence the resets). I think they have the balance pretty damn close to optimal.

If you think one late season win should have earned Phil more than $4M then I would like to have some of whatever you are smoking.


September 29th, 2009
11:01 pm

I thought the idea was consistency: whomever did the best over the year, but with emphasis over the last 4 events, was the FEDEX cup champ. So Tiger wins 6 with 9 top twos, Phil wins 3, including the Tour Championship. Who was better over the season? Tiger. Who was the Tour Championship winner? Phil.

The question for me is, will Phil begin to challenge Tiger consistently again? or is this another flash in the pan (yes, I know he’s very very good. too bad he’s playing when Tiger’s on the planet)


September 29th, 2009
11:26 pm

This whole Fedex cup contrived BS thing is a joke. It’s absurd how much money these guys get and I am a big golf fan. The majors are the only events that mean anything to me and this other stuff means nothing. I watched none of it. It’s football season and the golf majors are over and so is the golf season.


September 29th, 2009
11:26 pm

Phil should have won the FedEx Cup Sunday based on his play in the last tournament that counts for the playoff season, just as the Super Bowl, the World Series, the Stanley Cup, and the NBA Finals. It does not matter about the season prior to that. During the four weeks that started with 125 golfers in the first event, to 100 players during the second tournament, to 70 golfers during week three, to the finals in Atlanta with the top thirty golfers these were the playoffs. The last man or team standing wins the big prize and is recognized as the champion. Remember two years ago, when the Patriots went 18 and 0, but lost to a wildcard team who qualified for the playoffs on the last weekend of the regular season. The Giants walked away with the Super Bowl trophy and were recognized as the World Champs even though the Patriots had one of the most impressive winning streaks in the history of NFL football. I also remember quite a few seasons when the Braves had the best record in the National League and did not get to play in the World Series because they were beaten by a team with a much poorer record.during the playoffs. That’s the way it is, the last man or team to win is the champion. Sorry, but Tiger was just second best when it really mattered. Phil is really the “real” champion for the 2009 season.

Frank Fitton

September 29th, 2009
11:29 pm

The Fed-Ex cup is a desperate marketing farce that has to at this point be chalked up as a failure. There’s no way its ever going to take TV ratings away from football, and most importantly the golfers don’t really care about it. It was modeled after the Nascar Chase for the Cup obviously, but the difference is that drivers care about the championship. A driver might play it safe to preserve his points standings because it matters. No way is a golfer not going to take a chance on the 18th in order to preserve points. That’s just the nature of the beast, and there’s no need to change it.

I understand how its a win for the PGA tour, they after all get to sell naming rights to Fed-Ex for something that they pretty much created out of thin air so that’s a pretty sweet deal. The whole thing however is just a big distraction. Phil was the big winner on Sunday, winning the aptly named “Tour Championship”, but they had to have Tiger reign in on his parade winning this farce. Its a shame.

Check out my blog on the Fed-Ex cup farce at……


September 30th, 2009
12:07 am

Enter your comments here
To all of the Tiger bashers listen and read the rules. Consistency through out the whole year that is what the FED Cup is all about. Who was and always is more consistent than Tiger. With all the good work Tiger does with his foundation, I’m sure that is where the money went. He is generous and gracious. Tiger conducts himself very professional during interviews. Maybe others who will be consistent next year (throughout the whole year and not just one or two tounaments) will have a chance. Tiger is the best golfer ever. He has been more consistent than any other golfer during his career. I know you all have to agree with me like it or not. If not than you are only kidding yourselves. I never watch golf unless Tiger is in the field, but I do know the rules of the game and how it is set up. Keep up the good work Tiger on and off the golf course. God bless you, your wife and children.


September 30th, 2009
8:18 am

I’ve been watching and playing Golf for a long long time but I have to say the Players Championship IS very confusing. How would it be to win the Masters and have them give the coat to the winner and then ask him to move aside so they could crown the “Big” winner of the Par 3 Championship because he had a better score. Huh???


September 30th, 2009
8:24 am

P.S. We should not make this about Tiger and Phil and gosh golly gee.
They are both great golfers…Tiger is #1 and Phil is #2 right now but
Phil won the Players Championship. Come back next week and present Tiger with the Fed-X Trophy as best for the year!


September 30th, 2009
10:24 am

Wow… Bisher actually wrote a column about athletes that are still alive. What a shock.

When are they going to retire this guy – he hasn’t written a decent article in 20 years?

Michael Thomas

September 30th, 2009
11:36 am

To Bobby Jones- Have Mickelson win 11 more majors 40 plus more tourneys and then talk about butt kicking. Goodness sakes please win a POY(0) or a Vardon(0) or a money tilte(0) he never has- that is amazing.Tiger 9 poy(soon to be 10), 7 Vardon’s(soon to be 8), 9 money tiles


September 30th, 2009
12:37 pm

Steve – what a joke!

You said: “He (Tiger) is generous and gracious. Tiger conducts himself very professional during interviews.”

Yeah – IN INTERVIEWS ONLY. Otherwise, when he’s on the course everytime he hits a bad shot (and he hits quite a few) he curses so bad it’d make a sailor blush. His profanity tirades when there are children around is pathetic and disgusting. He has no respect for others – if he did, he’d shut up and think his profanity instead of shouting it.

Red Devil Fan

September 30th, 2009
4:38 pm

Rod-You hit the nail on the head concerning Tiger’s profanity. It is disgusting, along with his caddy’s. As far as autographs, you can forget it. This year I saw him at the Masters Wednesday practice round, the first and fourth rounds at the FedEx at East Lake,and did not see him sign the first one. On the other hand, I saw Phil sign for an hour or two each day. I actually saw about 15 to 18 different players signing autographs last week after the rounds were completed at the FedEx. What a great sight to see! Kudos to those guys who remember whose actually paying their inflated salaries.

Shaneneeee Faneneeeeeee

September 30th, 2009
10:12 pm

No sir, Phil is not even in the same leauge as Tiger Woods. The big difference is nine out of ten times he plays Tiger has a shot to win on Sunday. Phil will play great, average, or even miss the cut entirely. Phil has won 3 majors, Tiger 14 majors. Phil is never consistent enough so he did not deserve to win the Fed Ex Cup. Tiger will be on the front page of the history books 100 years from now with the likes of Jones, Palmer, and Nicholas. He will eventually pass Jack in Major wins, Phil does not win 10 majors. He is a great player but is no Tiger Woods. There is a big gap between the #1 player in the world and the #2-100 players in the world over a whole season.

All I'm Saying Is...

October 1st, 2009
8:10 am

The FedEx Cup was established to make golf relevant after the PGA Championship. And by relevant, I mean to the players and not just the fans and the media. Phil Mickelson, for example, was skipping all the remaining events including the The TOUR Championship prior to the establishment of the FedEx Cup so as to, he said, spend time with his family (while having the chance to cash in on lucrative corporate outings on Mondays and Tuesdays).

The FedEx Cup, therefore, this year for the first time accomplished what it was established to do which was to ensure strong fields and competitive golf during the last four to six weeks of the season following the PGA.

To qualify for the four playoff events, you had to play well during the season and be in the top 125 in FedEx points and then play well in the playoff golf tournaments in NYC, Boston, and outside Chicago to remain in contention since the size of the field declined with each of the playoff tournaments from 125 to 100 to 70 and to 30 for The TOUR. So this part is not complicated.

What was somewhat challenging was figuring out the scenarios for someone outside of the top 5 in FedEx points to win the FedEx Cup….but that’s exactly what the PGA wants as that will make people tune in to The TOUR Championship and watch it all four days especially on Sunday. This year, they got it right as compared to last year when Vijay simply had to play and finish four rounds to win it.

I attended The TOUR Championship again this year and it was the best one yet. And I thought it was awesome to have both Tiger and Phil in the field, playing well, and present at the trophy ceremony at the end. AWESOME!

Hopefully, despite turning 39, Phil will take this win and the momentum and confidence from it and play well next year and finally give Tiger some consistent competition throughout the season and in the majors (assuming his mom and wife return to full health).

(As for Furman Bisher, well clearly writing performance is no longer a criteria to remain on staff.)


October 1st, 2009
10:08 am

How can any of you actually believe that Phil deserves more than what he got? He played great rounds of golf on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at East Lake. Well done. You win the golf tournament. That’s all. Tiger Woods is the 2009 PGA Tour Player of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, Vardon Trophy winner, and FedEx Cup Champion. Tiger is #1. Phil is vey lucky to even get the #2 spot after the way he played over the first 3 weeks. Using most of your logic, Phil should have been eliminated after the first playoff event. Tiger is the best player in thew world, had the best “regular season”, and played better than anyone in the playoffs. He was 3-for-3. It’s a shame it was even as close as it ended up being.


October 1st, 2009
10:30 pm

Fisher, you 1940’s bigot. If these were true playoffs, Phil would not have made the Tour Champpionship. He didn’t crack the top 20 and Tiger beat him by 35 shots in the previuos 3 events. Phil did what he has done the majority of his career. Win when it doesn’t matter. He is the A-Rod of golf. Phil is GREAT golfer, but not in Tiger’s league. Furman, pleas take a nap.

Ken Stallings

October 2nd, 2009
9:34 pm

Furman, I have to echo and agree with the criticisms. The champion of the year does not need to be the champion of the last tournament. Golf historically is a sport where a collection of players assemble to play and try to win a single tournament.

The only thing different is that the winner of the Fed Ex Cup is the golfer judged by measured standards at having the finest overall season.

There is no controversy. There is no confusion. The golfers knew the standards of measurement prior to the start of the season. No yardstick was changed midway. The Tour Championship should mean exactly what it is — the season-ending PGA golf tournament. It should mean nothing more and nothing less.

About the only thing that provides context for your claim of controversy is that two people accept hardware. The winner of the Tour Championship match gets a check and trophy. At the same stage, the winner of the Fed Ex Cup for best golfer of that year gets a larger trophy and a larger check.

About all one can reasonably ask for is that the winner of the Fed Ex Cup get handed the check and hardware a week later at a televised banquet! But, I’m sure the players themselves wouldn’t like that idea one bit!


October 3rd, 2009
8:58 am

One Final comment: To the youngsters who couldn’t carry the suitcase of Mr. Bisher…. Please take you “super talented tear-it-down attitude” some where else. Bish is probably going to leave us soon
but I guarantee you that you couldn’t fill one column with the savy this man has displayed during his
long and brillant career. I know Furman and he tells it like it is and while you can paint your vile bloody
“smart” comments because it is allowed, don’t think they are worth OR mean anything to anyone but your
small little bittie brain. Furman has been a giant to the industry and please let me know when you
EARN any respect from your piers for sports writting!