By Vince Robitaille
The weekend saw two things happen, a great rally by the son of a Hall of Famer, namely Bill Haas, and the worst possible outcome for the long-term sake of the PGA Tour … a great rally by the son of a Hall of Famer, namely Bill Haas. For those of you who might wonder where I’m going with this, just stick around for a minute or, better still, revert back to that dreadful afternoon of Sept. 25, 2011, which was the theatre of – well if you can’t see where I’m going with this, the depths of your mind are, how could I put it … pretty dimly lit. There was yet another Bill Haas rally. To say that I don’t like the North Carolinian is rather accurate, but my dislike isn’t aimed at Bill Haas the man, more at Bill Haas the FedExCup winner and, much to dismay, said FedExCup winner just legitimized all that is wrong with the flawed PGA Tour playoff system.
As Mickelson was standing over his second shot on No. 18 at Riviera last Sunday, the head honchos of the great ole’ PGA Tour must have been licking their proverbial chops as they were sitting at a table where either a prime cut of bloody filet mignon or a decadently juicy burger straight from a DDD episode, was going to get served to them on a silver plate. Of course, one could point out that no vegetarian would even come anywhere close to such dishes, but don’t you worry, they’re not. Yes, that’s what was unfolding in front of their hungry gaze: the holy grail of win-win situations – well, the inclusion of Tiger Woods in there somewhere might have upped the ante, but even that seems unlikely and needs some further pondering; said pondering shall be done in a future installation of Yours Truly’s editorial work. On one side, golf’s good guy, Phil Mickelson, would go back-to-back despite the much covered family and arthritic issues. On the other, Bill Haas would prove that he is a premier golfer worthy, from a qualitative standpoint at least, of being Tour Champion.
Sadly for us, Bill Haas did prove himself worthy and silenced the detractors of the playoff system for, what will be, most of the year – hence, inhibiting any effort that could have been planned by the PGA Tour in order to perfect said system – much like the obvious football national champion coming out on top at the end of Bowl Championship Series cools down everyone regarding the BCS selection process and gives its officials the opportunity to show us how well the system “works”. However, unlike the BCS, which intricacies are somehow part of its flair and assure that a twice-defeated team will be kept at bay, the FedExCup bring everyone back in, neglecting any type of comprehensible drama. Of course, there’s always Bill Haas to bail the Tour out and provide some last second excitement, but that’s only in the event that one had previously decided to watch on Sunday. Let’s not even discuss the three previous rounds which futility only matches their potential; a potential which, if the Tour wants to, one day achieve its goal of keeping its viewership riveted once the pigskin gets snapped, needs to be reached quickly.
While the prospect of a match play tournament to close out the season could be the most enviable option out there – or even an hybrid event a la U.S. Amateur — as nothing excites the sports aficionado more than a mano e mano fight to the death, the exclusivity clause that hold the World Golf Championship-Accenture Match Play Championship on such a format, forces us to look somewhere else for a decent alternative. As searching left and right aimlessly like a headless chicken leads nowhere, one has to stare in the eye of the blazing red Bacchanal figure and find the root of the problem, if order to discover the necessary remedy. Ergo, what, in The Playoffs, triggers Yours Truly’s gag reflex ever so vigorously? The reset does. Riddle me this: why would months of hardship be offset by a ridiculous bureaucratic act in order to give every horse a shot? And don’t get me started on all the fuss that is made about FedExCup points; one simply can’t spend more than a few hours watching any broadcaster’s coverage without it getting forcefully shoved down his throat, and we eat it up I might add — Sasha would be proud. We eat it up, but only for a few months, then reality kicks in and we realize that it was only a farce. Why not go all the way? Why not make it so that those FedExCup points, with which you bombard us throughout the summer, actually mean something in the very end? Why not turn it into a handicap-based Tour Championship? Give strokes to the players in accordance to their ranking after the third leg, and make the rear-enders chase the front runners with what really matters in the glorious game of golf: strokes. And I mean actual strokes, not some bottom echelon bias algorithmic facade. By doing so, you might get another Bill Haas miracle to end it all; then again, it might just come a little too late, but guess what, we’ll be watching.