Dear Mr. Finchem,
Haven’t seen you or heard from you for a while. Hope you are enjoying your Labor Day weekend as much as I am.
Look, I know that you and I have had our ups and downs. I wanted you to stand up to Tiger Woods and find a way to get him to support the tour that has supported him by playing more than a baker’s dozen tournaments each year. I wanted you to protect the integrity of the game by instituting mandatory testing for performance enhancing drugs. I begged you to take the moral high ground with regard to the admission of women at Augusta. No response on any of these small requests.
Yes, we have had our disagreements.
But the key to any relationship is being able to admit when you’re wrong. And when it comes to the FedExCup playoffs, I was wrong. For years, I made fun of your attempt to create playoff atmosphere in an individual sport. You pointed to the success of NASCAR and the success of their playoff, “Chase for the (fill-in sponsor name) Cup,” and you cobbled together a similar system. I had a lot of fun at your expense for a long time, but I wasn’t the only one.
With its combination of points and elimination rounds, the system was harder to understand than the PA system in the New York subway. And while the system produced winners like Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh and gave them a $10 million tax liability that they didn’t need, the whole process lacked gravitas. It seemed utterly commercial and unworthy of the word playoff.
But this year it has been different. A combination of factors have conspired to create a situation where the best players in the world are participating in every event and are playing their best. The venues have been superb and the play has been stellar.
Last week we witnessed the resurrection of Nick Watney’s season and Sergio Garcia’s career at Bethpage. And this week? Well Mr. Finchem, this week produced an event that couldn’t have been better if it had been held with a major title at stake. I mean, the back nine on Sunday kinda looked like a group of race cars heading for a finish line.
The top 10 included winner and World No. 1 Rory McIlroy, the once and future king Tiger Woods, 2010 British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen and Dustin Johnson, who is two goofy rounds away from being a multiple major winner. What we got on Sunday was something that recent majors haven’t been able produce; a leaderboard dominated by the best players in the world.
Woods, who perfected the modern air game, had a ringside seat to watch the current practitioners of the game take it to the next level. Woods is no longer the longest guy in every field that he plays; in fact, he is just getting used to the fact that the days are over where he was playing at par-68 when everyone else was playing the same course at par-72. But with four straight rounds in the 60s and a third place finish at 18-under par on a challenging TPC Boston track, Woods is honing his sword in preparation for a return to the throne.
But McIlroy was a sight to behold, Mr. Finchem. The boy wonder is now becoming the Man of Steel. He has virtually no weaknesses in his game, and in a week like this one where he is first in driving distance and first in putting it would be hard to imagine how he could lose. And he does it with a Gaelic charm that is irresistible to men and women, young and old. He is only limited by his ambition, and you have given him four tournaments in a row that he definitely wants to win.
Mr. Finchem, I want to put the past behind us. The FedExCup is a rip-roaring, four-star, cancel-the-tee-time-so-you-can-stay-home-to-watch success. And you did it, Mr. Finchem. I’m not just happy for you; I’m happy for us. Call me. We should have lunch.