We saw some of the best golf of the year yesterday outside of Boston. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, paired together for the third time in this second round of the PGA Playoffs — the Deutsche Bank Championship — did not disappoint. For a time it looked as though Mickelson would just run away with it, but Tiger gave him a good run — good enough, indeed, to make this viewer wonder whether Mickelson would choke against Woods yet again. In the end he did not, putting markedly better than his rival and capturing the top position in the Playoff standings as the Tour moves to Chicago for its third leg.
The Playoff format in golf takes some getting used to, alright: the whole points system, accumulated throughout the season, then reset for the Playoffs, with various cuts as each playoff tournament is played, can be baffling to even the seasoned golf fan. Some players confessed their ignorance of the whole system, most hilariously the “Bagdad (Fla.) Hillbilly” Boo Weekley, who said: “I don't know nothing about the FedEx Cup. I never was good at math.” (Weekley has also said that he’s not actually from Bagdad, Florida, way down in the Panhandle; but it’s “only a driver and five-iron away.”)
But the Playoff system, despite the grumbling from the golf scribblers, seems to be a good addition to the PGA Tour. For one, it shortens the season — the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta is now in late September rather than early November — something the players had been lobbying for. And while the big money in each Playoff event, culminating in the largest single prize in sports history for the FedEx Cup winner, may not matter much to the likes of Tiger and Mickelson, it sure matters to the second- and third-tier players. A nice run through the playoffs could make a guy’s career. These last two Playoff events, for instance, have no cut, which means that everyone is guaranteed some money. Last place at the Tour Championship, where the field is narrowed to 30 players, goes home with $175,000. Nice paycheck for four rounds of golf. There is also ample opportunity for underdogs, as Rich Beem and Steve Stricker demonstrated at the Barclays, and Aaron Oberholser and Brett Wetterich demonstrated yesterday at the Deutsche Bank.
Still two weeks to go. We’ll be watching.