Stenson the star but FedEx play-offs battle where the real action was at TPC Boston

Season-ender a nailbiter – pity the tension brings out the yob in some fans

Thu, Sep 5, 2013, 06:00

The Fed-Ex Cup was born five years ago out of the PGA Tour’s preceived need to compete for television ratings in a country which has numerous big viewing sports. With no real denouement to the Tour pre-2008 the new improved Play-offs have certainly filled a void for fairway entertainment.

Apart from the whimsical end-of-summer weather in New England last week we had an equally unpredictable rally to the final 70 line-up in Chicago next week.

Unexpected positions
The Labour Day weekend Monday finish at the Deutsche Bank Open at TPC Boston saw a lot of regular campaigners in unexpected positions.

A player who was out of the tournament in Boston was very much in the Play-off final shake -up. Angel Cabrera looked like he was going to finish in 71st Fed ex position after a poor last round only to be saved by KJ Choi’s meltdown over the final holes.

My player Ernie Els was paired with Brendan Steele, who finished with four birdies in the last four holes to seemingly oust Ernie from 70th position in the Play-off ranking.

Players were very aware of the endgame of landing inside or outside the top 70 by Monday night last.

Henrik Stenson might have been the star of the Deutsche Bank event with a well deserved victory but the real tension was on the knock-out line.

What the Play-offs have done is highlight the pressure players go though in each and every tournament, faced with the challenge of simply making the cut and having a number to chase to try to win.

We have gone from 120 players in New Jersey, to 100 in Boston, 70 in Chicago and finally 30 in Atlanta, with a truly dynamic scoring system which seemed to bring out the best in the field at Boston.

The softness of the golf course is always a recipe for low scoring, with top professionals able to fire approach shots at the pin with the comfort of knowing the ball will not move more than a gentle bounce from where it lands, and, for skilled golfers, is the equivalent of stealing candy from a baby.

The scores last week at a course that would be very challenging if it was playing hard and fast, reflected the yielding nature of a dampened terrain. There were 62s and 63s shot each day, making level par look very ordinary.

We played with Graham DeLaet from Canada, who shot a third-round 63 having bogeyed the opening hole.

We had early thunderstorms on the Sunday. Graham was leaving his wife to the airport when he got a text to say he was on the tee in an hour and 20 minutes due to a re-draw.

Totally unprepared and under pressure to get to the first tee on time, he shot nine under. Perhaps casual preparation is to be recommended.

With College Football season starting up last weekend in the States, alongside the NFL, the Indy Car season in full flow, and baseball as ubiquitous as ever, there is no doubt the creative Fed-ex Cup scoring system has given professional golf a welcome new television boost.

Whether it was the holiday weekend in Massachusetts or the numerous rain delays spectators had to endure, the atmosphere was more akin to that of football, baseball or Indy car racing.

Drunk spectators
I have never seen and heard so many drunk spectators at an event. When we resumed play at 4pm on the 15th green on Monday it was like being in a crowded bar late on a Saturday night. There was no point in even attempting to quell the madding crowd, if you tried to engage them they only got louder.

Maybe this is also a new departure for the tour and maybe it is the way live viewing of professional golf is going.

In the interest of the purity of the game the anchoring of the putter is being banned in the near future. Perhaps there needs to be some debate on drink-induced crowd participation at tournaments and how it fits in with the tradition of the game.

There are features of the new improved Fed-ex Cup Play-offs that offer a truly dynamic and captive aspect to what can sometimes be just another ho-hum golf event.

But does it really need to encourage drunken hooting and hollering at a sport that has its roots in decorum?

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