ATLANTA — Two big weeks in golf could not be more different.
This week, East Lake Golf Club has the top 30 players on the PGA Tour.
Next week, Medinah will have 24 of the top 35 players in the world.
One pays $10 million to the winner. The other doesn’t pay a dime.
If there’s a similarity between this week’s Tour Championship and the Ryder Cup, it’s the value players place on winning them.
“One is monetary, the other is pride,” Steve Stricker said Tuesday. “This is playing for your year. You can do a lot of good things, and you’re playing for a lot of money. Next week you’re playing for something totally different. You’re playing for your country, with teammates. You have partners. You can see it across every guy’s face. You go through the whole gamut of emotions.
“But if you talk to any player, I guarantee they would want to win either one. It would mean a lot.”
The flag-waving, foot-stomping crowd that has waited two years for the most exciting three days in golf might find this hard to believe, but the players gathered at East Lake for the FedEx Cup finale are thinking only of winning the Tour Championship.
Because that’s all they can win this week.
Tiger Woods was roasted by the British press in 2002 when a World Golf Championship was staged at Mount Juliet in Ireland the week before the Ryder Cup. After taking a one-shot lead after the opening round, Woods was asked which was more important for him to win. He chose the WGC event and its $1 million purse – that was back when $1 million meant something in golf – over taking a 17-inch gold trophy home on the team plane.
“Why? I can think of a million reasons,” Woods said, a tongue-in-cheek remark that backfired.
The timing of these two weeks is still a point of consternation for the PGA Tour.
This is the big conclusion they envisioned for the FedEx Cup, especially with this lineup of stars who occupy the top five seeds and only have to win the Tour Championship to capture the $10 million prize — Rory exhibition that happens to be the second-biggest event in golf behind the Masters.
The 10 million-p McIlroy, Woods, Nick Watney, Phil Mickelson, and Brandt Snedeker. The three playoff events leading up to the Tour Championship have been nothing short of blockbuster, with all the top names on the leaderboard week after week.
One of the ideas behind the FedEx Cup was to give the PGA Tour season a definitive ending. Trouble is, every two years the end of the season is followed by an ound elephant in the room is the Ryder Cup.
It could be worse. The last time the Ryder Cup was played in America, it was held the week before the Tour Championship.
The Americans won at Valhalla, and they staggered down to Atlanta to cap off the FedEx Cup season. It didn’t help that Vijay Singh only had to stay upright through four rounds to win the $10 million. And it didn’t help when Kentucky native Kenny Perry said,
“It’s ruined my greatest week in my life, coming here.”
And he went home with a $250,000 bonus.