TORONTO - Call it a made-for-TV event if you like, but this year’s FedExCup is the best TV since Bob Hope had a putting contest against Lil’ Tiger Woods on the Mike Douglas Show.
And for Rory McIlroy, it might be changing the path of his career.
In years past, a win at the PGA Championship was the finish line of the season. This year, McIlroy has turned it into the starting gate.
The 23-year-old is playing the best golf of his young career and in one month has gone from rising star to shining star.
“The more you put yourself in this position and the more you win and the more you pick up trophies it becomes normal and it feels like this is what you’re supposed to do,” McIlroy said Sunday after winning the BMW Championship.
The world-beating run that McIlroy is on — winning three of the past four events on the PGA Tour — sees his confidence and game at a new level.
Would McIlroy have reached this point if there were no PGA playoffs?
Of course. But when?
Golf is a fickle game and as dominating as McIlroy looks right now, there is no guarantee his launch to superstardom would have been waiting for him at the beginning of next season.
In a sport that is all about staying in the present, McIlroy has seized the moment and has golf historians’ pens in the air during a stretch of the season that didn’t used to exist.
Then, there is the experience he has gained this past month.
During the FedExCup he has played six rounds paired with Woods. The two ate lunch together at Bethpage and breakfast together at Crooked Stick.
The old Tiger would have raised his leg and marked his territory on Rory’s golf bag instead of dining with him, but that is a whole other column.
What this budding bromance means for McIlroy is early acceptance to the big boy table. He grew up idolizing Woods and now he is being treated as an equal by a man who treats nobody as an equal. That has to be good for Rory’s psyche.
The comparisons between his current run and Tiger’s early career are premature but not many golfers ever get to the point where winning feels normal.
“I’m sure that’s how he felt when he was on that run and how he still feels,” McIlroy said Sunday about Tiger. “He still won three times this year. I don’t think I’m quite there yet, but I’m getting to that stage where I’m thinking, this is what I should be doing. I should be lifting a trophy at the end of the week.”
This is a scary level confidence from the young World No. 1 and he has the FedExCup to thank for it.
WHO’S KEEPING SCORE?
Speaking of the FedExCup, raise your hand if you fully understand the points system?
Let’s go over the format so everybody knows where their favourite player stands heading into the Tour Championship.
First, golf fans can take the weekend off to watch the NFL because — to borrow a football term — the PGA playoffs have a bye this week.
When play picks up next week at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, the FedEx Cup and $10 million will be on the line.
The top five players in the standings all control their own destiny and will win the FedEx Cup with a victory at the Tour Championship. These players, in order, are: McIlroy, Woods, Nick Watney, Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker. Everyone else needs to get some help.
If you’re wondering why McIlroy doesn’t have the Cup sewn up after winning back-to-back playoff events, it’s because the Tour resets the points heading into the Tour Championship to ensure drama at the final event. This format came into play after Vijay Singh clinched the 2008 Cup after three events. Heading to East Lake, McIlroy still has a lead but not an insurmountable one.
The reset means that all 30 players have a mathematical chance to win the Cup and places heavy emphasis on the Tour Championship.
In 2011, Bill Haas became the lowest ranked player to take home the Cup after entering the Tour Championship in 25th position.
Last week at the BMW Championship, Haas dropped from 28th to 32nd in the rankings which means he will not be at East Lake to defend his title. In fact, since the FedExCup started in 2007, no defending champ has made it to the Tour Championship.
This year marks the first time that all 30 players in the final have a career win under their belt.
John Huh is the only rookie to make it to East Lake.
There it is, all you need to know about the FedExCup. This wasn’t easy because as a golfer I’m only accustomed to adding up twos, threes, fours and fives.
Maybe the occasional six or seven.
And that one eight … and a nine.
1. Rory McIlroy: 2,500
2. Tiger Woods: 2,250
3. Nick Watney: 2,000
4. Phil Mickelson: 1,800
5. Brandt Snedeker: 1,600
6. Louis Oosthuizen: 1,400
7. Dustin Johnson: 1,200
8. Lee Westwood: 1,000
9. Zach Johnson: 800
10. Jason Dufner: 600
11. Bubba Watson: 480
12. Sergio Garcia: 460
13. Steve Stricker: 440
14. Keegan Bradley: 420
15. Luke Donald: 400
16. Matt Kuchar: 380
17. Carl Pettersson: 360
18. Jim Furyk: 340
19. Bo Van Pelt: 320
20. Robert Garrigus: 310
21. Adam Scott: 300
22. Ernie Els: 290
23. Hunter Mahan: 280
24. Justin Rose: 270
25. Webb Simpson: 260
26. John Huh: 250
27. Rickie Fowler: 240
28. Ryan Moore: 230
29. John Senden: 220
30. Scott Piercy: 210
POINTS AVAILABLE AT TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP