Why Tiger Woods Is in a No-Win Situation During the 2013 FedEx Cup
The FedEx Cup has grown in stature every year since it came into existence in 2007.
It's designed as an end-of-season series of tournaments to define an overall champion of the golf season. It makes plenty of sense and follows the lead of major North American team sports by using a playoff system to declare its champion.
However, there is one small difference between winning the FedEx Cup and winning a year-end championship in team sports.
In the NFL, the Vince Lombardi Trophy that goes to the Super Bowl winner is the ultimate prize. In the NHL, it's the Stanley Cup. Major League Baseball and the NBA have their hardware as well.
In golf, players don't earn their PGA Tour cards with the dream of winning the FedEx Cup.
They want to win a green jacket at the Masters. They want to prove their worth at the U.S. Open. Some may want to cross the Atlantic for a chance to win the Claret Jug at the British Open. Winning the Wanamaker Trophy that goes to the winner of the PGA Championship also makes for a great season.
Those are the titles all golfers want. Winning the FedEx Cup is nice and lucrative, but it isn't at the top of the ladder.
Nobody knows this better than Tiger Woods. By all measurable factors, Tiger has had a sensational year. He has earned more money than anyone else on the tour, and he ended the regular season leading the PGA Tour with 3,059 FedEx Cup points.
He also won five regular-season tournaments this year. His last victory came in the Bridgestone Classic at the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, where he fired a 15-under-par 265 for the tournament and whipped the field by seven strokes.
That victory made Tiger feel awfully good about himself, but that good feeling lasted all of three days.
Woods had an opportunity to win his first major of the year at the PGA Championship, just days after his stellar Bridgestone performance. However, Woods never got it in gear for the last of the majors and he shot a four-over-par 284 and finished in a tie for 40th.
The 2013 season was a major disappointment for Tiger. He was mildly in contention in the Masters (tied for fourth) and British Open (tied for sixth), but he struggled in the U.S. Open (tied for 32nd) and the PGA.
Winning major championships has always been Tiger Woods' stated goal. In Tiger's mind, major championships represent what golf is all about. Woods has won 14 major championships, but none of them have come since the 2008 U.S. Open.
How much can the FedEx Cup playoffs really mean to him? It would certainly be nice to win, and it would allow Tiger to add substantially to his earnings of $7.7 million this year, but winning in The Barclays or the BMW Championship or even the Tour Championship wouldn't help him get one step closer to Jack Nicklaus' total of 18 major championships.
In many ways, his first-place ranking might even cause problems for him in the playoffs. He is in the top position and is the favorite to win, but that creates pressure and could make it harder for him to perform.
Prior to 2008, Tiger played his best golf when the pressure was the most intense.
That's no longer the case.
How much do the FedEx Cup playoffs mean to Tiger Woods' golf reputation
Even if Woods is the last man standing, few will give him credit. They will rightfully point out the FedEx Cup is not the Masters and that he's just fulfilling expectations.
Winning the FedEx Cup for a third time would be a solid accomplishment, no matter what critics say.
But at the end of the year, Tiger will almost certainly feel some disappointment. His major victory total did not increase, and he's no closer to Nicklaus than he was in the summer of 2008.
That's why Tiger is basically in a no-win situation as the FedEx Cup playoffs begin this week.
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