by Jeff Skinner
Today brings the start of two of the most hyped events of the golf season. The PGA Tour has whittled down their field to the top 30 and they will tee it up at the Tour Championship. The best of the LPGA has flown to the Emerald Isle to take on their European counterparts in the Solheim Cup. While the two tournaments are sure to be exciting and make heroes out of a few lucky golfers they couldn’t be more different.
The Tour Championship has become the crowning event in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoffs. This is the fifth iteration of The Playoffs and Tim Finchem and the tour brass have been doing their best to find the correct format to keep the PGA Tour relevant during the start of the NFL football season. Previously the unofficial end of the golf season was the PGA Championship and after that we rarely saw the big name players with any regularity on the tour.
To keep his tour in the sports consciousness, Finchem borrowed a little from the rival NFL and also copied a bit from NASCAR. He rolled it all up, got a truckload of sponsorship dollars and out came the FedEx Cup Playoffs. His biggest drawing card for fans and the players was a ten million dollar payout for the FedEx Cup winner.
It hasn’t been a smooth road but the playoffs have done what Finchem wanted, to a degree. The Tour gets plenty of mileage from the “playoffs” and most of the big names in the game push themselves to play for the ten mil. After all, that kind of cash will get your attention. The Tour Championship has grown in stature but it’s not a major and will never be regarded as one in spite of what Finchem thinks, but it serves a purpose. Big name players are still playing at the end of September.
All week we will hear about the ten million payout but it will be just the opposite for the women at The Solheim Cup. While the FedEx Cup was born out of greed the Solheim Cup couldn’t be more different.
Team USA and Team Europe will be playing under the most pressure in women’s golf and they won’t be competing for a dime. Playing for their teams and representing their countries is their only reward.
Modeled after the Ryder Cup, the Solheim Cup is played for the honor of being a part of your team. Sportsmanship, friendship and camaraderie are the foundation on which the Solheim Cup is built. Player after player admit that the first tee shot in these team competitions is the most pressure they have ever felt. They are not nervous about cashing a check. They are fearful of letting their teammates down and the pressure can drive them to tears. Players work for two years with making this team as their goal. This week they have reached that goal.
The Solheim Cup may not get the press that the PGA Tour and its Tour Championship get but for this week I’ll take a bunch of women, bundled against the Irish weather, playing for the pride of their team.