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Crystal clear? Hardly

The realization didn't hit Bill Haas until after he clambered onto the balcony next to East Lake's 18th green late Sunday.

Two trophies flanked PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem for the closing presentation. One was for the Tour Championship, which Haas had just won in a three-hole playoff with Hunter Mahan. The other was the FedEx Cup.

No one else seemed to be joining them on stage.

"I didn't know I had won this," Haas told the commish, nodding toward the FedEx Cup.

"Congratulations, you won both," Finchem said.

So here's a lasting image from the 2011 FedEx Cup: The champion didn't know he'd won the $10 million pot of bonus gold. Some crowning moment.

That wasn't a problem this year for the Packers, Mavericks or Bruins.

"If you're in the Super Bowl and you're in overtime, you know if you kick a field goal before the other team, you've won," tour veteran Joe Ogilvie said.

When a title is to be awarded, fans want clear-cut scenarios. The FedEx points reset is a recipe for confusion.

Though the tour's math wonks seem to have hit on a formula that sparks intrigue for the first three weeks of the "playoffs," the finale is a mess.

Sure, the top five can make things easy — win the Tour Championship, win the FedEx Cup. But as the last two years have shown, the result is chaotic when they play poorly.

When points leader Webb Simpson struggled, the door opened for Haas, Mahan, K.J. Choi and Aaron Baddeley. None began the week in the top 12 of the standings, so their chances fluctuated depending on Simpson's play.

When Simpson carded back-to-back bogeys late in Sunday's round, even No.27 Baddeley was in play. When Simpson birdied his next two holes, Baddeley was out.

Yet Baddeley had a say in others' chances. When he parred No. 18, it knocked out Simpson and Luke Donald — Simpson because Baddeley didn't birdie and join the playoff, Donald because the Aussie didn't bogey.

Got that? Don't worry. Not many at East Lake had a clue either. Even those with access to a tour computer were reaching for the Advil.

Some have proposed taking the Tour Championship to match play, using two rounds of stroke play to cut the field to 16 and scheduling two match-play sessions both Saturday and Sunday. Or send the top eight in points straight to match play and have the others play to fill the other side of the bracket.

Ogilvie has another idea that everyone in golf can relate to — handicaps.

The No. 2 player in points would start the Tour Championship two strokes behind the leader. No. 3 would be three strokes behind, then in clusters to a maximum 14 shots back. Low net score takes it.

"Everybody understands giving strokes," Ogilvie suggested.

It's far simpler than the moving targets now used.

jshain@tribune.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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