This playoff can have nice payoff

The FedEx Cup begins its fifth edition of its "playoff" series this week, signaling open season for critics of the PGA Tour's attempt to give its season a meaningful finish.

The points system is too wonky. The four-event series is weighted too heavily. One could win two playoff events but not the FedEx Cup. It's all worth examining. But one can't say players don't take it seriously.


Why else would Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington and other top names have added their names to last week's stop in Greensboro? Though making the "playoffs" isn't exactly worth celebrating, nobody likes being left out either.

And once you get in, it only takes one good week to turn a mediocre season into a good one.

Take Heath Slocum, who entered the 2009 FedEx series 124th on the points list before winning The Barclays. And it doesn't even take a victory to change your status.

Find a way into the Tour Championship finale, and you have earned a berth in the four major championships and the World Golf Championships stop at Doral. That's what happened last year to Kevin Na and Jason Dufner.

"It changes the way you look at the year," Phil Mickelson said. "To have that opportunity makes it exciting."

Flying the flag: The biennial tradition of finding someone to represent the United States at the World Cup two-man event was relatively painless this year, with Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland teaming up for a Thanksgiving week visit to China.

Berths are offered to each nation's top player in the world rankings and each of them gets to choose his partner. In recent years, though, top U.S. players have shown a tendency to decline the invitation.

Kuchar, No. 12 in the rankings, took the assignment after the four Americans ranked ahead of him turned it down.

"It's a super-cool opportunity," said Kuchar, who competed in the World Amateur Team Championship in his college days. Woodland, he added, was his first choice as a partner.

Tap-ins: Franklin Templeton Investments is back as title sponsor of the Shark Shootout, returning to a role it had with the two-man team event from 1992-2005. This year's edition is Dec. 9-11. … Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club in Norman, Okla., will play host to the 2013 U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links.

— Jeff Shain

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