ATLANTA – Two big weeks in golf could not be more different.
East Lake has the top 30 players on the PGA Tour. Medinah will have 24 of the top 35 players in the world.
One pays $10 million to the winner. The other doesn’t pay a dime.
If there’s a similarity between the Tour Championship and the Ryder Cup, it’s the value players place on winning them.
“One is monetary, the other is pride,” Steve Stricker said Tuesday. “This is playing for your year. You can do a lot of good things, and you’re playing for a lot of money. Next week you’re playing for something totally different. You’re playing for your country, with teammates. You can see it across every guy’s face. You go through the whole gamut of emotions.
“But if you talk to any player, I guarantee they would want to win either one. It would mean a lot.”
The flag-waving crowd that has waited two years for the most exciting three days in golf might find this hard to believe, but the players gathered at East Lake for the FedEx Cup finale are thinking only of winning the Tour Championship.
Because that’s all they can win this week.
Tiger Woods was roasted by the British press in 2002 when a World Golf Championship was staged at Mount Juliet in Ireland the week before the Ryder Cup. After taking a one-shot lead after the opening round, Woods was asked which was more important for him to win. He chose the WGC event and its $1 million purse – that was back when $1 million meant something in golf – over taking a 17-inch gold trophy home.
“Why? I can think of a million reasons,” Woods said, a tongue-in-cheek remark that backfired.
Oddly enough, just about every Ryder Cup player at Mount Juliet felt the same way. One week they are playing for themselves, another week they are playing for a flag. Two different tournaments. Two important weeks. One at a time.
Justin Rose was working on his bunker play at East Lake when the rain finally gave way to patchy skies. He walked over to chat with Keegan Bradley, who was chipping out of the deep Bermuda rough. Rose is playing in his second Ryder Cup. Bradley will be making his debut next week.
Rose was commiserating with Bradley over the New England Patriots losing at home on Sunday.
The Ryder Cup will get here soon enough.
For now, the focus is on the final event of the FedEx Cup that comes with a $10 million bonus and a five-year exempt- ion on the PGA Tour.
The FedEx Cup is still in its infancy, and there remains plenty of debate that someone could win the FedEx Cup without winning a tournament all year. This is the fourth straight year such a scenario could happen, but it hasn’t yet. The list of FedEx Cup champions includes Woods (twice), Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk. The lone fluke was Bill Haas last year, who was No. 45 in the world. The fluke was that he won the $10 million despite being the No. 25 seed.