- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tim Finchem simply should give the FedEx Cup to some Brian Gay or Steve Marino and spare everyone three more weeks of almost agony.

With all apologies to Heath Slocum, this season is doomed to second-class status. For those who thought the game left behind its disturbing trend of upside-down, outsiders-in finishes with Y.E. Yang’s conquest of Tiger Woods at Hazeltine, guess again.

Slocum (9-under 275) hefted his daughter instead of his golf bag after dispatching four of golf’s heavyweights last weekend at Liberty National, but the story was much the same. With the FedEx Cup poised to launch its third playoff season with a potentially epic sudden-death playoff featuring world No. 1 Woods, No. 4 Steve Stricker, No. 9 Padraig Harrington and No. 20 Ernie Els, another lurker spoiled the fun.

Slocum’s 72nd-hole par bomb was like a shiv stuck in the event’s blossoming dream scenario. Given this season’s odd lust for minor majors, of course the then-world No. 197 did the business, dispatching a foursome with 20 combined majors via a 22-foot lightning bolt.

Of course, Woods could have penned a different ending to the anticlimax had he not missed a 7-footer for birdie just minutes before Slocum’s shocker. If Woods had posted 9 under ahead of Slocum, the cup would have shrunk to a dime-sized wormhole for the 35-year-old rank-and-filer with only two previous PGA Tour victories.

But Woods has spent the entire season uncharacteristically missing critical putts. Woods also thoughtfully implicated caddie Steve Williams for his part in the 7-footer that didn’t even touch the left lip.

“We misread it by almost a cup,” Woods said. “That’s frustrating when you misread a putt that bad. Stricker did the same thing.”

After watching Woods seemingly will in crucial putts from adjacent area codes with uncanny regularity over the first dozen years of his career, his repeated inability to hole such putts this season has been equal parts refreshingly humanizing and disconcertingly puzzling.

Woods easily could rediscover his form with the flatstick at this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship, the second of four playoff stops, and strap a double-digit beating on the field in Boston, but 2009 is likely to be remembered more for his misbehaving blade than his five-victory comeback from knee surgery.

X chromosome factor - After years of being overshadowed by the LPGA Tour successes of their women players, South Korean men have scored three massive victories in the past year. The latest triumph for the country’s male set came over the weekend when 17-year-old Byeong-Hun “Ben” An became the youngest winner of the U.S. Amateur, trumping countryman Danny Lee’s accomplishment at 18 in the event last year and following Y.E. Yang’s victory at last month’s PGA Championship.

Lee’s father recently pointed to compulsory military service as the reason women from South Korea had enjoyed so much more success than men.

“I think the primary reason is that men in South Korea are required to serve in the military for two years without exception,” Sam Lee said. “While I understand and appreciate the need for service and discipline, it comes at a very critical time in a golfer’s development and has [derailed] many of our best young players. I think this is also why many of our best players are [late bloomers] in international competition - guys like K.J. [Choi] and Yang.”

The Lees moved to New Zealand to avoid interrupting Danny’s career with military service, and An’s family now lives in Florida.

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