- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 27, 2011

ATLANTA (AP) - This might have been the most compelling golf playoff that hardly anyone saw.

After all the mathematical possibilities had been exhausted, the Tour Championship _ and the FedEx Cup _ came down to a sudden-death playoff between Bill Haas and Hunter Mahan. The monetary difference between winning and losing was just under $10 million. Haas, with a recent history of folding, hit a shot into the bleachers on the first playoff hole and into the water on the second playoff hole.

He not only survived, he wound up winning.

It was great theater.

And yet the overnight rating on NBC Sports was 1.4, and that’s the kind of math everyone in the TV business understands. On a day filled with football, not many were watching golf.

Does that make the FedEx Cup a failure? By no means.

Players who act as if they don’t care about the FedEx Cup are usually the ones who either didn’t qualify for the playoffs or were eliminated early. Anyone else who thinks the FedEx Cup is contrived drama either is mistaking golf for a team sport or has forgotten what golf looked like before the PGA Tour created this postseason plan.

You think the Tour Championship was a tough sell in late September? How much were people paying attention in early November?

The overnight rating for the final round of Tour Championship on Nov. 5, 2006 _ the year before the FedEx Cup came along _ was 0.9. To be fair, neither Tiger Woods nor Phil Mickelson played that year, which is another problem the FedEx Cup tried to solve, and did.

The year before that, when Bart Bryant won by six shots over Woods, the TV rating was a 2.1. That would amount to roughly a 5 percent decline in ratings each of the last six years, which industry officials say is typical for all sports except the 900-pound gorilla known as the NFL.

No one ever said the FedEx Cup was perfect.

Trouble is, no one has come up with a better solution.

Match play for all the marbles only sounds good in theory, but it doesn’t work for television, it doesn’t work for the fans on site and it doesn’t work for sponsors (who pay the bills and use that week to entertain clients). It barely works once a year in Arizona.

The idea of making the playoffs all or nothing is impractical at best. To start with a clean slate for everyone, at the start of the postseason or after each playoff event, is to render meangingless the first eight months of the season.

Despite all the number-crunching involved at the end, the FedEx Cup is not that hard to understand.

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