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Is it really way off to call this a 'playoff'?

NORTON -- For your background pleasure, it seems appropriate to resuscitate what has to be one of the greatest postgame press conferences ever. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Jim Mora on the topic of playoffs . . .

"Playoffs? Don't talk about playoffs. Are you kidding me? Playoffs?"

At every corner of the PGA Tour, officials will cringe, because as their first series of playoff tournaments settles into TPC Boston for the fifth Deutsche Bank Championship, there seems to be a groundswell of cynicism. In the playoff opener last week at the Barclays in Rye, N.Y., four players -- Tiger Woods, Jose Maria Olazabal, Stephen Ames, and Bernhard Langer -- chose not to play, yet advanced. Two others -- Ernie Els and Scott Verplank -- have decided to skip this week's event, yet are locks to advance to Week 3, the BMW Championship in Chicago, and Week 4, the Tour Championship in Atlanta.

Taking playoff games off and not getting eliminated? What in the name of Penelope Postseason is going on here? Or, as the man named Mora said, "Playoffs? Don't talk about playoffs. Are you kidding me? Playoffs?"

Even players concede that what we have here is a language barrier.

"It's tough when you use the word playoffs, [because] it automatically triggers, 'You lose, you're out,' " said Rod Pampling. "I don't know whether it's the right word to use or not."

Some of his colleagues seem convinced that it's not. "It's not really a good term," said Zach Johnson.

"Is there another name we could probably call it? Yes," said Heath Slocum.

All right then, instead of "playoffs," what should we use? Heads are scratched, laughs are heard, then smiles break out.

"I don't know what you call it," said Charles Howell III.

"I don't know. It's a tough one," said Pampling. "It's a word you've got to use, I think. Obviously, it's not a regular playoff, but it's got to be golf's playoffs, maybe."

Johnson, one of the PGA Tour members who gets involved with company policies, recalled that there was much talk about what to call this series of four tournaments.

"There's not really a good term," said the Masters champ. " 'Playoffs' is the best term you can come up. There really isn't another term that would be sufficient. [But] it's just a word."

Meaning that people are getting far too hung up on the word and losing sight of the greater picture?

"Absolutely," said Johnson, one of 144 golfers who qualified for the PGA Tour playoffs after a seasonlong pursuit of FedEx Cup points. After last week's tournament at Westchester CC, the playoff field was trimmed to 120, with Johnson eighth in the standings. He's a lock to be one of 70 players who advance to next week's BMW -- no matter what he does at TPC Boston -- and one of 30 who make it to the Sept. 13-16 Tour Championship.

And, yes, Johnson realizes he could sit out this week and next week and still head to East Lake GC in Atlanta, so, sure, that goes against the very nature of the playoff concept as we know it -- but that's where the critics are overlooking the central purpose to all this.

Which is?

"You've got big purses, you've got good fields," said Howell, 12th in your FedEx Cup standings and adamant in his belief that the PGA Tour is onto something.

"If you try and compare it to other sports, you can find ways to poke fun at it very easily," he said. "You can look at it negatively or you can look at it positively, it isn't going to change the situation. [But] trust me, the guy who wins the FedEx Cup is going to be very happy."

Howell's point is well taken, and if you were to poll the folks to whom the bulk of credit should go for this week's championship -- those at Deutsche Bank -- chances are they'd agree with him.

Brush aside rhetoric as to whether these are true playoffs, what the sponsor understands is this: The Deutsche Bank features a $7 million purse and a field that includes nine of the world's top 10 ranked players, 18 of 20, and 20 of 25.

Now compare that with a year ago when a mere three names showed up from the world's top 20. With heralded players such as Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Retief Goosen, and Padraig Harrington making their TPC Boston debuts, it's no wonder that people such as Seth Waugh, CEO of Deutsche Bank, and a variety of PGA Tour members aren't getting hung up on whether these are true playoffs.

Said Pampling, 48th in your FedEx Cup standings: "We've attracted a great field."

"As a whole, as a premise, it's a great thing," said Johnson. "It's done what it was intended to do."

That being the gathering of a top-to-bottom strong field at a time of year when the competition thinned and golf got overwhelmed in the ever-competitive world of TV sports. PGA Tour officials recognized this problem and got proactive, though, not surprisingly, plenty of people have spent the last few months picking apart the weaknesses to the playoff series.

Some players are bothered by the lack of movement. At the Barclays, only two players outside No. 120 played their way into the Deutsche Bank, and when the playoffs began, as many as the top 12 names were already guaranteed spots into the league's Super Bowl, the Tour Championship. Since when do teams qualify for the title game simply by making the playoffs?

"Playoffs? Don't talk about playoffs. Are you kidding me? Playoffs?"

Hold on there, bogey breath, because players beg for perspective.

"I don't think [Tour officials] thought this would be the cure-all," said Slocum. "I think they were smart enough to realize there might have to be some tweaks."

And players generally agree that PGA Tour officials will most certainly tweak away, once the next three weeks are done with. There is, for instance, the fact that the game's best player and clear leader in the FedEx Cup standings, Woods, chose not to tee it up in the playoff opener. It bothered plenty of people, but not Slocum.

"I guess you could look at it as he had a first-round bye," said Slocum, 25th in the standings. "In football they have it. Baseball? It's been around."

And now the PGA Tour has it, with all its warts and first-year jitters.

"You are eliminating players as weeks go on [24 last week; 50 this week]. The field dwindles," said Johnson. Which is why, "I call it the playoffs."

Jim McCabe can be reached at

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