Bethpage Black kicks off golf's money-laden postseason

Jim Furyk celebrates winning the FedExCup at East Jim Furyk celebrates winning the FedExCup at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo Credit: Getty Images, 2010

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No matter what line of business you are in, there is nothing quite like showing up for a day's work and going home with $10 million.

This would explain why Jim Furyk was ecstatic when he hit a bunker shot within 30 inches of the cup on the 18th hole at the 2010 Tour Championship and had little more than a tap-in for the nice-looking FedEx Cup and the even nicer-looking eight-figure bonus.

It also explains why Bill Haas was so fastidious last year about hitting that wedge out of a water hazard. The man had 10 million reasons to get his feet wet.

The phrase, "Don't spend it all in one place" comes to mind, as does the dream of doing just that, if given the chance.

Furyk did not splurge on anything with the $9 million in cash ($1 million is deferred). "I've been very fortunate. I don't spend a ton of money on things," he said. "We have a nice house, we have a nice car. We go on vacations and we're able to do things. So I didn't go out and buy a Porsche or anything like that. It's just not my style. I'm a nice solid-car kind of guy."

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Haas said he plans to save most of that nest egg in an annuity, which is how the big bonus used to be paid out, before PGA Tour officials realized that cash equals drama. "I bought a '68 Mustang GT 500. That was my gift to myself," he said.

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The point is that the tour will give someone $10 million at the end of the four-stop FedEx Cup playoffs, which begin this week with the Barclays at Bethpage Black. That is a bonus on top of the regular prize money (first place this week will fetch $1.44 million), and it is a magic number. The allure of playing for $10 million, or watching people do so, is the backbone of golf's postseason.

Having a postseason was not considered the greatest idea when it debuted five years ago. Who needed a postseason when golf peaks four times a year in the majors, and then the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup?

"I was pretty negative when it first came out, to be honest with you," Furyk said. "I'm probably not a very good forward thinker. I get locked into tradition and history. Now I look back and say, what could I have been thinking?"

Haas said: "I just remember it being a change and any time there is change, there's certainly that feeling of 'If it's not broke, don't fix it.' But I think we quickly learned that it's all fun for the fans and I think the players really enjoy it."

The FedEx Cup was hard to follow and understand at the start. The playoffs started with 144 golfers, which is like starting the NFL playoffs with 33 teams. The seasonlong point system was labyrinthine, and the grand prize did not seem all that grand when spread over many years. And a golfer can skip the Barclays and have a chance of winning the big prize, as in Jason Dufner, third in FedEx points, who said he will not play this week so he can rest.

"Almost every year there has been a tweak to the system," Haas said. "I think it's neat to see how quickly it has become a big deal."

The tweaks have resulted in a starting field of 125 in the Barclays, which gets narrowed in each of the next three events, down to 30 for the finale. Most of the $10 million is paid in cash. The point system has been refined to put more weight on the last event, the Tour Championship. It still could happen that the Tour Championship trophy and FedEx Cup can go to two different people -- as in 2009, when Phil Mickelson won the former and Tiger Woods the latter. But it is more likely that one player will take both, resulting in an exciting finish and a pretty good day's pay for someone.

Furyk said, "My son was at home, watching, and he said, 'Wait a minute. He won one golf tournament and he won two trophies?' "

Fact is, for most people playing and watching, the focus of these playoffs is not on the trophies. Dustin Johnson, who won the Barclays last year but finished fourth in the FedEx Cup, said, "I don't know anyone who could argue they couldn't use that money."

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