Bisher: Tour Championship survives against football

Whisper his name. Just say it, then move on. It's not the first Tour Championship that Tiger Woods has missed. Two years ago he was nursing a surgically repaired knee. In 2006 ... well, he said he needed some time off, so he took it -- in China. A week later he showed up in Shanghai, collecting $3 million, commonly called an appearance fee, to play in the HBSC Championship, a European Tour tournament.

He didn't win. The unheard of and unknown (outside Korea) Y.E. Yang beat him by two strokes. And in case this has slipped your mind, Y.E. also beat Tiger in the PGA Championship at Hazeltine in 2009.

Now, it had been the custom to schedule the Tour Championship in late October and early November. You know, to beat the college football hysterics, which, by that time had simmered down to a bubble. But when Woods took off for China, that left the Tour Championship to Adam Scott, and this stirred up the juices down in Tim Finchem's office at Sawgrass.

A Tour Championship in September didn't sound so bad after all. You surely couldn't play with the No. 1 player in the world dallying about in Asia.

So it was decided that the Tour Championship should be moved to late September. (Who's afraid of big, bad ol' football?) Woods was back in the field. He didn't win the Tour Championship -- he lost to Phil Mickelson -- but he won the FedEx Cup and headed off on another trip to the Far East and Australia, then came home to Islesworth, and you know the rest of that story. Tiger hasn't won a tournament on American soil since, and he didn't qualify for the jewel of East Lake this year.

By the way, PGA commissioner Finchem and his clever staff came up with a means of handling that football crisis in September, and since the NBC network has had a contract to televise Notre Dame football for a few decades, they worked it out. The Tour Championship teed off two hours early Saturday morning to get out of the way of the Fighting Irish in time for their kickoff with Stanford. There's more than one way to skin a cat.

Meanwhile, back at East Lake, the American corps had left it to Jim Furyk, crusty ol' Jim, to stand off the international contingent. He was 8 under par, and Retief Goosen, Luke Donald, Geoff Ogilvy, Paul Casey and Kevin Na stood between him and Charley Hoffman, of the dangling locks, the next closest American.

The most severe disappointment has been Matt Kuchar, Georgia Tech alumnus and ranking FedEx Cup challenger coming into East Lake. His line on the scoreboard looked like a train wreck.

"It was just an awkward day," he said. "The driver was not kind to me, and it was just a frustrating day of golf. I've got nothing else on my mind but playing well tomorrow."

He has yet to break par and stands tied at 23rd with Justin Rose and Adam Scott. And on top of it all, the Georgia Tech football team was hammered by N.C. State, but that's a matter for Paul Johnson, not Matt.

Whatever the course of the closing, Matt and his Ryder Cup teammates set out for Wales after the championship ends Sunday. But that's for another time and another day. Right now, "I've got one more day to straighten things out," he said.

After a glowing series of playoff events and the crowning glory of the finest year of his professional career, there's little worse than coming back to your hometown and losing contact with par. The original goal was $10 million, the FedEx Cup prize. Right now, it's renewing contact with the game that brought him here.