Playoff criticism too hasty, says Cink

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ATLANTA, Sep 12 (Reuters) American Stewart Cink, one of four players on the PGA Tour's policy board, is upset some of his peers have criticised the inaugural FedExCup playoff series.

Negative comments have been made about the schedule and 10 million dollars bonus in deferred compensation for the overall points champion but Cink believes it is too early to pass judgment.

''It (criticism) bothers me and the reason is because we don't know how this thing is going to be yet,'' Cink told reporters yesterday during preparation for this week's Tour Championship, the fourth and final playoff event.

''These playoffs were created in the last 18 months. There's no way to know how good a product it can be until we just kind of sit back and let it be a product without tainting it with negative stories that are not necessary.

''It's only going to be as successful as the fans perceive we think it is,'' added Cink. ''If we really do embrace it and if it means something to us, then the fans are going to think so, and they're going to follow it and it's going to be big.

''But if we complain about it and we say there are too many tournaments in a row, deferred payment or whatever, then the fans are going to be turned off and it's not going to be a very good television show.'' The much-trumpeted FedExCup playoff series was introduced by the Tour to breathe fresh life into the late-season events with a NASCAR-style finale.

Fan interest has generally waned once the final major, the PGA Championship, ends in mid-August and television ratings afterwards have steadily declined in recent years.

Despite sniping comments made by some players in recent weeks and the absence of Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson from one playoff event apiece, the tournaments have unfolded in spectacular fashion.

American Steve Stricker clinched the opening leg, the Barclays Classic, with birdies on the last three holes, before Mickelson triumphed by two strokes at the Deutsche Bank Championship after a thrilling head-to-head with Woods.

STOLE LIMELIGHT On Sunday at the BMW Championship, Woods stole the limelight with a peerless display, firing a superb eight-under-par 63 to seal a two-shot victory.

''We've had three great events so far,'' said Australia's Adam Scott, who defends his title at East Lake Golf Club this week.

''They've had top players contending every week and the Deutsche Bank was kind of a dream scenario for this series, having Tiger and Phil go at it and Phil coming out on top.

''I think it's easy to see the negatives sometimes but there have been plenty of positives.'' Cink added: ''This is the future of golf. It's not just one and out; it's going to be here for a little while, so let's see how good we can make it instead of driving it into the ground.'' The tournament starts tomorrow.

REUTERS BJR VC1038

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