Fall Series 2012: And so begins golf's silly season

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The FedEx Cup Playoffs have come and gone. All of the year's majors have been decided. Even the Ryder Cup is complete. So why tune in to the PGA Tour's Fall Series events?

One could argue that no professional sport truly has an "offseason." Following their respective championship round, players and coaches in the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL might take a couple weeks off before falling right back into training, contract negotiations and preparations for the following season. It is the sacrifice that athletes must accept in order to compete at the highest level as professionals.

For the PGA Tour, the string of tournaments spanning the Autumn months - officially coined the Fall Series - allows its athletes to continue competing after the FedEx Cup Playoffs have come and gone. So why don't the sports biggest names continue to compete?

The answer is obvious: professional golf is simply not like other professional sports, and neither are its athletes.

Sure, there are similarities. The biggest names become stars because of their success on the playing field. Extravagant dollar amounts are up for grabs on a weekly basis. The most successful players are the highest earners. However that only covers a small percentage of the entire PGA Tour roster. What becomes of the players on the other end of the spectrum?

Unlike other professional sports, the PGA Tour players do not have the luxury of a players union, collective bargaining agreements, or contracts to compete. While names like Woods, Mickelson and McIlroy reap the benefits of large tournament purses every week, other names like Lenord, Lowry or Triplett struggle to break the $8,000 mark for annual tournament earnings.

In every sense, players at the bottom of the money list are literally playing for their livelihood.

This year's Fall Series kicks off Thursday with the Justin Timberlake Shriners Open from Las Vegas. Headliners for the event are few: Nick Watney, Ryan Moore, Scott Stallings, and U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III. The majority of the tournament field have hovered below the midway point on this year's money list. Watney is the highest-ranked golfer in the OWGR, resting comfortably at no. 21. Moore is his nearest competitor, ranked no. 44.

What the Fall Series lacks in big-name prowess it makes up for in pure golf talent. Akin to what college football fans love about their sport, the players competing over the next few weeks may offer the purest form of professional golf we have seen all year. Winning the JT Shriners Open may not be on the top of any player's career bucket list, but earning their share of the tournament purse certainly is.

For these players, the Fall Series is ripe with opportunity. And there is nothing silly about that.

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