Nobody likes the FedEx Cup playoffs but we have a solution

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

The regular PGA Tour season is over, and the FedEx Cup playoffs are about to begin. Is there anything in particular that gets you excited about the upcoming playoffs?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Yes. The final result.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: I still waffle back and forth between I like the play-offs and I don’t like them. It’s difficult to find equality/value in the points when everyone plays a different combination of regular-season events and each event has a variety of point values. However, you must recognize the PGA TOUR players are independent contractors who play their own schedule and pay their own expenses. Compared to other major leagues the pay scale for performance is quite a bit lower than the others, which kind of justifies the need for the top players to have the opportunity to earn mega $$$$$. But, as an attraction, I don’t get too wound up about it. One thing that would help would be a gigantic scoreboard with each player’s standings based on ‘real-time’ points and $$$. So, when someone putted on any given green, we could see how much impact it might have if the putt were to fall in, miss or 3-putt etc. As it stands now, you put the entire field into a great big sack. A lot of punching, kicking and pulling hair takes place and the final results are available on Monday morning.

Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer (@davykap): There is not. Lol. I’m excited to see Akshay Bhatia make his pro debut at the Safeway in late September, but that’s not for a while still. By the way, I’m not too pleased that I have to wait until mid-December for the President’s Cup. That’s a long span without any truly important golf.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours @GolfAwayTJ): Not really to be honest.  Other than the fact that Tiger is playing and that always gets me to watch a little bit.  I am interested to see how the Canadians fare, and to see how many might be able to make it to the Tour Championship.  And of course, seeing how strong my pool team can finish the season, perhaps sneaking me into the money!  Let’s go Dylan Frittelli!

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: The only intriguing aspect of this FedEx fandango is whether or not Koepka cares. If he does, it will be worth watching him dominate. If not, then no one outside relatives and friends will care.  I do miss the PGA Championship in August.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Not really. It’s just more of the same with bigger purses, more pandering than usual to title sponsor FedEx and an incredibly lame effort to try and make something that is a pure cash grab into anything more meaningful. It’s wrong to even call them playoffs. In a playoff, winners move on and losers go home.

The format for the Tour Championship has the points leader (currently Brooks Koepka) starting at -10 and the 30th man in the field starting even. The rest of the players start somewhere between the two, depending on their order of finish after the first two rounds of playoffs. Does this make sense on any level or is it way too gimmicky for a high-profile event?

Deeks: Until I read the question, I had no idea that that was the format.  Now I have no understanding. That’s not a criticism, I actually applaud their attempt to create competition.  But, like most members of the Round Table, professional men’s golf really only sparks my interest at the beginning of the calendar year when I’m sick of looking at snow in my yard, and then it piques my interest again from March to July when the majors (in which I include TPC) are played.  The FedEx playoffs and Tour Championship have never done much for me.

Schurman: The problem here is the players have far too much influence on the format. They want protection for a player’s year-long performance combined with their performance in the first two events. I understand this thinking somewhat but it sure makes for poor entertainment. Taking the total purses of the 3 playoff events and the FedEx Cup there is approximately $75M up for ‘grabs’. I would much rather see the first two events remain as they are but only a ‘sweet 16’ advance to the finale at East Lake. Then play a series of elimination, 18-hole medal score matches for the remaining $60M. Imagine watching a match that is worth $10M to the winner? If someone feels there need be a layer of protection allow the top 24 into the final but the top 8 get a first-round bye. Then away we go!

Kaplan: It’s supposed to be less confusing and result in the winner of the Tour Championship taking home the entire FedEx Cup payout—and I think it will accomplish that goal—but it still feels extremely gimmicky and I think that feeling will only increase as we get closer to East Lake. That being said, the former points system sucked, mainly because you needed a degree in mathematics to understand it and how it impacted the finale of the Tour Championship. So why not try something new?

Rule:  I like it.  I know it’s not traditional, but it will make for more dramatic viewing, and make it a lot easier to comprehend heading into the last round.  It might not be the ultimate answer, but I like that they are trying it, and it’ll be fun to watch.

Quinn: The Tour has run out of duct tape trying to fix this thing, and this latest patch giving Koepka a TD and a field goal (well, it is all about ducking the NFL) is comical. Every other playoff system in every sport is understandable to the fans — after all, a fairly important part of the equation — and this thing isn’t even clear to the guys trying to explain it. Fahgattaboutit already! The only thing left is the money, and fans don’t care.

Mumford: Beyond stupid. If they really want to create playoffs, they could start by cutting the number that qualify. 125 players earn their cards for a season, then all of them qualify for the playoffs too? How about two playoff events for the Top 60 money earners? After the first event, the top 32 players advance, regardless of regular season standing. In the second event, cut the field in half each day until only four are left for the final Sunday, with huge money on the line.

The PGA Tour recently released it’s 2019/2020 wrap-around schedule and it contains 49 events. As the new Commissioner, you have the power to change the PGA Tour schedule so it’s more exciting for golf fans. BRIEFLY describe what you would change.

Deeks: I would cut down the number of events by at least 25%.  I would revert to starting the season in January.  I would formally declare the TPC a major, whether purists like it or not.  I would insist that Canadian players be eligible for inclusion on the American Ryder Cup team.  I would institute a biennial match play event that pitted the top 16 PGA and LPGA players against each other, with the LPGA players using forward tees.  I would institute a biennial PGA Pro-Junior match play event, featuring 32 teams of pro-plus-junior (16 and under), the juniors qualifying through regional tournaments.  I would limit the Commissioner’s tenure to 10 years.

Schurman: I really like the 2-part season! I wish we’d stop calling it the ‘wrap-around’ unless you want to gain Cling Wrap as a sponsor. We don’t call the hockey or basketball season ‘wrap-around’. Each section of the season makes its own special contribution. The Fall gives the new ‘card earners’ a chance to establish themselves and move their position while the weaker players lose their financial position. With the top 125 taking time off there is an opportunity for those 125 to 150 players or the top 125 can play and get off to a good start so they can take time off in the winter. Once the calendar moves into the new year, we get back on the historical part of the schedule which I like and identify with and then we have a major a month for five months. Yes, I said 5. With the 5 months of continuous majors, you have the TOUR schedule featuring 3 regular events and one major meaning each month has its own identity. Players have to plan very carefully to accommodate sponsor demands, tour appearance requirements, player event/course preferences, points standings etc. Every single FedEx Cup point has importance regarding invitations to limited field events, top 30, top 70, 125 and majors. The PGA TOUR is the most capitalistic business in the world. Pay your entry fee, perform and you are rewarded or not. What would I change? Nothing for a few years until we see the impact of all the changes made in the past 4 or 5 years.

Kaplan: How are there 49 events!?! That’s way too many! How can you look forward to the golf season when there is no off season? In this instance, less is SO much more. At the very least, I’d cut out 14 events, including everything from September to the end of the calendar year. Competing with the NFL, MLB playoffs and the starts of the NHL and NBA seasons is no country for old men.

Rule:  Wow, where to start!  As impractical as it may seem (heck, I’m commissioner, I can try anything!), I would put every golf tournament, all the way down to the John Deere Classic, on a “name” golf course, so I want to watch the tournament no matter who is playing.  OK, so that’s very impractical, but I can dream!  I’m still confused by the whole wrap around schedule.  Golf was one of the few sports that didn’t have to sort their history by split years.  It was simply “who led the tour in winnings in 1986?”, not 1986/87 like in all team sports.  There was something clean about that, which I liked!  So, I would get rid of the fall “start” to the schedule and have the tournament of champions the first event of the year again.  It just seems right that way.

Quinn: Wow, three weeks without TV golf! What is a body to do? Well, first this Commish will admit that all these wrap-around events are minor league Q-school fill-ins and drop their Tour status. Second, the real Tour schedule will reflect that golf itsownself is a niche sport and will stop pretending to challenge the NFL, MLB, NHL and the rest of the globe’s major sports for the hearts and minds of all those millions who don’t give a s#@t if Eldrick ever sinks another bogey putt. The game, its Majors, and its traditions will be celebrated and shared with the millions of ardent golfers who keep it alive in a 20-25 event schedule, quadrennial Ryder Cups, with the Presidents and FedEx Cups tossed overboard, never to be lamented, or remembered.

Mumford: I’d start the season in January and end it in September; eliminate the Fall season; and change the playoff format to the scenario I explained above. Then I’d eliminate points of any kind and revert to money won as the measure of a player’s season. Nobody understands points, everybody understands money. I’d enforce a one-in-three rule that required all players to play in every event at least once every three years. Finally, I’d mandate penalty strokes and DQ’s for slow play, and publish the names and offenses of any player caught violating Tour rules and policy.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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