Possible FedEx Cup changes could be entertaining

PARAMUS, NJ - AUGUST 23: The FedExCup trophy is displayed on the first hole tee box during the first round of THE NORTHERN TRUST at Ridgewood Country Club on August 23, 2018 in Paramus, New Jersey. (Photo by Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR)
PARAMUS, NJ - AUGUST 23: The FedExCup trophy is displayed on the first hole tee box during the first round of THE NORTHERN TRUST at Ridgewood Country Club on August 23, 2018 in Paramus, New Jersey. (Photo by Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR) /

There have been reported changes coming to the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoffs in 2019 and they could make for a lot of fun.

When the FedEx Cup first debuted in 2007, I understand what the PGA Tour was trying to accomplish. Golf had never seen a playoff system before and the sport was at an all-time high in popularity. Tiger Woods hadn’t had an incident with a fire hydrant yet or had a back surgery and some of the younger generation that he had inspired a decade earlier were starting their march toward fame.

So the PGA Tour wanted to introduce a playoff system to showcase all of this talent and seeing as how they’re not technically affiliated with the major championships, they wanted to crown their own champion. Sure, they’ve had The Players Championship, long seen as golf’s unofficial fifth major, but they wanted something bigger, something that made every tournament throughout the year seem important. Enter the FedEx Cup.

On the surface, things seemed pretty simple. Players would accumulate points throughout the regular season, obviously gaining more with higher finishes, and the top 125 would qualify for at least the first playoff event. The top 100 would then qualify for the second, 70 for the third and then 30 for the final event, the Tour Championship. No, not the one from Happy Gilmore, which seemed to be the only four-day event on that particular tour, didn’t it? But I digress.

Tiger made things really easy in 2007. He finished the regular season with the most points and came in as the number one seed, won the third tournament of the playoffs, the BMW Championship, and then won the Tour Championship and walked away with the FedEx Cup and the $10 million bonus that goes along with it. Oh, did I forget to mention the crazy money that’s thrown around in this thing? But he wins the last tournament and gets the big trophy and the big check. Seems simple. Until it wasn’t.

Tiger would have been the number one seed coming into the 2008 event, which is insane seeing as he played in only six events before leaving for knee surgery after winning the U.S. Open. So everything seemed wide open. Vijay Singh, who finished the regular season in seventh place in the FedEx Cup standings, won The Barclays to open the playoffs to vault into first place and then won the Deutsche Bank Championship the following week. Oh no. Singh finished tied for 44th at the BMW Championship but that didn’t matter at all.

He had enough points going into the Tour Championship that all he needed to do was finish to win the FedEx Cup. Camilo Villegas, who had won the BMW, also won the Tour Championship and while he certainly got a nice check for that, the big winner of the day was Vijay, who waltzed into $10 million with a tie for 22nd. Wait, what? Where’s the fun in that?. And that’s certainly not what a playoff is supposed to be. Golf fans want to see drama on Sunday afternoon. But that’s not what happened. That’d be like the Golden State Warriors losing Game 7 of the NBA Finals but since they had more overall points throughout the series, they win the title anyway.

2008 also brought a few rule changes to the FedEx Cup. Some of the point of this whole thing was to see more of the big-name players more often on television. Don’t pretend a big part of sports isn’t ratings.  Well, some had accumulated enough points that they would be assured of a spot in the second or sometimes even the third event without even playing the first one or two. So they wouldn’t, which made a lot of people unhappy. So extra points were added to playoff events to make playing in them more desirable. A player, perhaps even one who had only one once during the regular season or maybe not even at all, could make a huge jump in the standings by winning just one playoff event. Essentially, points were reset and tightened as a bit of a penalty for those who wanted to do that.

As for the Tour Championship, points were done up so that all 30 players involved would have a technical chance to win the FedEx Cup. Anyone in the top five in points would win the FedEx Cup if they won the Tour Championship and that’s fine. But the scenarios would just get ridiculous and the explanations that the commentary team would have to give out were just too much. If Player X finishes here and Player Y finishes here, then Player Z could have the chance to jump up and win the $10 million.

Trust me, that’s light. For the most part, things have been okay. In the 11 years since this system began, eight of the 11 players to win the Tour Championship have won the FedEx Cup. But, according to the Associated Press, that’s not good enough for the PGA Tour and they’re ready to make some major changes to the system in 2019.

Under the new FedEx Cup structure, a cash bonus possibly in the neighborhood of $3 million would be awarded to the winner of the regular season with possible payouts to the second and third-ranked players as well. As for the regular season itself, the final week has been played at the Wyndham Championship since 2007. However, this tournament has been skipped by many of the big names in the game due to the fact that their place in the standings was set.

However, with $3 million possibly on the line, this may entice a few to tee it up in Greensboro. But there’s also been talk of moving it back a week to the World Golf Championship that will be played in Memphis. I doubt that happens though. That makes the Wyndham essentially nothing and there would really be no point in even holding the event, a tournament that dates all the way back to 1938.

What we knew already was that the number of playoff events was moving from four to three. That was part of the major overhaul to the schedule that sees the PGA Championship moving from August to May and The Players Championship moving from May back to March. The Northern Trust will alternate between Liberty National in Jersey City and TPC Boston and will be followed by the BMW Championship, which this season will be played at Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. 2018 will be the final time the Dell Technologies Championship is played and things would still end with the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. It’s there that the biggest change would come into play.

Under the new format, points will be gone when the last 30 players get to Atlanta. Whomever is considered the number one seed would start the tournament at 10-under-par while the player ranked 30th would begin the four days 10 shots back. The remaining 28 players would have their scores staggered in between, meaning that the player that wins the Tour Championship automatically wins the FedEx Cup as well. You still with me here?

Okay, it’s not perfect but what this would do is eliminate the confusion of the two titles and I’m absolutely okay with that. As I said earlier, what golf fans want in a tournament is drama. If a player has to make up 10 shots in four days (there is no cut at the Tour Championship), so be it. He should have done better on his way to Atlanta. But we all know that any player can get really hot at any given time — the “These Guys Are Good” slogan is what it is for a reason — and go low. Knock off a couple of shots per day and you’re right there on Sunday with a chance at $10 million. Oh wait, did I forget about the money again? The FedEx Cup title may have a $15 million prize with it next year.

Where I get lost, and what I’m hoping will be explained at some point if and when this thing gets finalized, is the first two playoff events and how they come into play. If the regular season ends after either Memphis or the Wyndham and that top player gets his $3 million, is he automatically the number one seed in Atlanta or does he have to maintain that top spot using the point system at the Northern Trust and the BMW? And with going from four to three playoff events, how much are the numbers going to change as far as how many players will be in each field?

Perhaps still go with the 125 to get into the first event of the playoffs, especially seeing as it’s now the deciding factor in who automatically retains a PGA Tour card the following season (it used to be the money list) and then maybe knock it down to 75 for the BMW? That takes 50 players out after the first event as opposed to just 25, which might make a few more players think twice about skipping the event. So they’ve got the big-name players at every event like they want now as well. Take the 75 down to 30 for the Tour Championship and we’re all set.

There’s certainly going to be some tweaking to all of this but after thinking on it for a while, I could really get behind this new version of the FedEx Cup. The regular season means even more now, which means players might tee it up at some of the B-level events, which is never a bad thing for fans in attendance, those watching on television and yes, the sponsors. The playoffs don’t get drawn out and the players aren’t as fatigued, which makes for better golf, and the guys will want to be there due to the importance of each event as it pertains to getting the best spot possible in that top 30 in Atlanta. Once we’re there, anything could happen with that crazy staggering of scores to begin with to lead into a Sunday where the winner of the tournament wins the whole thing.

No awkwardness of two trophy presentations or two winners or two anything. One winner. One FedEx Cup champion. Yep, I’m in.

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What are your thoughts on the possible changes to the FedEx Cup Playoffs on the PGA Tour? Please feel free to join in the conversation in the comments section below.