The PGA Tour plans to bring a major overhaul to the Tour Championship format. What do they need to do to get it right this time?
The FedEx Cup is on the line this weekend at the East Lake Club, where players will participate in the current format for the final time before the Tour institutes major changes.
The revamped format is rumored to involve a significant cash bonus for the top finisher in the FedEx Cup standings and aims to avoid the uncomfortable scenario in which the winner at East Lake fails to take home the FedEx Cup.
The tentative plan calls for the points leader to begin the Tour Championship at ten under par, with the rest of the field staggered at different starting scores and the 30th ranked player chasing the pack at even.
I can’t imagine a more convoluted solution to a simple problem.
The stroke advantage provides a superficial solution, essentially taking a top player who didn’t earn the tournament victory and naming him champion for the sake of continuity and improving the brand of one of the game’s star personalities.
I doubt I’m the only one scratching my head over this. Does the Tour believe that someone who shoots a -14 and loses to someone who shoots a -5 isn’t going to have a problem with the new system?
It’s a tough pill to swallow from a player’s perspective, but the new concept is hard on the fans, too. The -10 start makes for a potentially unwatchable tournament. In a 30 player field, 20 of them could be 15 or more strokes behind after the first round.
It’s hard enough for the field to take the Cup in the current format. More than half of the players in this year’s Tour Championship have worse than 99/1 odds to win the FedEx Cup, and somehow the Tour decided it made sense to start these players at a multiple stroke disadvantage.
This feels like the Tour’s David Stern moment. “The Lakers vs. the Lakers” would be great for growing the game, but who wants to see Jordan Thomas win a tournament with a T5 finish? It’s mind-boggling.
The Tour views the top players as the victims of the current system’s flaws. They’re wrong. The lower ranked players get the short end of the flagstick. They’re the ones who can win a championship and not be the champion.
The top ranked players don’t need additional rewards. For one thing, they get paid every week for winning tournaments and posting top 10 finishes. We’re talking millions of dollars in prize money, not to mention endorsement deals and sponsorships. Plus, they have a built in advantage of being the better players. Isn’t that enough of an edge?
We love watching the playoffs because the tournaments matter. The current system heavily weights the postseason events, and like any other sport, getting hot in the postseason could result in a miraculous run.
The 2011 New York Giants finished 9-7 and won the Super Bowl. The NFL allowed both teams to use the same amount of players.
The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals limped into the postseason with only 83 wins before making a World Series run. MLB didn’t punish them by awarding their opponent a one game edge in the series.
Does a Cinderella team in the Final Four deserve to start the game down 10 points?
Why should it be any different for a guy like Cam Smith, who hadn’t played well since April but turned it on in the playoffs and earned his place in the Championship? Is it fair for him to start three strokes behind the leader?
Here’s a radically simple solution: Whoever wins the championship is the champion. Innovative idea, right?
To maintain competitive play among the elite level players the Tour can offer a $2 Million bonus for the top 5 in the FedEx Cup standings heading into the Tour Championship.
Golfers who finish 6-15 take home a $1 Million bonus and golfers 16-30 earn a spot in the field and a legitimate chance of actually winning the FedEx Cup and its eight-figure prize money.
There’s enough money in play to satisfy the top players and reward their season-long performance, nobody plays from behind, the underdogs have a chance, there’s meaningful financial incentives to keep everybody honest, the earlier playoff events still carry additional point values to motivate Cinderellas and the winner of the championship gets to be the champion.
This format checks all of the boxes for the Tour, avoids the pitfalls of the proposed format and makes me look like a genius. What more could you ask for?