The FedEx Mess
Craig Dolch at the Palm Beach Post has some analysis of the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup season ending series that's supposed to take effect beginning in 2007.
TFM's opinion of the FedEx Cup? I hate it and think it is dumb and counterproductive. First because in Pro Golf there are the Major Championships and then everything else. Attempts to hype other touraments like the Players Championship, Memorial, The old World Series of Golf into major championships have all failed. Golf isn't NASCAR. Just look at the sports ratings and fan support. Fan support is mostly week to week, if it isn't a major and no Tiger playing, alot of people don't care. I'm hardcore, but I'm an exception. The PGA Tour hasn't sold the FedEx to me, how do they think the average golf fan will take it?
Golf writer and Blogger John Hawkins discusses other problems with the concept here.
That clearly will be the case with the new playoff system. It’s a formula weighted heavily in parity: 144 players will qualify for the four-week homestretch after a seeding/reshuffling process that does little to reward exceptional performance during the regular season. You win eight tour events, two of them majors, and hold a $4 million lead on the money list by the third week of August? Congratulations. You start the playoffs 500 points ahead of the guy in second place—basically a three-inch head start for a 100-yard dash.Parity is for the NFL. Pro golf has enough parity with the top 125 golfers getting exempt every year. That's how come some players are on tour with 200-300 tournament starts and no victories. In the old days of the top 60 and Monday qualifiers these guys would have long vanished.
It’s a margin tiny enough to get wiped out by a single stroke in the first playoff tournament. No felony there, as the tour is looking to encourage volatility throughout the postseason, but there’s something illogical about a system so bottom-heavy that the 50th seed—a guy with no victories and maybe five top-10s all year—can win the first playoff event (Westchester) and leap ahead of the No. 1 seed.
All one of them needs to do is get hot at the right time. What does that say about the FedEx Cup?
Another problem is the fact that tournaments with long histories like the Western Open and Texas Open are getting replaced or demoted. The Western Open is the oldest PGA tournament other than the US Open. Starting in 2007 its history. What the hell for?
In 10 years when the FedEx debacle is done and over I think alot of people in golf will be asking the same question.
Open Post- Bright & Early, Basil's Blog,
Additional Note- It is good to see the return ofGolf writer Craig Dolch. I'm going to email Craig inquiring about how his son Eric is doing. I may post an update later.
Depending upon who you talk to, the PGA Tour's plan to go with a NASCAR-like, season-ending FedEx Cup in 2007 is either a stroke of brilliance or a figurative triple-bogey waiting to happen.
Starting next year, the PGA Tour will shorten its "official" season from 47 to 33 events, and then have a four-tournament playoff for $35 million, with the winner getting $10 million, the largest prize in sports. The theory is, the fewer tournaments there are, the more often the top players will play against each other, thus improving network ratings.
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, while announcing most of the FedEx Cup details last week in New York, called it "a new era in golf." Finchem pointed out golf, unlike most major sports, doesn't have an end-of-year playoff format for the interest to increase, but instead its season is built on the four traditional majors held throughout the year.
"In virtually every other sport, what's generally referred to as the regular season pales in comparison to the value and the attention the playoff part of the season gets," Finchem said. "We wanted to access that kind of enthusiasm and excitement, if we could, in our season."
Superstars such as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have been appealing to Finchem for years to shorten the schedule. Before the 2005 Ford Championship at Doral, Woods said: "I've really been trying to get into Finchem's ear about (that)... We have an 11-month season and that's too long. There's no other sport that plays 11 months of a year."
Indeed, under the new plan, the FedEx Cup would bring an official close to the season in mid-September, before the PGA Tour's weekend TV ratings take a pummeling against college and pro football. There would then be an "off-season" consisting of six or seven unofficial events.
But golf traditionalists see the FedEx Cup as contrived competition and another step away from what makes the sport appeal to many of its fans. Namely, golf is one of the purest sports around, where everybody shows up at the first tee and the competition is decided strictly by the results.
"The idea is to bring the upper echelon of the Tour together on a more frequent basis," said Hobe Sound's Olin Browne, a three-time PGA Tour winner. "The problem for some is almost a third of the season are 11 all-star events (the four majors, four invitationals and three World Golf Championship stops) where not everyone can get into. The deck is stacked to accommodate the stars."
Others are worried that by shortening the season to showcase today's stars, the PGA Tour might be shortchanging the pursuit for tomorrow's heroes. How much would we have heard about up-and-comers such as Camilo Villegas, J.B. Holmes or Bubba Watson this year if, because there's nine fewer events, they wouldn't have gotten so many early-season starts?
The PGA Tour is capable of staging a quality event no matter if Woods or Mickelson are in the field. Neither played last week in Hartford, but watching hometown hero J.J. Henry win the Buick Championship was one of the year's feel-good stories.
"I think the most challenging thing was finding a reluctance to change," said Henry Hughes, the Tour's Chief of Operations. "You could easily argue that our Tour has prospered, our television ratings have significantly increased over the years. But all sports are taking a little bit of a leveling out now, so we thought it was important that we take a look at our product."
The FedEx Cup is clearly still a work in process. Finchem admitted that many of the final details have not been worked out. It's not even a certainty the $35 million will be hard cash or deferred money. It's likely the system will continue to be tweaked the next few years.
Some already have questioned why the top 144 players in points will advance to the playoffs. After all, traditionally golf has rewarded just the top 125 players on the money list with their playing privileges for the next year. But 144? That's almost like all 30 NBA teams qualifying for the post-season — plus several top college hoops teams.
And what if Woods or Vijay Singh matched their recent nine-win seasons? They could dominate the PGA Tour all season — and watch someone else take home the biggest paycheck.
Some players are willing to overlook some of the details and take a wait-and-see approach.
"I think it's something we clearly needed to do," said Joe Ogilvie, a member of the Tour's Advisory Board. "We have some holes in our schedule, weeks that traditionally don't get a strong field. Hopefully with a yearlong point structure I think some of those holes will be filled."
But will they? Whether the FedEx Cup becomes a success depends upon the same thing: Will the top players decide to play in more tournaments? Woods never has played in more than 21 PGA Tour events in a year, and he says he doesn't expect that number to change.