With each passing year, the FedEx Cup has lost prestige and significance and has therefore been subject to intense ridicule by players and fans alike. Two major issues arose over 2010’s edition. First, due to demands from their own tour, top European players have had difficulty earning enough points to be competitive in the FedEx Cup regardless of their world ranking status. Second, as last year’s Tour Championship played out, it was mathematically possible for the FedEx Cup champion to emerge without actually earning a victory in the 2010 season. So what is the solution? Commissioner Tim Finchem told the press on Thursday that he was going to “monitor” the situation, which implies that the system will be tweaked depending on whatever controversial issues might arise during the course of the season.
Here’s my solution: turn the FedEx Cup into one 16-round cumulative tournament on four different courses.
In this scenario, the regular season goal is to just get into the FedEx Cup. Once you are in, it’s basically a free for all. Everyone starts at even par, and the tournament takes on a life of its own with the cream rising to the top.
The FedEx Cup places too much of a premium on being a “playoff” system by boosting the value of the regular season and touting the importance of each playoff tournament with cuts and increased points. The regular season has enough prestige and value on it’s own – what other sport has it’s four most important tournaments before the playoffs? No matter what happens, The FedEx Cup will never be as prestigious as any of the majors if it stays in its current format. The Tour would be much better off making the FedEx Cup its own exciting tournament. The Tour doesn’t need playoffs – it just needs to end the year with a bang – and right now it’s missing the mark.
Better yet, if the Cup takes on a life of its own, why not make it completely separate from the regular season and invite the top 165 in the world rankings? The only thing that fires up players as much as the money is world ranking points, and if the final standings of the FedEx Cup held double weight in points, the event would take on a whole new meaning for the pros, and by extension, the fans. That should keep guys like Tiger and Phil from taking early vacations and skipping out on the Cup altogether. Cuts made after each tournament would be made based on performance, not points, so everyone knows where they stand all the time. Sure, there can be monetary incentives for winning each “leg” (therefore satisfying the sponsors and the Tour’s desire to count each as an official win), but the overall leaderboard is what will count more than anything.
Last year, only five players were guaranteed the FedEx Cup by winning the Tour Championship. Whoever was crunching numbers for the Tour must have had a real headache trying to figure out the various scenarios in which players outside of the top 5 would have a chance. This was how Hunter Mahan’s chances were laid out (he went into the Tour Championship No. 15 on the list – check out this verbiage):
If No. 15 HUNTER MAHAN wins THE TOUR Championship; To win FedExCup: Matt Kuchar must finish tenth or worse; Dustin Johnson must finish fifth or worse; Charley Hoffman must finish in a tie for third or worse; Steve Stricker must finish in a 3-way tie for second; Paul Casey must finish in a tie for second or worse; Jason Day must finish third or worse. Will be tied for first:If Kuchar finishes solo ninth, if Johnson ties for fourth or if Day finishes solo second.
Here’s a link to the rest of these complex scenarios http://goo.gl/lyeDc (but I refuse to be held responsible if you spontaneously combust).
The bottom line is, when guys are coming down the 18th fairway and have absolutely no clue where they stand, something is seriously wrong with the system.
Of the 125 players who started in the 2010 FedEx Cup, only 20 players actually played sixteen full rounds. Jim Furyk, who went on to win the Cup, isn’t a part of this group because he was DQ’d from The Barclay’s for sleeping through his alarm clock and missing the Pro-Am. Using my model for a 16-round cumulative tournament, here is how the top 10 finishers of the FedEx Cup would have turned out this year, using only players who had completed all four rounds of each tournament:
Charley Hoffman 1105 -27
Luke Donald 1105 -27
Paul Casey 1105 -27
Matt Kuchar 1109 -23
Retief Goosen 1109 -23
Steve Stricker 1110 -22
Adam Scott 1115 -17
Dustin Johnson 1117 -15
Jason Day 1117 -15
Nick Watney 1119 -13
Zach Johnson 1119 -13
Now that would have been something – a playoff between arguably three of the hottest players during the FedEx Cup, Charley Hoffman, Luke Donald, and Paul Casey, all at -27. A points system so difficult to understand that Steve Sands had to go dust off his old calculus book just to explain it during the telecast turns off the fans. Fans do understand, however, that the guy who comes out on top should be crowned with the trophy.
I’ve even come up with a nice little promo for the PGA Tour – Mr. Finchem, my email is at the top of this column, so shoot me a message and I’ll sell you the rights:
Think the majors take a lot out of you? Think Q School is grueling? Think Again. 4 weeks. 4 tournaments. 16 rounds. One Winner. It’s the toughest test in golf – and the winner takes home $10 million. This is the FedEx Cup.