Tour Unveils New Playoff System
The FedEx Cup starts next year and is designed to give golf its own version of a playoff system.
This looks more like a free-for-all over the final month of the season.
Points will be earned from the season-opening Mercedes Championships in January through the Carolina Classic at Greensboro, and the top 144 players will be eligible for the playoffs -- the Barclays Classic, Deutsche Bank Championship, BMW Championship and the TOUR Championship at East Lake.
PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem said players will be mathematically eliminated after each playoff event, although those players can continue to tee it up in the $7 million events. The field will be reduced to 30 players, as always, for the TOUR Championship, and the player with the most points earns $10 million.
Still to be decided is whether the payoff will be in cash or paid into a deferred compensation account.
'The FedEx Cup and new playoff system on the PGA TOUR truly usher in an exciting new era in golf, and establish a new measurement of success on the PGA TOUR,' Finchem said.
The system has been compared with NASCAR's new 'Chase for the Championship,' in which the title is determined by the final 10 races of the stock-car circuit.
Finchem used a baseball analogy during a press conference in New York.
Woods and Vijay Singh are the only players in the last 50 years to have won nine times in a season; Woods won three majors during his record-breaking 2000 season. Under the new points system, he would have only a slim margin over the rest of the field going into the PGA TOUR playoffs.
'In a couple of cases, I've had a follow-up question, 'Do you think that's fair?'' Finchem said. 'And my response is if the New York Yankees win 115 games and win the American League East, they start over. And every player with whom I've had that conversation's response to that is, 'I get it, I get it, it's great. Let's tee it up.' Which is what you would expect from players at that level.'
Points will be distributed to the top 70 and ties, similar to how money is doled out at tournaments. PGA TOUR events will be worth a total of 25,000 points, with 27,500 points available at the four majors and The Players Championship, and 26,250 points at the World Golf Championships. Tournaments held the same week as majors of WGC events will be worth 12,500 points.
A player who wins a PGA TOUR event will get 4,500 points, compared with 675 points for 10th place.
The regular season ends a week after the PGA Championship, at the Carolina Classic, and the points are reset.
The leader will start the playoffs with a slim advantage -- 100,000 points, compared with 99,000 points for the player in second player. The drop-off is 500 points for every place through No. 5, 250 points through No. 10, 150 points through No. 30, and 75-point reductions for every place through No. 144.
For the final four events in the playoffs, the winner gets 9,000 points; it is slightly higher at the TOUR Championship.
Finchem said it was mathematically possible for someone to clinch the FedEx Cup before the TOUR Championship, but unlikely.
The playoffs are designed to give golf a definitive end to its season, when it can crown the FedEx Cup champion. It also should mean that the top players will be competing every week, which is rare on the PGA TOUR beyond the majors.
But whether the public buys it into remains to be seen.
Success in golf has been determined by the four majors for the last 50 years, and that is not likely to change. The tour sent out a release that included quotes from Woods, Mickelson and Ernie Els, among others.
'It has the top players playing against each other, which is much more exciting product for the fans,' Mickelson said.
Mickelson did not play in the TOUR Championship last year, and he usually shuts down his schedule after the majors. He is likely to play all the FedEx Cup playoff events next year, as is Woods and the other top players.
Still, the PGA TOUR usually only gives away money -- not points -- so this might require an adjustment.
'We're still kind of in the learning process,' J.J. Henry said from the Buick Championship. 'Who knows, really? I'm sure there's going to be little things we're going to have to do here and there to tweak it as we go along, but I think it will be great.'
One thing sure to get few complaints is the money.
Along with the $7 million pursue from the final four events, the playoffs have a $35 million bonus pool that pays $10 million to the winner, $3 million to the runner-up, $2 million for third, $1.5 million for fourth and $1 million for fifth place. The rest of the $18 million will be paid out to the 144th spot.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead
New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.
The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.
"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."
Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.
It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.
Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.
Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore
SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.
Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.
He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.
Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.
Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.
The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.
''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''
Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.
He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.
Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.
Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.
''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''
13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest
Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.
Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.
“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”
Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.
Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.
Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.
Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.
“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”
Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.
“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.
This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.