Ideas to improve the FedEx Cup playoffs

By Jason SobelAugust 28, 2012, 6:51 pm

The FedEx Cup playoffs are the PGA Tour's attempt to crown a true champion after a full season of golf, and while most will agree it is an improvement on the old system, some problems persist. We asked our writers what one change they would make to the FedEx Cup playoffs. Here are their suggestions.

By JASON SOBEL

The great Bob Marley used to sing: 'You can fool some people sometimes, but you can't fool all the people all the time.'

I'm pretty sure PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem isn't much of a reggae guy, but he would be wise to heed Marley's life lesson in regard to the FedEx Cup.

As it currently stands, Finchem and the folks in Ponte Vedra Beach headquarters are trying to fool both the players and the fans. They've sold the players on this being a four-event series that rewards the best player of the season; they've sold the fans on it being more of an anything-can-happen shootout.

The truth is, both ideas are a little bit pregnant. And you can't be a little bit pregnant.

The greatest change that the FedEx Cup needs – and always has – is to pick one option. Should it reward the season's best player? Or serve as a fun, entertaining thrill ride for fans?

I'd lean toward the latter, but wouldn't have a problem with either one, as long as a proper philosophy toward the playoff race was established. After all, you can't fool all the people all the time. 


BY REX HOGGARD

By nearly any measure the current version is an improvement over what passed for a big finish before 2007. Prior to the Tour’s dramatic changeover to the FedEx Cup format, the Tour Championship was little more than a 30-man cash grab with all the built-in drama of a Skills Challenge.

But that doesn’t mean the current postseason is perfect.

Consider, for example, the points reset following next week’s BMW Championship. The math is complicated, yet the reality is simple.

If Nick Watney, winner of last week’s playoff opener at Bethpage, was to clip the field this week at the Deutsche Bank Championship and next week at the BMW Championship his lead over the second-ranked player in the FedEx Cup points race would be 250 heading into the Tour Championship. It is the exact same lead he would have, in theory, if he were to finish tied for 15th the next two weeks.

The dramatic leveling of the playing field was introduced after the 2008 post-season when Vijay Singh won the first two post-season events and needed to only remain upright at East Lake to collect the $10 million jackpot.

The Tour’s mathematicians worked hard on a formula that would maintain the playoff’s competitive integrity and the Tour Championship’s relevance. So far that system has worked, but that could all change in two weeks if Watney continues to play like he did at Bethpage.


BY RYAN LAVNER

Each tweak over the past few years has improved the FedEx Cup, no doubt, but one glaring weakness remains: the field size for The Barclays, the playoff-opening event.

If the four-event playoffs are designed to identify the best player of the season, then how can players such as – no offense – Billy Mayfair, Boo Weekley and Jerry Kelly even qualify for the opener? Hey, the San Diego Padres, Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros aren’t making the MLB playoffs this year. There’s strength in exclusivity.

Even 100 players may be too many for the first event. Does anything about Andres Romero (93rd), Chris Stroud (99) and Roberto Castro (100) scream playoff contender? Those three players combined to post five top-10 finishes this season. Five.

This correspondent’s model would look like this: 75 players in the first event, 60 in the second, 45 in the third, and the 30-man playoff finale.

Why dilute what’s supposed to be a showcase of 2012’s best players? 

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.


Full-field scores from the Singapore Open


Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.

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Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 pm

The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.

Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.

Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.

Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.