FedEx Cup Playoffs have come a long way in 10 years

By Rex HoggardSeptember 15, 2016, 2:00 pm

As 10-year-olds go, the FedEx Cup is surprisingly mature, particularly when you consider the relative animosity players held for the season-long race when it was launched in 2007.

Or maybe ambiguity is a better way to characterize how players viewed the FedEx Cup when it was created a decade ago.

“I was quite critical of it 10 years ago when it first came out. I think that was fair because the points weren’t right,” Adam Scott said. “It's taken a while to get it right.”

Well, time and a healthy dollop of tinkering by the PGA Tour’s mathematicians have helped move the FedEx Cup along, but it’s difficult to argue with Scott’s assessment that the postseason has come of age.

In every way, the FedEx Cup was always a work in progress going back to that first season in ’07 when Tiger Woods won the big paycheck after skipping the first postseason stop.

That wouldn’t do.

The next year, Vijay Singh won the FedEx Cup needing only to remain upright for four days at the Tour Championship thanks to a dominate playoff performance that included victories at The Barclays and Deutsche Bank Championship.

That wouldn’t work, either.

In 2014, Billy Horschel won the title after starting the playoffs 69th on the points list, which prompted a new system with less volatility beginning in 2015.

Whether the point permutations are now perfect is matter of perspective and it seems likely the tinkering will continue as long as the Tour has calculators. What’s not up for debate is how the FedEx Cup has evolved from a curiosity with largely lukewarm support from the players to a prominent seat at an increasingly crowded table.

“I think it's really achieved what it set out to do, and that's have better fields at the back end of a season,” Scott said. “That's what it set out to do and it’s done that.”

Meaningful golf with strong fields during a time of year when the Tour normally takes a backseat to football was the implied mission of the FedEx Cup, and with a few exceptions that’s what golf’s faux playoffs have accomplished.

Nothing proves that more than the participation numbers for this year’s playoffs.

Masters champion Danny Willett and Shane Lowry passed on this year’s postseason, but that was to defend a title on the European Tour (Willett at the European Masters) and make a final Ryder Cup push (Lowry); and Henrik Stenson skipped last week’s BMW Championship, but that was to nurse an injured knee.

Otherwise, the players have spoken with their feet when it comes to the FedEx Cup.

“Not many guys skip tournaments in the FedEx Cup, one or two here or there, so they're getting great fields every week and that's what we needed,” Scott said.

And the benefits of the increasingly improved postseason go well beyond four weeks in the fall. Across the schedule, players have added events with an eye toward East Lake and the season finale, where a start assures an idyllic schedule at the biggest events the following year.

Players like Kevin Kisner and Kevin Na virtually assured themselves a start at the Tour Championship thanks to a hot start last fall, and each year those post-East Lake events are seeing stronger and stronger fields.

“When we get into the fall series, guys are putting priority on those first events of the year,” David Hearn said. “Maybe in the past guys sort of eased their way into the year. If you're having a good season, you might take it easy. But with this FedEx Cup format now, I think it makes each and every week so important out here.”

The postseason is not perfect. There are some who say four playoff events are one too many, and during Ryder Cup years, like this year, the top players are compelled to make tough schedule decisions that often don’t lead to their best golf.

Nor has the FedEx Cup replaced the Jack Nicklaus Trophy for deciding the year’s top player. The FedEx Cup champion has also won the Tour’s Player of the year award just four times since 2007.

“It determines who's the best player for these four weeks. But that's what playoffs do as well in any other sport,” Scott said. “Just because you've topped the division or whatever you call it doesn't mean you're just going to be given the top spot at the end of the year. Playoffs have volatility and that's what this does.”

There is room for more changes, and if history is any indication, the Tour won’t stop tinkering with the FedEx Cup anytime soon, but just like any other 10-year-old, the players and Tour should all marvel at just how fast the postseason experiment has grown up.

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After Further Review: Tiger's return comes at perfect time

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 2:19 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the current state of golf as Tiger Woods returns to competition ...

Less than four days before Tiger Woods returns to official competitive golf for the first time in a year, Jon Rahm, the new second-ranked player in the world, won on the PGA Tour and Rory McIlroy made an impressive 2018 debut on the European Tour (T-3).

Not since Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus crossed paths at the 1960 U.S. Open has there been so many superstars all poised for big seasons, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson having already won this year and Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas both coming off stellar seasons.

It’s a good time for golf. - Rex Hoggard

On Tommy Fleetwood's continued success ...

There have been scores of talented European players whose skills didn’t translate to the PGA Tour … and maybe, in a few years, Tommy Fleetwood will prove to be no different.

He sure looks like the real deal, though.  

His title defense in Abu Dhabi – on the strength of a back-nine 30 in windy conditions – was his third title in the past 12 months and 11th top-10 overall. A few of those have come in majors and World Golf Championship events, too, which led the reigning Race to Dubai champion to accept PGA Tour membership for this season.

Beginning at Riviera, he plans to play exclusively in the States through May, then reassess for the rest of the year. Hope he sticks, because he’s a fun personality with tons of game. - Ryan Lavner

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Rahm passes Spieth to become world No. 2

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:25 am

With his win Sunday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, Jon Rahm picked up his second PGA Tour victory and moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup points standings.

He picked up one more No. 2, too.

The 23-year-old Spaniard passed Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind only Dustin Johnson.

In 19 months, since June 2016, Rahm has rocketed from No. 776 in the world to No. 2, thanks in part to his low divisor, his number of events played.

Asked after his playoff victory over Andrew Landry to discuss his rapid ascent up the world rankings, Rahm was almost at a loss.

“It's hard to believe to be honest, passing Jordan Spieth,” he said. “That's a three-time major champion. I only have two wins. He's got 10-plus, right? It's again – I've said it many times – I never thought I was going to be at this point in my life right now.”

Rahm may only have two PGA Tour titles, but this is his fourth worldwide win in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. He also took the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open and the DP World Tour Championship on his way to claiming the European Tour’s 2017 Rookie of the Year Award.

Dating back to the start of last season on the PGA Tour, Rahm has racked up 12 top-10s, three runner-ups, and two wins.

He will head to Torrey Pines next week ready to defend for the first time.

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Brady compares self to Woods after winning AFC title

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 1:05 am

Tom Brady and Tiger Woods are two of the all-time greats in their respective sports ... a fact that is not lost on the five-time Super Bowl winning quarterback.

Fresh off leading the New England Patriots to a AFC Championship victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Brady was asked about winning the game despite a cut on his throwing hand - which made national news heading into the matchup.

His response invoked the name of a certain 14-time major winner, something that would be tough to pull off, if not for the fact that he is, you know, Tom Brady.

“I think it's kind of arrogant to say it bothered me when we had a pretty good game, so I wouldn't say that," the 40-year-old told reporters after the game. "It's like when Tiger Woods said, ‘That was my C game’ and he won the tournament."

Tiger Woods winning with his "C game" may be a distant memory for golf fans, but no matter what game he brings, his next chance to win comes next week at Torrey Pines during his official comeback to the PGA Tour.

Brady has a shot at his sixth Super Bowl title in two weeks. The Patriots would probably benefit from him bringing a little better than his "C game" as well.

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Rahm beats Landry in playoff to win CareerBuilder

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 1:00 am

Jon Rahm birdied the fourth extra hole Sunday to defeat Andrew Landry in a playoff, win the CareerBuilder Challenge and move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Here’s how things played out in overtime at PGA West:

Leaderboard: Rahm (-22), Landry (-22), John Huh (-20), Adam Hadwin (-20), Martin Piller (-20), Kevin Chappell (-19), Scott Piercy (-19)

What it means: This is Rahm’s second PGA Tour win and his fourth worldwide victory in the last year, dating back to last season’s Farmers Insurance Open. Rahm took the early lead Thursday with an opening 62 and after rounds of 67-70, he started the final round two back. On Sunday, he made five birdies without dropping a single shot on the intimidating Stadium Course. In the clubhouse at 22 under, Rahm watched as Landry made birdie on 18 to force a playoff.

Rahm missed birdie putts that would have ended the tournament on the final hole of regulation and on each playoff hole. Finally, on his fourth trip down 18 of the day, his birdie bid found the cup. With the victory, Rahm passes Jordan Spieth to move to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking, trailing only Dustin Johnson. He enters next week at Torrey Pines looking to defend for the first time.

Best of the rest: A two-time winner playing his second full season on the PGA Tour, Landry shot 68 Sunday, making birdie on the 72nd hole to force extras. Once Rahm finally made birdie on the fourth playoff hole, Landry's putt to extend slid by on the right edge. This is Landry's best career finish on the PGA Tour. Had he won, he would have secured full Tour status through the 2019-20 season and earned invites to the Masters, Players, and PGA Championships.

Round of the day: Sam Saunders fired an 8-under 64 to register this best finish of the season, a tie for eighth at 18 under. The reigning Tour Championship winner was 9 under par through 12 holes before making bogey at 13 and parring his way into the clubhouse.

Biggest disappointment: Overnight leader Austin Cook was eyeing his second win of the season but never contended. The RSM champion carded two double bogeys Sunday en route to a 3-over 75, dropping him from the 54-hole lead to a tie for 14th.

Shot of the day: Rahm's putt to win:

Quote of the day: "One of us had to do it and either one of us would have been a well-deserving champion." - Rahm on his playoff victory over Landry