Will the revised FedEx Cup work

By Rex HoggardJanuary 5, 2009, 5:00 pm
Welcome to FedEx Cup 3.0, a slimmed-down, less-explosive, easier-to-digest version of the original that may finally be ready for mass consumption.
Although the third year of the circuit’s season-long race will maintain its basic structure, the changes as outlined by Tour commissioner Tim Finchem in November are less fine tweaks than they were an overall facelift. The Tour has concocted a sweeping nip/tuck that addresses at least three of the current system’s most-talked-about blind spots.
FedEx Cup for Dummies
Regular season: 37 events with 500 points going to winners (winners of majors and The Players earn 10 percent more points and WGC winners get a 5 percent bump. A champion of an opposite-field event earns 250 points.).
Playoffs: Points quintupled for first three playoff events followed by a reset before the Tour Championship that will assure that all 30 players have a mathematical chance to win the Cup.
Playoff field sizes: Fields for the first two events have been reduced (Barclays, 125; Deutsche Bank, 100), while the BMW (70) and Tour Championship (30) remain the same.
Reset: The differential between first and second place after the BMW will be 250 points, with the top 5 players heading into East Lake assured the FedEx Cup crown with a victory.
The most glaring of the cup concerns was the absence of a big finish. Vijay Singh put an early damper on the 2008 race by going 2-0 to start the playoffs – a run that included one of the year’s most exciting finishes at The Barclays, non-major variety – and cruising into Atlanta for the Tour Championship needing only to remain upright for four days to collect the $10 million pot.
The fix? The new system will reduce the number of points awarded during the regular season. Players will earn 500 points for a victory at a regular event and victories at a major championship or The Players Championship and World Golf Championships will be worth 10 percent and 5 percent more, respectively.
“The overriding premise was that we had, and are getting strong support for the current structure. Notwithstanding the fact that the air went out of the balloon a little bit when Vijay pretty much wrapped it up after two weeks in '08,” Finchem said.
“When we went into this process, we went into it looking at it let's stick with the fundamentals here. And the fundamentals to argue are basically to make sure it's not over until Atlanta and make sure that a lot of guys are in the hunt.”
Points in the playoffs will be quintupled with winners earning 2,500. A reset – which occurred prior to the first playoff event in ’07 and ’08 – will take place before the Tour Championship. Delaying the reset, officials say, will assure a meaningful finale, with the top 5 at East Lake able to claim the FedEx Cup with a victory and all 30 players in the field mathematically still in the FedEx picture.
“We can guarantee that other players will have a chance to win (the FedEx Cup) at the Tour Championship,” said Steve Dennis, the Tour’s director of communications strategy. “Once they start to play, anything can happen, but until then we can be sure there will be a race.”
The delayed reset also alleviates what Finchem called the “cliff factor.” In 2008, Padraig Harrington won the season’s final two majors but struggled in the playoffs, missing the cut at The Barclays and Deutsche Bank Championship, finishing tied for 55th at the BMW and failing to earn a trip to East Lake.
“We have to make sure we have our top players there at the end,” said Brett Quigley, one of 16 members on the Tour’s Player Advisory Council.
Finchem, a former Washington, D.C., lobbyist, also seems to have borrowed a page from former President Bill Clinton’s campaign for the 2009 edition of the FedEx Cup – keep it simple, stupid.
“Smaller numbers are easier to understand,” Finchem reasoned.
In 2008, for example, a victory at a regular Tour event was worth 4,500 and ballooned to 9,000 points for the first three playoff events. Reduced totals, officials reason, will make the season-long race more digestible for the average fan.
The Tour also reduced field sizes for the first two playoff events, with The Barclays tee sheet dropping to 125 (down from 144) and the Deutsche Bank to 100 (120). The BMW will remain at 70 players.
The new plan also recognized player concerns over playing four weeks in a row with the Tour building in a “dark week” after the BMW that will remain the playoff format through 2012.
What remains to be seen in 2009, however, is whether the top players will participate in every playoff event. In 2007, Tiger Woods skipped The Barclays and still easily won the season-long race. Similarly, Phil Mickelson took the Deutsche Bank off and was third on the ’07 points list.
By delaying the reset until after the BMW in ’09 a player with a strong regular season will have the luxury of a “bye” week, hardly a best-case scenario for sponsors but a necessity if East Lake is going to count.
“I don’t think you have to (play every event to win the cup),” Finchem said. “But if you know that there are five guys up there, any one of which could win the tournament, they beat you, you're putting yourself in a big disadvantage. So I wouldn't say it can't happen, but I think the incentives are there that it's more and more important as you go on.”
Tour officials are counting on increased purses and proven venues in the playoffs to keep player interest.
This is how the FedEx Cup breaks down in 2009. Will it actually work and be effective, however, is a question which can only be answered come playoff time.
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  • Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

    Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

    Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

    "He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

    The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

    Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

    "I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

    Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

    "From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

    "And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

    "There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

    Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

    Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

    Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

    Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

    With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

    Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

    “It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

    Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

    Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

    "It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."

    Piller pregnant, no timetable for LPGA return

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Gerina Piller, the American Olympian golfer and three-time Solheim Cup veteran, is pregnant and will not be rejoining the LPGA when the 2018 season opens, the New York Times reported following the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller, 32, who is married to PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, is due with the couple’s first child in May, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz reported.

    Piller declined an interview request when GolfChannel.com sought comment going into the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Piller told the New York Times she has no timetable for her return but that she isn’t done with competitive golf.

    “I’m not just giving everything up,” Piller said.

    As parity reigns, LPGA searching for a superstar

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 4:00 pm

    Apologies to the LPGA’s golden eras, but women’s golf has never been deeper.

    With the game going global, with the unrelenting wave of Asian talent continuing to slam the tour’s shores, with Thailand and China promising to add to what South Korea is delivering, it’s more difficult than ever to win.

    That’s a beautiful and perplexing thing for the women’s game.

    That’s because it is more difficult than ever to dominate.

    And that’s a magic word in golf.

    There is no more powerful elixir in the sport.

    Domination gets you on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on ESPN SportsCenter, maybe even on NBC Nightly News if the “D” in domination is dynamic enough.

    The women’s best chance of moving their sport to another stratosphere is riding the back of a superstar.

    Or maybe a pair of superstar rivals.

    Photos: 2017 LPGA winners gallery

    A constellation of stars may be great for the devoted regular supporters of the women’s game, but it will take a charismatic superstar to make casual fans care.

    The LPGA needs a Serena Williams.

    Or the reincarnation of Babe Zaharias.

    For those of us who regularly follow the LPGA, this constellation of stars makes for compelling stories, a variety of scripting to feature.

    The reality, however, is that it takes one colossal story told over and over again to burst out of a sports niche.

    The late, great CBS sports director Frank Chirkinian knew what he had sitting in a TV production truck the first time he saw one of his cameras bring a certain young star into focus at the Masters.

    It’s this player coming up over the brow of the hill at the 15th hole to play his second shot,” Chirkinian once told me over lunch at a golf course he owned in South Florida.  “He studies his shot, then flips his cigarette, hitches up his trousers and takes this mighty swipe and knocks the shot on the green. It was my first experience with Arnold Palmer, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, who is this guy?’

    “The thing about golf, more than any other sport, it’s always looking for a star. It’s the only sport where people will root against the underdog. They don’t want the stars to lose. They’re OK with some unknown rising up to be the story on Thursday or Friday, but they always want to see the stars win.”

    And they go gaga when it’s one star so radiant that he or she dominates attention.

    “It didn’t matter if Arnold was leading, or where he was, you had to show him,” Chirkinian said. “You never knew when he might do something spectacular.”

    The LPGA is in a healthy place again, with a big upside globally, with so much emerging talent sharing the spotlight.

    Take Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    The back nine started with Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie making the turn tied for the lead. There is no more powerful pairing to sell in the women’s game today, but there would be no duel. It would have been too far off script as the final chapter to this season.

    Parity was the story this year.

    Sunday in Naples started with 18 players within two shots of the lead.

    Entering that back nine, almost a dozen players were in the mix, including Ariya Jutanugarn.

    The day ended with Jutanugarn beating Thompson with a dramatic birdie-birdie finish after Thompson stunned viewers missing a 2-foot putt for par at the last.

    The day encapsulated the expanding LPGA universe.

    “I’ve never seen such crazy, brilliant golf from these ladies,” said Gary Gilchrist, who coaches Jutanugarn, Lydia Ko and Rolex world No. 1 Shanshan Feng. “It was unbelievable out there. It was just like birdie after birdie after birdie, and the scoreboard went up and down. And that’s why it’s so hard to be No. 1 on this tour. There’s not one person who can peak. It’s all of them at a phenomenal level of golf.”

    If Thompson had made that last 2-footer and gone on to win the CME, she would have become the sixth different world No. 1 this year. Before this year, there had never been more than three different No. 1s in a single LPGA season.

    Parity was the theme from the year’s start.

    There were 15 different winners to open the season, something that hadn’t happened in 26 years. There were five different major championship winners.

    This year’s Rolex Player of the Year Award was presented Sunday to So Yeon Ryu and Sung Hyun Park. It’s the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Thompson won twice this year, with six second-place finishes, with three of those playoff losses, one of them in a major championship. She was close to putting together a spectacular year. She was close to dominating and maybe becoming the tour’s one true rock star.

    Ultimately, Thompson showed us how hard that is to do now.

    She’s in a constellation we’re all watching, to see if maybe one star breaks out, somebody able to take the game into living rooms it has never been, to a level of popularity it’s never been.

    The game won’t get there with another golden era. It will get there with a golden player.