Tour Unveils New Playoff System

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PGA Tour (75x100)The PGA TOUR rolled out the points structure Wednesday for its new FedEx Cup competition, a chase for $10 million that will emphasize the last four tournaments of the year no matter what Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or anyone else has done in the majors.
 
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.
 
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