Is Tour Championship now given too much weight?


Tiger Woods said Wednesday that the current FedEx Cup format was “not quite fair” because points are reset before the Tour Championship and a player who wins the first three playoff events could, conceivably, still not win the FedEx Cup. 

So we ask: Is the season finale now given too much weight?

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A PGA Tour player can win the first three playoff events, but still lose the FedEx Cup. The popular analogy is the NFL’s New England Patriots, who in 2007-08 had a perfect regular-season record, won two playoff games but were stunned in the Super Bowl. Their flawless regular season? Forgotten. They didn’t win the final game. That’s the way it works in baseball and basketball and hockey – win the final game of the season, win the whole thing.

But the FedEx Cup isn’t supposed to be golf’s version of the Super Bowl or the World Series. No, the playoffs originally were modeled after NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, in which drivers compete all season to reach the Chase, and then the 12 qualifiers battle it out in a 10-race “playoff.” At the end, the driver who has accumulated the most points is crowned champion.

Sounds familiar. Golfers competed all season and accumulated points to determine the top 125. Throughout the playoffs, golfers accumulated points that eventually determined the top 30 for the Tour Championship at East Lake.

Rory McIlroy won two of those three playoff events, and although he has a slight advantage in reset points, there now are a number of scenarios – some more likely than others – in which he wouldn’t capture golf’s biggest prize.

But think back to the NASCAR example, the original model for these playoffs. If a driver won half of the 10 races in the Chase, he would already have wrapped up the title – even if there remained little drama at the finale. It is not a Super Bowl, a World Series, a NBA Finals.

That’s because the NASCAR postseason rewards playoff excellence over 10 races, a fair measure.

The four-tournament PGA Tour postseason is a contrived – and confusing – attempt to make the Tour Championship relevant. Strange, because the two formats were supposed to be nearly identical. – Ryan Lavner

“I’ve got Vijay (Singh) to thank for that,” Rory McIlroy smiled on Wednesday when asked about the creative math that could see him win the last two FedEx Cup playoff events and, theoretically, finish second this week at the Tour Championship and still not cash the $10 million lottery ticket.

Actually, the Ulsterman should direct his faux ire at the PGA Tour mathematicians who concocted the FedEx formula, but it was the big Fijian who arrived at East Lake in 2008 with such a commanding lead in the season-long points race that all he needed to do was remain upright for four days and the cup was his.

But what that unfortunate episode created was a system that defies competitive logic, if not integrity. No less than Tiger Woods addressed the elephant in the East Lake clubhouse on Wednesday.

“It’s set up so if (someone) does win the first, let’s say, three playoff events and finishes second in the Tour Championship, he could still lose it,” he said. “I don't think that’s quite fair, but that is our current system.”

To put it in historical context, had Bobby Jones – who grew playing East Lake – collected all four of this season’s majors, like he did during his historic 1930 campaign, he still, at least mathematically, would not be assured the cup. Essentially he could get “Grand Slammed.” – Rex Hoggard

No, in fact, there isn’t enough emphasis on this final week.

If these really are “playoffs,” then the Tour Championship has to matter, and, frankly, it doesn’t matter enough, even with the dramatic re-set change that Vijay Singh inspired by virtually locking up the FedEx Cup before the Tour Championship back in 2008.

Louis Oosthuizen can finish second this week and win the FedEx Cup without having won a PGA Tour event all year long. It's not likely, but the fact that it is even possible destroys the credibility of something billed as “playoffs.”

If these are 'playoffs,' there ought to be a winner-takes-all element to the finale at East Lake.

Yes, there’s a challenge in making that fair, but something more dramatic than the current format can be worked out to narrow the field with cuts every round of the Tour Championship until we’re down to a final round with the final field battling for the $10 million jackpot.

If these are 'playoffs,' the Tour Championship has to matter that much, or it’s just a glorified money grab, a fraud when sold as “playoffs.” – Randall Mell