FedEx Cup finale great, but has its flaws


Rory McIlroy can make you forget what is fundamentally wrong with the FedEx Cup playoffs.

He can make you forget how confusing, confounding and exasperating the scoring system can be.

His brilliant play winning the Deutsche Bank Championship and the BMW Championship in back-to-back playoff events blinds you to all the FedEx Cup’s imperfections.

He’s the top story in a terrific narrative that may make these playoffs the PGA Tour’s best rendition yet. The leaderboards have been dazzling with the events bringing out the best in so many of the game’s best players.

McIlroy goes to East Lake in Atlanta No. 1 in the FedEx Cup points reset with Tiger Woods No. 2.

What’s not to like about that?

Well, quite possibly, next week’s ending.

While McIlroy can make you forget the flaws in the FedEx Cup system, he also holds the power next week to remind you how potentially unsatisfying the whole thing can be.

If McIlroy doesn’t claim the $10 million FedEx Cup jackpot after winning these past two playoff events, a lot of folks will once again question the validity of golf trying to crown a playoff champion.

Of course, there may always be a “can’t win” element to the format for the PGA Tour. While it might be unsatisfying to a lot of folks if McIlroy doesn’t win it all, it would be just as unsatisfying to many if all he had to do to win the FedEx Cup is show up at East Lake. That’s what happened in 2008 when all Vijay Singh had to do is remain upright at the Tour Championship.

By virtually clinching the FedEx Cup before the Tour Championship, Singh sucked all the drama out of the playoff finale.

So the PGA Tour’s brain trust devised a reset of points before the Tour Championship that wouldn’t allow a player to clinch before the final event.

The change added more volatility and uncertainty to the finale. It added more drama. The problem is that the reset also adds some quirky possibilities that threaten the credibility of the playoffs.

For example, it is possible Louis Oosthuizen could finish second at the Tour Championship next week and win the FedEx Cup playoffs without having won a PGA Tour event this year.

How do you think that would go over? McIlroy wins four PGA Tour events this year, two of them playoff events, and he gets beat out by a guy who hasn’t won all year on the PGA Tour?

That possibility is in play if Oosthuizen finishes second at the Tour Championship, and if somebody currently 16th or worse in the FedEx Cup reset wins the Tour Championship. More is required, though. McIlroy would have to finish 10th or worse, Tiger Woods fifth or worse, Nick Watney fourth or worse, Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker third or worse with nobody within the top 15 winning the Tour Championship.

This may sound like rain on what has been a wonderful parade so far, but the Tour Championship looms as the potential exclamation point to an entertaining playoff run . . . or a troubling question mark on an unsatisfying conclusion to one.

This is the maddening nature of the FedEx Cup system.

It’s a system so convoluted Bill Haas didn’t know he won the FedEx Cup last year until he saw the PGA Tour was about to hand him two trophies at the end of the Tour Championship.

McIlroy looks deserving of a pair of trophies next week, but there are a number of players who would seem less deserving fully capable of walking away with the big prizes.