Tour Unveils New Playoff System
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.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship
ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.
The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.
Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.
''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''
The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.
Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.
Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.
''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''
Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.
Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.
First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.
Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round
CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.
Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.
Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.
“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”
Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.
“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”
Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win
CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.
Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.
“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”
Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.
“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”
Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.
Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey
CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.
This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.
Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.
Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.
“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”
Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.
“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”