The attempt to find a single winner of the FedExCup has produced a distorted finale.
I really do like the concept of the FedExCup. (Two years ago now, I wrote about that). The best in the world almost always play with only a few players opting to skip an event here or there. This year with three playoff weeks and not four, the best were forced to play. And that’s good commercially and for fans – it’s something the European Tour struggle with every year.
But in a bid to help fans understand the scoring system, especially of the Tour Championship, the PGA TOUR have completely lost the plot and over-Americanised it.
You can understand their thinking in that something had to change but the solution has already been proved to be poor in theory.
The result? We’re left with a tournament that flies in the face of everything that’s great about golf. That whoever tees it up in a given week can win. At least five of the 30 players in Atlanta cannot win … yes, they will pick up tons of cash but they can’t win. For them, it’s about avoiding calamity and seeing through 72 holes.
The weighting of the events leading into the playoffs and in the playoffs themselves is skewed. Here’s some proof:
- The top four in the standings have six wins and 27 top 10s this year compared to the next quartet, who bagged one more win but 11 more top 10s.
- Jon Rahm starts six back of Justin Thomas and has only beaten Thomas by six once in 22 strokeplay events.
- Abraham Ancer and Webb Simpson have not won this year between them and combine for 10 top 10s. They start a stroke behind Rory McIlroy, who starts in Atlanta with two wins (one of them The Players) and 13 top 10s.
- 11 players start this week who didn’t win on tour while 22 winners – including Tiger Woods (Masters) and Shane Lowry (The Open) – won’t be in play.
- Thomas won last week and starts three ahead of Brooks Koepka, who is likely to win his second-consecutive Player of the Year title after a Major win and top fives in the three others.
- Local bookies have four players under 10/1 to win with only five more under 30/1 … is that effectively a nine-horse race then?
Am I the only one who liked the fact that anyone in the 30-man field could win?
That there were loads and loads of permutations and that the broadcasters were kept on their toes as each hole changed the outlook of the hands the money was being handed too? It was fairly simple too, if you’re in the top five then a win at East Lake means you win the jackpot. The door, though, was still left ajar for those outside the premium placements. It kept fans engaged, as they needed a constant flow of information.
Not only that, but it kept the individual tournament – a rich purse in its own right – to the basic format of the lowest gross-score wins. And then let the chips fall where they may. That won’t be the case this week as the lowest 72-hole score may very well not reward that player with the $15-million cheque.
The good news? The PGA TOUR has not been afraid to tinker with the format of the playoffs before – so it might not be terribly long before we see an improvement to this system.
There may just be some fireworks as Koepka, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm all come out firing. We’ll just have to wait and see, but I’m unlikely to eat humble pie on this one.