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Fixing the FedEx Cup

Introduction

Golf’s FedEx Cup, while famous for its $10m paychecks, has not exactly caught fire since its inception in 2007.

Nor has it captured public interest in the manner of season finales in other sports such as: a Stanley Cup, Superbowl, Champions League Final or a Baseball World Series.

If it’s to remain, I believe it needs remediation, even though the most recently announced set of improvements for 2019 make some sense as it continues to evolve.

Is the FedEx Cup Needed?

My belief is no, it’s not. The PGA Tour was doing just fine without it up to 2007 and it already produced its champions based on various metrics: Vardon Trophy, Money List, Major winners, Rookie of the year, POY, etc.

PGA Tour already had a season ending, elite, Tournament of Champions, in Hawaii. It could have become the FedEx Cup but the PGA Tour (leaving it in January more than three months after season’s end) rendered it meaningless & instead invented the FedEx Cup – to try and get a new mega-sponsor an entire season of bang for its (huge) bucks.

Just Another Champion

Herein lies the crux of the FedEx Cup’s problem; the sport of golf can never produce a definitive ‘playoff success’ because the top players build their: reputations, income & rankings over long periods of two to five years; often by winning just once or twice per year (eg Brooks Koepka in recent seasons).

In addition, golf is radically different from the above-mentioned team sports in that it consists of fields of 30, 78 or 156, not two, and a top golfer might win just once per ten starts, whereas an elite NFL team might win nine times out of ten. So, only a one-in-ten chance of the best golfer winning means a golf season playoff finale winner will be somewhat random. There is no randomness about the title Masters Champion!

Heritage

Finally, golfers earn their enduring fame at iconic venues, in Major tournaments that carry decades of heritage, not in a playoff series. Can a FedEx Cup win ever supersede raising the Claret Jug at St Andrews or slipping into a Green Jacket at Augusta National? No, it can’t.

So, I say you simply can’t produce a golf post-season playoff champion, and expect people to hail him as The Champion Golfer of the season. With all due respect to these quality players, does anybody believe these past FedEx Cup champions: Horschel, Furyk, Haas, McIlroy, Stenson & Snedeker were the champion players of those seasons?

They weren’t, because it’s not the playoffs that defined their seasons; it was Majors and, to a lesser extent, WGC’s & Ryder Cups.

How to Proceed?

If there has to be a season-ending ‘playoffs’ in golf, here’s my three suggested guiding ‘rules’:

  1. Playoff qualifiers must be elite. You shouldn’t allow a guy plodding along at #120 on the money list to attend; he didn’t earn the right;
  2. The season needs to end sooner and the playoffs need to be executed more quickly; a maximum of two weeks after the regular season end and;
  3. There need to be heartbreaking ‘knockouts’ to add drama.

My Suggested New Structure

The 2019 Wyndham Championship is scheduled for 1-4 Aug. I say ditch it, or another tournament, and complete the playoffs to crown a FedEx Cup Champion during the first two weeks of August – enabling a ‘clearing of the decks’ before: NFL, Olympics, Ryder Cup, player holidays, whatever.

Here’s my simple recipe to achieve this:

  1. Assemble an elite field; all players that have recorded a Top Two placing during the season (who are Tour members);
  2. In Week One they play a 72-hole stroke play tournament, no cut; the top 8 advance to the ‘Champion’s Weekend’ and;
  3. Seed those eight based on the regular season money list & in Week Two they play 18-hole knockout matches to determine the winner – who takes home the entire purse along with the ‘FedEx Cup Champion’ title.

It satisfies all of my ‘Rules’. It’s elite, it’s dramatic – with most players facing going home at the end of week one – and it’s fast. 11 days start to finish.

Finally, it’s easy to cater for the Finals on tv with, say: two quarter-final matches on Thursday & two on Friday, the two semi-finals on Saturday & the Final on Sunday. Every shot can be televised. Done!

© Copyright Mike J Miller: 18 September 2018.