Aug
31
2009
Why the FedEx Cup Really Stinks
By Stephanie Wei under General

Few really understand how the FedEx Cup points system works, and even fewer find it very compelling. The PGA Tour made a few changes from last year because of the system’s shortcomings. When Vijay Singh won the first two events in ‘08, it was a lock he would be crowned the champ. In turn, the final two tournaments had no meaning.

One of the principal changes was to make sure this didn’t happen again. The points system was revamped. The Tour is trying to create a formula that has the best of two worlds. By keeping a running total of points earned throughout the year, players are rewarded for consistent play. The points double in the playoffs to place more importance on those events and then the slate is wiped clean for the Tour Championship.

Well, you can’t have it both ways.

The Players Have No Idea How It Works (Or Don’t Care)

To be fair, it’s only the third year of the FedEx Cup playoffs. There are going to be problems and figuring out how to implement playoffs in golf isn’t easy. I understand it’s to create more “drama.” But, is that happening? I asked a player I met what he thought. He shrugged and said something like, “They’re tweaking [the system] and it’s going to take a while. The players don’t even get it, so…” Ryan Moore said, “There needs to be a better way to keep the players and the fans interested. There should be more intrigue at the end. Right now it’s anti-climactic.” His Tour buddies agree.

Basically, the guys are playing not because they see much value in the playoffs; rather it’s just another golf tournament and there’s a bigger purse at each. And, if somehow you manage to win the FedEx Cup, then there’s a hefty prize — $10 million. Not to mention do you think Heath Slocum really cares he jumped up in the standings? No, he’s happy he won the tournament and gets to play in the next three.

There should be more on the line to keep the pressure on the players and to make it more interesting for the fans. The guys have to play good enough at each event to make the finals. Do you think Camilo Villegas would have withdrawn had that been the case? He’s still in the field this week because he has enough points.

Heath Slocum Is Not That Good. Sorry.

The results at The Barclays disproved the so-called improvements. With all due respect to Slocum, he was ranked 124th entering the “first round” of the playoffs. Now, he’s 3rd. I mean, he barely made the field! It basically shows that the “regular” season didn’t actually matter. Prior to last week, he only had two top ten finishes. So, I guess the outcome is comparable to the eighth seed knocking out the first in the NBA playoffs, like when the Denver Nuggets upset the Seattle Sonics in ‘94. Fair enough. Sure, Slocum deserved to be there and to make the Tour Championship, but to jump that many spots seems a bit excessive.

The changes this year were supposed to make the results more volatile — to create more parity. But the system is inherently flawed. The FedEx Cup isn’t technically at the end of the season. There is still the fall series. While none of the top players compete in them, they are still official tournaments.

Not-So-Crazy Ideas On How To Fix It

I like this wacky one Moore proposed:

At the end of the season, let’s say the top 30 point leaders receive a “bye” in the first round. Then the remaining 95 players compete for the remaining 70 spots for the second tournament. So, in the next round, the top 100 play and 70 make the third round. The players in that field compete to make the top 30 and move onto the finals — same breakdown as it stands now. But here’s the catch: There are no purses in the first three rounds. Pool the money together and the rewards are greater if the players make it to the Tour Championship. Then, there’s a HUGE payout at the end and it would make everyone care a little more (I sensed a lot of indifference at The Barclays).

Playoffs are about stepping it up when it matters and being clutch — that’s what actually makes it exciting. Sure, Slocum did so last week by draining the final putt to win, but from what I heard, it was only slightly more compelling than a cut-throat shuffleboard match on a Carnival Cruise line.

But I can’t verify that — I left early.

*Editor’s note: I made some changes after initial posting.