It’s finally here: The sprint to the finish of the oh-so-riveting-and-prestigious FedEx Cup playoffs is set to go at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. 30 players are vying for the oversized $10 million purse. After the first leg, I thought the FEC really sucked and after the second, I said it was getting kinda interesting. On the eve of the Tour Championship, we might return to suck.
Perhaps the format is the best it’s been in its three-year history — the Tour rectified some of the flaws in the system for this year’s edition to heighten the intrigue and create more volatility. Has it achieved that, though? The points have been reset, but the standings haven’t. The top 5 players have a huge advantage and are the only ones with a solid chance. And those would be (in order of their standing) Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson and Heath Slocum.
The Tour has emphasized that everyone has a mathematical shot, but really, it’s a sham. John Senden, who is in 30th place, can take the Cup if he wins and Tiger finishes last. And the chances of that happening are…slim to none. Sure, that appears to be somewhat the Tour’s intention — to reward consistent play throughout the entire season with more emphasis on those who finish strong in the playoff events.
That’s also flawed. Two words: Heath Slocum. He entered The Barclays, the first leg, ranked 124th, and after winning, he moved to 3rd. So there’s the volatility. But after missing the cut at the Deutsche Bank Championship and finishing a mediocre T38 at the BMW Championship, he’s still in 5th place! Shouldn’t he also be “punished” for that? And not just by moving down two spots.
There are some other guys that got hot during the playoffs, like John Senden, Marc Leishman and Jason Dufner. They stepped it up when it mattered — it’s comparable to a scenario in the NBA playoffs when the team with one of the worst records upsets the one with the best. Fair enough.
But shouldn’t the Tour Championship also include the players that performed consistently or won in the regular season? Off the top of my head, there’s Ian Poulter, Camilo Villegas, Charley Hoffman (who at one point made a gazillion cuts in a row), Rory Sabbatini, Anthony Kim, Ryan Moore and Tim Clark aren’t in the field. Sure, perhaps they didn’t perform so great in the FEC, but the Tour’s finale should showcase all of the year’s best players.
And if for some reason Tiger plays like total garbage and doesn’t win the Cup, it would totally make sense. Right. He won 6 times, including one of the playoff events.
Though the powers-that-be have shoved the excitement and significance of the FEC and perfectly logical points system down everyone’s throats (I mean, have you seen the commercials?), the playoffs are still completely contrived. The Tour Championship is an important tournament, but the extra crap is unnecessary. The only way to fix it is to enter the finale with a clean slate (no one gets the points anyway) and make it stroke play. Or to make it match play. But the latter would never happen, because God forbid, Tiger is ousted in his first match. Then, people would care even less and TV ratings would plummet and we’re back to exactly what this is — a mediocre tournament to get people to watch golf after the PGA Championship.
All that said, the playoffs aren’t about what’s better for golf. Let’s be real, it’s just about one thing: money.