“If Phil [Mickelson] wins [the] Tour Championship and [Matt] Kuchar comes in second in a playoff, who wins FedEx Cup?” asked a colleague earlier this week. With hardly a second thought, I replied, “Kuchar.”
“Wait, is this a trick question?” I asked. “I’m pretty sure Kuchar would win the FEC because Kuchar is first in the standings and Phil is 10th, and if you’re in the top-five and you win the Tour Championship, you win the FedEx Cup.”
I’m not a mathematician by any means, but it’s pretty sad I knew all that information off the top of my head. But because I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time in the past 13 months trying to make sense of the damn confusing system, I know the very-top-of-the-surface details.
I knocked the FedEx Cup pretty hard last year. I said it stank. Then I said it was getting interesting. And then I went back to sucks. But this season I haven’t been as annoyed. Well, except for whenever I saw those flashy greenside leaderboards — actually, they should be called “FEC-boards” — that showed information, like, “Chad Collins has this putt for double-bogey to get within 7 strokes of the top-70 in points.” Sweet! I just wanted to see the actual leaderboard (or the projected points on Sunday), thank you very much.
Anyway, it’s difficult for me to admit this — but Woods’ early departure from the PGA Tour’s playoffs actually makes the FEC more interesting. At least a contrived points scheme with an extravagant $10 million prize at the end makes some sense when the biggest name in the game gets knocked out before the finale. Woods entered The Barclays, the first leg, ranked 112th, and he moved up in the standings with T12, T11 and T15 finishes in the three events. So, by golly, while the points are accumulated throughout the year, good play during the playoffs is weighted heavier and rewarded.
Much to the despair of Tour suits and TV execs, the ratings are going to suck (even more than usual because so many people get excited about golf in September!), but if the playoffs are supposed to present parity and volatility (as the Tour shoves down our throats from Day 1 of the season), then, well, this year’s edition has been a success. I begrudgingly found myself constantly checking the live projected FEC points on PGATour.com — which I don’t recall existing last year. Point is, my interest was shockingly piqued.
With Woods out of the running for the FedEx Cup (not that he’s been playing like the “old” Tiger), the $10 million check is actually up for grabs. Going into East Lake last year, instead of the excitement and unpredictable outcome that should be analogous to playoffs in any sport, there was little doubt that Woods wouldn’t walk away with the FedEx title (but he showed just how much it meant to him when he didn’t kiss the trophy). It also wouldn’t have made sense had he not won because he had snagged six victories, including a playoff event.
That said, there are clearly flaws. Most glaringly, there’s the ten million bucks. In the 30-man field, there’s no cut and the guy that finishes DFL gets a $295,000 check (combined tournament and FEC). But the money isn’t some kind of newsflash, and well, athletes make a lot of money and I realize in other leagues that players sign contracts where they earn a similar figure for showing up. The big money thing is more of a personal problem I have because I find it obscene (at the same time, if I were in that position, I’d cash the check, too).
The issue is the other consolation prize — by making it to the Tour Championship, the top-30 qualify for all four of next year’s majors and WGCs. What’s the problem? The case of Kevin Streelman, who entered The Barclays, the first FEC event, at 102nd in the standings. With a T3 at The Barclays, T45 at Deutsche Bank, T43 at BMW, he slipped in at 29th. No disrespect to Streelman, but that’s the system’s problem. It just seems odd that a non-winner gets into non-PGA Tour events for a finish in the PGA Tour playoffs. Charley Hoffman didn’t have a great year and gets the same deal, but he won the Deutsche Bank, and shot 63 in the closing round, mind you.
Still, as a golf geek, I’m surprisingly looking forward to the tournament within the tournament. I’m also aware that I’m probably one of a dozen people that are. Especially since Tiger won’t be there.
The ATL and East Lake likely aren’t thrilled that the game’s biggest draw won’t be at the Tour Championship. Chances are the event won’t sell out, but did it last year? TV ratings were never expected to be record-breaking. It’s September, which means most have (understandably) turned their attention to football. And the good news is that Kuchar calls Atlanta his home and will attract all sorts of fans.
In other words — no disrespect to Kuchar who seems like a fantastic human being and is on the short list for Player of the Year honors — he’ll draw an extra 20 or 30 of his closest friends and family.
[Photo by Kyle Auclair/insidetheropes.com]