FedEx Cup: 4 Ways to Make It More Exciting
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The PGA Tour playoffs kick off this weekend at Bethpage Black on Long Island with The Barclays whether the players or fans really want them or not.
Designed to put a formal end to the PGA Tour season, the FedEx Cup has yet to take hold with golf fans like the World Golf Championship events have.
To be fair, none of the majors or the WGC events are actually put on solely by the Tour. In kind of an awkward situation, the crown jewels of golf are not run at all by the Tour but by either a private club like Augusta National, the sport’s governing associations such as the United States Golf Association and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, or by the Professional Golfers Association, which saw the Tour split off in 1968. While the Tour does have a hand in the WGC events, they are a collaborative effort off all five global golf tours.
Since the PGA Tour gives these players a place week in and week out to play, the thinking is that they want to conduct their season like an actual season with this four-event playoff to determine a champion of the year. FedEx pays a lot of money to sponsor, and all events are given a point value throughout the year, culminating with these playoffs.
A perfect system it is not. For instance, Jason Dufner is skipping the first round of the playoffs this week citing fatigue. Imagine the Dallas Cowboys not showing up for the playoffs until the NFC Championship game, but under the current system, Dufner is all but assured of making the closing Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta because not enough players will pass him in points even with him not playing this week.
That kind of takes away some of the urgency that comes with a true playoff, and it's why the whole idea has not proven to be as important to the fans as the rest of the year.
In always trying to keep things fresh here at Bleacher Report, here are a few ideas ranging from easy fixes to outlandish to make the playoffs and the FedEx Cup must-see television.
Reset the Points at the Start
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The easiest thing to do to ensure that everyone has a chance for the playoffs is to reset the season.
The other sports do not take a regular season into account as far as what happens after the games start, so why should the Tour?
If they want the undivided attention of all 125 qualifiers, then start everyone at zero points and make the first two legs—The Barclays in metro New York and the Deutsche Bank Championships in Boston—nearly a true playoff event.
You would have the top 70 that make the cut automatically qualify for the second round in Boston and add the 30 best players on the points coming in that do not make the cut advance. That would guard against a Tiger Woods or a Rory McIlroy being sunk the first week.
The name of the game is keeping casual fans watching, so there would need to be those protections in place to forgive a bad week, or a mulligan, if you will.
For the Boston leg, ensure that the top 10 players that fail to make the cut get a chance to move on to the BMW Championship with the top 60 that do make the cut.
Then for the final, only top 30 and ties advance. Give the playoffs some teeth.
A First-Round Bye
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If the Tour does not want to risk losing a big name early, then just give them a points-bye the first week.
A Jason Dufner could earn the money for playing but would not get any points. Or, like Dufner this week, if they wanted to get a break in before the trip to Boston, they could without penalty, but they'd have to face the tougher challenge of having to make the cut to advance further.
The best case for a bye comes with the compressed schedule the end of the regular season has.
The time between the Open Championship and The Barclays is just seven weeks, but it has two majors and a WGC event in that stretch. 2016 also will see the first Olympic tournament in more than 100 years thrown in that mix. It is important to keep players mentally fresh, and that is a rather big gauntlet of big events to go through, with another four coming in short order.
If a player has earned a top 30 on the list, treat it like the opening week of the NFL playoffs and give them that bye.
A New Home and Schedule for the Tour Championship
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One of the critical things the Tour has to work around this time of year is losing the casual fan to the NFL.
It is no accident that the first two events are played before the NFL season starts for real and why the Deutsche Bank Championship goes on a Friday-Monday schedule.
They want the average fan to watch, and playing the final round of the DB on Labor Day is to maximize those eyeballs.
That does leave the BMW and the Tour Championship competing against the NFL head-to-head. While the Tour really cannot change schedules around too much, they certainly could with the 30-player field for the Tour Championship and not play the last big stroke-play round of the year against the big doubleheader NFL game. There just is no reason for it.
While the Tour seems happy with East Lake, as Atlanta is also the home of corporate sponsor Coca-Cola, the course was chosen originally because it was southern and would have the right conditions and daylight for the championship’s originally scheduled first weekend of November playing.
Now played in September, weather and daylight are not the issues that would plague a northern championship as they would later in the fall. Add the lack of big tournaments on the west coast, and you quickly get the recipe the USGA uses in playing Opens in California, prime-time golf playing for a big pile of marbles.
There are quality courses in the Pacific time zone that would love to host a big event on a late afternoon on a Saturday, from Torrey Pines in San Diego all the way up to Sahalee near Seattle.
If the Tour wanted to really be bold, and since Kapalua loses the bragging rights of hosting the first tournament of the season starting in 2013-14, they could go to Hawaii and finish the season completely in prime time.
Make It an Actual Playoff
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The most ambitious plan would be to make this a true three-week playoff.
There'd be no protecting of players, absolutely guaranteeing that only those who survive the cut would go through.
Take out an event, we will say Boston in this example, and start with 128 players at The Barclays. Do a true cut of 64 for the weekend. No ties, and if there are 70 players left for 64 slots then there'd be a sudden-death playoff until we get to 64.
Week two at the BMW would still be a no-cut event until after the week is done. The top 32 advance to the finals with another sudden-death playoff if needed to get to the exact number.
With only 32 survivors making the final, there would be two cuts made the last week. The field would be trimmed to just 16 for the third round and the scores reset like the LPGA did for their season-ending champion. After the third round, again the scores are reset and the field is cut to the last eight.
Eight men playing 18 holes for $10 million on a Saturday night in Hawaii for the FedEx Cup.
Fair? No, not rally, but playoffs are not designed to be fair or to determine the best player over the course of a regular season. They are designed to test the fortitude of the best team at the moment.
When the Green Bay Packers lost to the New York Giants at home in the Divisional Playoffs last season, their record did not earn them another chance to play the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC Championship. Why should a Rory McIlroy be rewarded for playing mediocre then?
There really is no way the players or the sponsors would ever sign off on this, but it really and truly would be a playoff that would become more important every step of the way.