5 Creative Ways to Make the FedEx Cup Playoffs a Must-Watch TV Event
Thankfully Rory McIlroy has emerged to dominate the FedEx Cup playoffs, winning for two consecutive weeks to back up his PGA Championship victory.
As much as the FedEx Cup has been tweaked in its short history, there are still improvements that can be made to fully capitalize on the end of the PGA Tour season.
Promotion of Top Players with Fantasy Sports
John Huh is a rising star in American golf, yet hardly any casual golf fan knows of him.
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Everyone goes mad over fantasy sports these days, particularly in football, basketball and baseball.
Golf should take a page out of the other major sports' playbooks and promote their best players with fantasy.
A fantasy analyst—or multiple ones—should be on-site and it should be a much more prominent part of the pregame show.
Marketing golf as a fantasy sport—with all the variables that go into a round, and the unpredictability involved in the game on a day-to-day basis—has a lot of untapped potential.
It would also help network coverage shift away from unwavering focus on players such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and other stars who are shown frequently, even if they are way out of contention.
A young hotshot who comes along, pours in a ton of birdies, and gets buzz in fantasy, could also help casual fans be introduced to a wider range of players—even up-and-coming ones.
Combine fantasy implications with constant playoff, do-or-die pressure, and it could help the PGA Tour's playoffs ratings thrive alongside the kickoff to the NFL season.
Create Bye Week After First 2 Tournaments
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There is already a lag between the BMW Championship and the final 30 shootout at East Lake, but an off week in the middle of the schedule would be beneficial as well.
To accommodate this change, the playoffs would need to start sooner. The only way to do this would be to make the majors a little bit closer together, and what is the harm in that? There is always a lag between major events due to regular tournament stops.
Why not condense the majors? After the PGA Championship, there could be two or three events that people otherwise wouldn't tune in for.
If there were many players fighting for their playoff lives, it could heighten the interest in what would be typically viewed as less important stops on Tour.
During even-numbered years, top players will continue to skip FedEx Cup events on the heels of the Ryder Cup.
Sergio Garcia was on a roll, winning the Wyndham Championship and playing in the final group at The Barclays. Then, one of golf's most phenomenal talents took a week off to rest up for the latest Team USA-Europe battle.
Maybe Garcia isn't the best example in this situation, since he's gained a reputation for lacking a bit of mental toughness (I disagree with this assessment, for the record). However, the principle is the same.
Giving players an extra week off would compress the schedule ahead of the Ryder Cup even more. That is, unless the tweaks to major golf are made.
The extra week in the middle would be worth it to the players and the Tour. It would likely strengthen the competition in the playoffs, and it could even heighten the suspense as a result.
Do Not Change Pairings Based on Playoff Standings
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Everyone has loved seeing Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy play together four times over the past three weeks. It's fantastic for ratings, and great to see the two best players in the game compete side by side.
As the playoffs progress, though, the PGA Tour insists on using the FedEx Cup playoff standings—rather than the regular season's—to determine the pairings as the playoffs progress.
In an ideal world, a winner at the opening event would get their shot alongside the big shots of the game. Fans would be eager to see how a recent riser could match up with some of the world's elite.
The problem is that fans don't particularly care. A player who has a track record of inconsistency and suddenly breaks through to win isn't likely to light it up alongside the consistently great players from the regular season.
For example, when Nick Watney won The Barclays, his first-place standing in the playoffs robbed viewers of another Rory-Tiger pairing. Watney became a third wheel, and wound up in a tie for 20th for the week.
That's nothing against Watney, but until the Tour figures out how to lure viewers in for golfers not named Tiger, Rory or Phil Mickelson, the marquee pairings must be kept intact at all costs.
That system would also be more of a reward for the regular season stalwarts, and increase the incentive to play week to week.
Adjust World Ranking Points to Major Levels
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As strange as the Official World Golf Ranking might be, the greatest emphasis is still placed right where it belongs—on major championships.
Rory McIlroy gained 100 rank points by winning the PGA Championship, and 74 for winning the Deutsche Bank Championship last week.
Raising the stakes for every tournaments, and giving the winner the same amount of world-ranking points would make playoff golf that much more intense.
The argument, of course, lies in the fact that the world rankings would be biased if such a change were to occur. Rankings would tend to favor PGA Tour players, since the European Tour's version of the playoffs culminates in one big tournament—the Dubai World Championship.
A similarly large check awaits as a bonus for playing consistent golf all year, but if the PGA could force the rankings' hand and get more points for their playoff events, the European Tour would have to adjust.
What would happen is interesting to contemplate: the European Tour could create a multiple event playoff system, adjusting the way the current Race to Dubai works and tailoring it more to the FedEx Cup format.
While it could water down competition if overseas players leave the PGA Tour and return to Europe, it would more likely result in an exciting proliferation of prestigious golf events.
Opening the door to that possibility could also lead to a reform on how the world rankings are determined, which most golf fans and golfers wouldn't mind.
Give More Prize Money to Charity or Other Organizations
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A $10 million bonus at the end of the FedEx Cup playoffs rainbow is great, but where does that money go?
From what I gather, $9 million goes to the player up front in cash, and the other $1 million goes into retirement plans for the players.
Golf is not a contact sport.
Between endorsements and the increased purses at tournaments—especially in the FedEx Cup finale, the TOUR Championship—successful players are beyond well off for life. There isn't much risk for injury derailing one's career, as opposed to other major sports.
The top players in the world have enough money to last them lifetimes, and they are the likely winners of the big pot of money that awaits the FedEx Cup champion.
If more of that money were allocated to charity, or other organizations that promoted humanitarian causes, it could improve the image of golf immensely.
The stereotype is that golf is a rich, elitist game that only affluent people can play. If a player were to win that amount of money and donate even part of it to a legitimate effort, it would generate massive headlines.
As individual of a game as golf is, all of these players have the platform to spur significant change in the world. All athletes have it, really. Plenty of big-name golfers have their own foundations and organizations—Tiger Woods not least among them.
Spreading even more of that philanthropic spirit certainly wouldn't hurt the PGA's image, and it would create all sorts of human interest on top of upping the entertainment value.
Call me an idealist, but it seems like a win-win.