GET INTO GOLF: Breaking down the FedEx Cup playoffs
Playoffs? You’re talking playoffs?
Yes, and it started Thursday. For more than 10 years now, the PGA Tour completes their fiscal year with a “postseason.” Following the final regular tour event, the top players qualified for the first of four playoff tournaments.
Each of these playoff tournaments is on the same Thursday through Sunday schedule as a weekly tour event, but the last two do not have a cut. Rather than a portion of the field being eliminated, everyone plays all four days.
This year, however, there are a number of changes. We have already seen the PGA Championship moved to the spring. Now, with August free of this major, the Tour has placed the FedEx Cup playoffs into this month.
The fall calendar also includes the alternating Ryder Cup and President’s Cup international events. The elite players would not see a substantial break for several weeks. And, television ratings had to suffer when Sunday’s final rounds were up against the NFL games.
Shortened to three events, this week is sponsored by Northern Trust. After the Northern Trust, the top 70 golfers in the standings will then qualify for the second event of the playoffs, the BMW Championship in Chicago. Following that event, the top 30 golfers move on to the Tour Championship in Atlanta the following week.
It all started at the first stop of the tour schedule, last fall at the Safeway Open (Napa) in October. The players are earning points based on the how they finish each week. Sounds a bit like NASCAR points…and it is.
Everybody who plays well, and makes the cut, gets a certain number of points. Using the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am as an example, the winner received 500 points and the last player to earn a paycheck received a whopping 52 points. After the Tour’s last event in August, those who have enough points to finish 125th or better on the list, qualify for the playoffs.
The revamped format also brings in a new point system. Top players begin the Tour Championship with a certain number of strokes under par. Whoever wins, takes it all. This should be less confusing as the previous format allowed for a player to perform well enough to win the final, Tour Championship, yet not win the overall FedEx Cup.
These guys are playing hard all year, FedEx Cup or not, however, it is an added bonus for both the players and fans. For the players it is the opportunity and challenge to compete with the Tour’s best, not to mention that the winner of this little shin dig gets $15 million and increase on last year’s $10 million.
For us, the fans, we get to see the top players for a few more weeks, rather than players taking time off. Throughout the year, some guys will skip a tournament for rest, family or maybe they just don’t like the golf course. But, when you’re talking 15 million dollars and the chance to end the year on top, all of the boys will lace up the spikes and tee it up.
John Renslow is a PGA professional, VP of Yugi Golf Management, and provides golf instruction at local courses.
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