John Renslow: Playoffs? You want to talk about playoffs?
Get Into Golf
Are you ready for the playoffs? We’re talking about the new PGA Tour playoffs. Yes, in 2007, the PGA Tour introduced a “post-season.” Following the final regular tour event, the top 125 players qualified for the first of four playoff tournaments.
The format is interesting, but if you aren’t paying attention it will look like a regular tour event. And, unless you have an affinity for numbers, it can get real confusing, real fast. Let’s see if we can simplify things to make this more fun to watch over the weekend.
It is a four week schedule, with each week very similar to a normal week on tour. Each event has its own sponsor (starting this week with “The Barclays”) and rounds are played Thursday – Sunday.
Similar to playoffs in other sports, the number of participants is whittled down each week. After the first week, the top 100 players will continue on to week #2 (The Deutsche Bank Championship). Then 70 players will advance to week #3 (the BMW Championship) and the final, still known as the Tour Championship will field the top 30 players.
The playoff tournaments are essentially consecutive, although this year, there is a two-week period between week three and the Tour Championship.
It all started at the first stop of the tour schedule, this year at the SBS Championship (on Maui) in January. 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 one whopping point. 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.
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 $10 million.
For us, the fans, we get to see the top players for a solid month. 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 $10 million and the chance to end the year on top, all of the boys will lace up the spikes and tee it up.
In my opinion, the only problem is that the Tour can get too commercial. I know, I know the whole thing’s about endorsements, big business and bringing in more revenue, but I think that the playoff message gets lost in the promotion of the sponsor. Most people have heard of the Tour Championship and we might have heard the phrase ‘the Fed Ex Cup’, but how many of us know that there is a four week playoff system?
College football has done this. We used to understand what the Rose Bowl was. Now we have the Tostada Bowl or, one of my personal favorites, the Chick-fil-A bowl. What is that?
That having been said, the idea of a playoff is enjoyable and a boat-load better that the best team being chosen by a computer program (thank you BCS). It gives all of the best players a chance to show their talent and we get to watch.
It just needs to be promoted for what it is; the playoffs. Then we can get excited about it, like the Super Bowl or the World Series.
Last year’s winner was Tiger Woods. Tiger entered the playoffs in first place. Following a win in week #3 and a pair of second-place finishes in week one and week four, he led the field in points.
This year we have Ernie Els entering the playoffs with point lead. Phil Mickelson is right on his heels at No. 5. Tiger, still knee-deep in some People Magazine stuff is way back at No. 112, but the points are doubled for the playoffs. So, you just never know. It starts at noon on Golf Channel.
John Renslow is general manager and director of golf at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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