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John Renslow: The playoffs are here

John Renslow

Playoffs? You’re talking playoffs? Yes, and it started on Thursday. With all that is going on around us, it is reasonable for sports to take back seat.

And, prudent measures taken across the country have created a concentration of certain major sport’s seasons. The NBA and NHL, which would typically start their post-season in the spring, are in their first rounds right now.

For the PGA Tour, with some manipulation of the schedule, push and pull, cancel or postpone, the annual FedEx Playoffs start on time. That time is now.

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 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 final regular season event, those who have enough points to finish 125th or better on the list qualify for the playoffs.

A hopefully simplifying measure is the change in accumulated points. It has been a bit confusing. In other sports, it is generally one team versus another. Or a “heads up” match with between opponents.

In golf, we have a field of players. Again, these players have been earning points throughout the season. And, as it often comes back to, the sponsors (and viewers) want to see the elite players. They don’t want a complete points reset only to have their elite players eliminated by one bad week.

So, playoff week No. 1 stands alone as an event. However, the annual points carry over each week. If a top player does not play well, they will have enough points to get them into the second week of playoffs.

This has been a challenge to follow, because we are watching two things at the same time. We have the current event. Yet, as the week progresses, we wonder if a player near the bottom of the list will make it to the next week based on position or if a player in the middle will get eliminated.

Now, the top players begin the Tour Championship with a certain number of strokes under par, based on their points up to that week. When we watch the event, we can simply look at the leaderboard. The top 70 make it to next week.

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.

For us, the fans, we get to see the top players for three 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 and the chance to end the year on top, all of the boys will tighten the laces and tee it up.

John Renslow is general manager and director of golf at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at jrenslow@pga.com.


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