RENSLOW: Getting a grip on the PGA playoffs
Are you paying attention to the playoff picture?
No, not baseball (where the Dodgers and Astros have things pretty well summed up). We’re talking about the PGA Tour playoffs. Yes, for nearly a decade, the PGA Tour’s fiscal calendar has culminated with a “postseason.”
Following the final regular tour point last week, the top 125 players qualified for the first of four playoff events. The format is interesting, but if you aren’t familiar, it will be just like a regular week on tour. 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.
It is a four-week schedule, with each event having four rounds a piece. Each event has its own sponsor (beginning with “Northern Trust”) and rounds are played Thursday–Sunday. The goal is to earn points, based on performance.
Similar to playoffs in other sports, the number of participants is whittled down after each week or match. After the first week, the top 100 players advance to week two (Dell Technologies). Then, 70 players move on to event three (the BMW Championship) and the final, still known as the Tour Championship (sponsored by Coca Cola) will host the top 30 players.
The playoffs are essentially scheduled for consecutive weeks. However, there is a break between tournaments and this year that rest takes place between tournament No. 2 (Dell) and tournament No. 3 (BMW).
It all started at the first stop of the tour schedule, and with the point events not following a calendar year, the season started last October at the Safeway Open in Napa. 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 (the annual sponsor) 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 dollars and the chance to end the year on top, all of the boys will tighten those shoes laces 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 may 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, too. We used to understand what the Rose Bowl was. Now we have the Tostada Bowl or, one of my personal favorites, the “Beef O’Brady’s Bowl”. What is that?
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 Rory McIlroy. Hideki Matsuyama is currently leading the point list in this year’s playoffs. Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Dustin Justin are all right there. It’s on GolfChannel today. Just put out your favorite playoff food and enjoy.
John Renslow is a PGA Class A Professional and Instructor at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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