by Jeff Skinner
Last Sunday The Barclays gave us a fantastic finish in the opening week of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. We saw the top golfers in the world trading blows right down to the very last shot. It was great theater and an exciting start to the Playoffs.
But it hasn’t always been that way.
In 2007 when The FedEx Cup was first instituted it bordered on the ridiculous. Tiger Woods won the first FedEx Cup and only played in three events and he had clinched the Cup before he ever teed off in the Tour Championship.
In 2008, long before he was caught using deer antler, Vijay Singh won the cup by winning the first two playoff events. The Cup was his long before they opened the gates at the Tour Championship.
In 2009 Woods came into the Playoffs in first place, took second in week one, T11 in week two and his win in week three just a about guaranteed him the Cup. He finished second to Phil Mickelson at The Tour Championship but still won the FedEx Cup.
2010 was probably the straw that broke Tim Finchem’s back. After making changes to the points system and the format, Jim Furyk won the FedEx Cup and the ten million dollar check…even though he was disqualified from The Barclays because his missed his tee time.
Back to the drawing board they went and seriously started tweaking the Playoffs. 2011 saw the reformulated Playoffs that allowed for more volatility and allowed more players into the mix. Bill Haas won that year with a miracle shot from the water in a playoff. But even then he didn’t realize he had won the Cup, the Tour Championship yes, but he had to be told he had won the ten mil.
The 2013 version of the FedEx Cup Playoffs has been tweaked and pinched and pulled and molded into a very exciting and more importantly, watchable series.
The PGA Tour Players are more comfortable with the present form of the Playoffs and while it’s not as clear as the NFL (lose and you’re out) they know where they stand.
At the Deutsche Bank Championship I asked Tiger if the players feel the playoffs are as dramatic as they appear to the fans: “The first couple of years there was really no drama going into The Tour Championship. I had won it outright and Vijay had won it outright, and all we could do is just tee it up.
There was a minor reset, but still didn’t quite have the same drama and came up with this where it’s just two different resets now. And anybody that’s in the top five, they win the Tour Championship; they automatically win the FedEx Cup. You’re playing all year to be in the top five, so if you win The TOUR Championship it’s an automatic win, versus just gathering points the entire year, and add them up at the end of the year.
It was a bit of a shift for us as players, because we were always based on the money list, how much money we made for the year, and that basically won you the Arnold Palmer award. And generally led you to the Player of the Year award.
So the FedEx Cup has changed our way of thinking, and especially now with the two resets, it makes it very exciting at the Tour championship for sure. There’s a lot of different dynamics that can happen. We saw it last year. I think Billy was well out of it and then the top guys didn’t play well, he won the tournament and moved past everybody.”
When the Tour decided to go to the Playoffs the goal was to get the top players in the world playing together after the last major and to try and build some excitement in a NFL/NASCAR type format. After a few years of learning from their mistakes the Tour’s changes have worked to give them and the fans a successful series of thrilling golf.
Last week’s Barclays was a perfect example. Tiger, Phil and Adam, the top three players in the world were all in the mix along with many other top players. You can’t beat that.
It took a few years and plenty of alterations but Finchem’s Playoffs may have finally matured into what he initially envisioned.