When the PGA Tour decided to revamp its schedule to try and institute their playoff system back in 2007 I wasn’t sold on their reasoning.
The Tour had flourished over the last decades (thanks Tiger) and we had months and months of opportunities to watch the greatest golfers in the world. And while this “playoffs” mentality worked for the NFL I was doubting that it would work for golf.
We had the best players in the world playing in all the majors…and heck…the majors are the majors. Was there a need for a contrived system to try and compete with the most revered events in golf’s history?
After all, this is golf not the NFL or even NASCAR. But with the boys of NASCAR successfully reformatting their season and the fact that the PGA Tour had to go head to head with the NFL on fall weekends anyway Mr. Finchem and crew threw their hopes into a season ending playoff format. And after somechanges I have to say I have changed my thinking. It works.
Back then I was a doubting Thomas and not sure that the PGA Tour backed with truckloads of FedEx’s money could pull it off. But they have.
The $10 million dollar payoff to the FedEx Cup Champion was enough of a carrot to get most of the players interest and it certainly captured the fans imagination.
Over the years the points formula has been tweaked time and time again sometimes to the point where the winner had no idea he actually won the Cup in addition to the season ending Tour Championship.
And the “playoffs” has fostered a new mentality on tour with players concentrating on playing more to earn enough points to make it into the playoffs, keep their card and maybe have a chance to win that ten mil.
It’s a mind-set seen in other sports like the NFL and Major League Baseball: “just get in” and see what happens. Remember the New York Giants snuck into the 2007 NFL playoffs at 10-6 as a wild card. Then the G-Men took it to the previously undefeated New England Patriots who were looking to make history. The Giants beat the Pats in the Super Bowl in an historic upset and made their own history.
That’s what these playoffs can offer golfers, just get in.
Look at the “history” of the FedEx Cup. Hall of Famers Tiger Woods (twice) and Vijay Singh won early in the early years, stalwart Jim Furyk earned a win along with Brandt Snedeker, Henrik Stenson and last year we saw a monumental win by Jordan Spieth. All players performing at the top of their game for sure.
But who can forget Bill Haas chipping it close from the lake to secure his win. Or the stretch Billy Horschel had to win his cup in 2014. He came in at 68th in points and after missing the cut in the first event went second, win, win to claim an unlikely championship.
And that is what Finchem had envisioned: memorable tournaments, historic winners and longshot wild card winners.
Has there been side-effects of the Playoffs? Certainly. The old “Fall Series” is gone and while those tournaments played after the FedEx Cup are treated like regular tour events they are not. There’s a “wrap-around” calendar that contradicts logic. The old way of qualifying for the tour through Q-School has been scraped and players now are faced with a season ending schedule heavy with must play tournaments which has resulted in players changing their schedules earlier in the year to be fresh for the majors, the playoffs and Ryder/Presidents Cups.
But all in all the format has worked. The tour wanted their big names playing at season’s end in their four tournament series and for the most part they are.
The playoffs are fun and offer some great golf. The one thing Finchem couldn’t change is going up against the NFL on Sundays. But at least now we golf fans have a reason for multiple televisions, or at least some channel switching.