Money List vs. FedExCup Points List

Why do we have the FedExCup points list, and how does it differ from the money list? How much is a FedExCup points list worth? Let’s find out.

The Numbers GameWhen the FedExCup was announced way back in 2005, the questions began. Does golf really need a playoff system? What kind of playoffs doesn’t eliminate people? Why do 144 people qualify for the playoffs when only 125 keep their PGA Tour cards?

The question I asked myself (and which Dave Koster asked last year) was a simpler one: isn’t this just another way of rejigging the money list? The formula for handing out FedExCup points is very similar to the way in which prize money is handed out.

So why create a separate measure at all? Wouldn’t using the money list be “good enough”? PGA Tour fans have watched the money list for years. It’s a simple value that makes a lot of sense.

Let’s have a look at how things shook out. Are the money list and the FedExCup brothers from different mothers?

First, a Few Words on the “Re-Seeding”
I had hoped to use the statistics through the Wyndham Championship, but because the PGA Tour has saw fit to so quickly re-seed the players – assigning the top player (Tiger Woods) 100,000 points, the second-place golfer (Vijay Singh) 99,000, and on down the list, the latest numbers weren’t available.

Thus, all of the numbers in this list are through the PGA Championship on August 12. You’ll notice in my statistics that Brandt Snedeker is still listed at 26th even though his Wyndham win vaulted him to ninth. The numbers simply weren’t available.

Frankly, I’m not terribly pleased with the re-seeding. Tiger Woods had amassed 30,574 points in only 13 events. His lead over second-place Vijay Singh (23 events and 19,129 points) was 11,445. With the re-seeding, Tiger’s lead has been shaved by 10,445 points. His lead over #144 Jeff Gove was shaved from about 29,000 to 15,300, a difference of about 14,000 points.

Let’s suppose Vijay Singh wins all four playoff events. He’d blow Tiger Woods out of the water in the FedExCup “Playoffs,” win the $10M annuity and that hideous trophy. Vijay would end the year with six victories (one more than Tiger), but would also be major-less in 2007 (he even missed the cut in a few majors). Would his year have been “better” than Tiger’s? I think not.

The situation is not even that extreme: if Vijay Singh finishes second in every tournament and Tiger finishes third, he’d win the FedExCup over Tiger with only two victories to Tiger’s five (and a major).

I wrote about this last year in an article called “FedExCup: Failure from the Start?“:

Tim Finchem was once fond of saying that “the FedExCup is going to incentivize the top players to play often and play well.”

But the FedExCup system doesn’t offer incentives; it offers communism. The FedExCup does not “incentivize” top players to play more frequently because any lead they build up will be knocked down by the re-leveling of the seeds. It doesn’t encourage the rabbits and journeymen on Tour to play any more frequently than they do already in attempts to slide into the top 125 – it only encourages them to play better during three particular events.

That’s all I have to say about the re-seeding. Let’s get back to looking at how the FedExCup points list varies (or doesn’t) from the money list.

Does it Vary?
In a word, “barely.” In a few more words, “not enough to really care.” Below is a sampling of the standings. I’ll explain everything below.

FEC     F$ Rank    Player Name         $/FEC    Ratio    Diff
Rank    Differ.    (Events Played)     Ratio    Diff.     (%)
----    -------    ---------------     -----    -----    ----
  1       0        Woods (13)           256       19      8.0
  2       0        Singh (23)           234        4      1.5
  3       1        Furyk (19)           228       09      4.0
  4       1        Mickelson (18)       262       25     10.5
  5       0        Choi (21)            237        0      0.1
  6       0        Sabbatini (19)       255       18      7.6
  7       0        Johnson (19)         239       02      0.8
  8       3        Howell III (21)      214       23      9.8
  9       0        Scott (15)           244        7      3.1
 10       2        Verplank (18)        237        0      0.0
 11       1        Stricker (19)        246        8      3.6
 12       4        Garcia (15)          288       51     21.4
 13       0        Austin (22)          238        1      0.3
 14       1        Mahan (23)           241        4      1.5
 15       2        Rollins (23)         230        7      2.9
 16       4        Weekley (23)         229        8      3.4
 17       1        Baddeley (18)        237        0      0.2
 18       1        Els (13)             247       10      4.0
 19       5        Calcavecchia (20)    222       15      6.5
 20       6        Harrington (15)      280       43     18.0
 21       0        Rose (12)            246        9      3.9
 22       0        Donald (17)          246        9      3.8
 23       7        Ogilvy (18)          262       24     10.3
 24       1        Toms (19)            244        7      2.8
 25       2        Allenby (20)         234        3      1.2
 26       3        Snedeker (24)        228        9      3.7
 27      16        Byrd (18)            193       44     18.7
 28       3        Cink (19)            275       38     15.9
 29       7        Slocum (20)          217       21      8.7
 30       0        Appleby (20)         246       09      4.0
 40       0        Quinney (21)         236        1      0.5
 50       5        Villegas (20)        222       15      6.4
 60       6        Ames (18)            247       10      4.4
 70      18        Lonard (23)          268       31      5.8
 80       8        Gay (22)             221       16      6.7
 90       5        Henry (21)           265       28     11.6
100       8        Herron (21)          260       23      9.5
110       2        Chopra (25)          228       10      4.0
120       0        Haas (23)            232        5      2.1
130       1        Wagner (25)          215       22      9.5
131       1        Beem (20)            225       12      5.1
132       3        Palmer (22)          212       25     10.7
133       1        Parnevik (20)        219       18      7.6
134       5        Pavin (22)           233        4      1.7
135       2        Andrade (20)         222       15      6.3
136       2        Isenhour (23)        216       21      9.0
137       4        Buckle (17)          213       24     10.2
138       8        Gove (21)            199       38     16.2
139       3        Lickliter II (21)    232        5      2.0
140       1        Putnam (20)          223       14      6.0
141       4        Tway (23)            236        1      0.3
142       2        Janzen (18)          226       11      4.6
143       0        Day (19)             216       21      9.1
144       7        Dawson (15)          201       36     15.4
Top 30    2.37                          242       14      6.0
31-60     4.67                          238       14      5.7
61-100    5.98                          241       15      6.3
Total     4.43                          237       15      6.3

This is a condensed list (in both directions). For the complete list, grab this PDF. Several of the columns used in calculations are not shown above due to width constraints.

Chart Legend
FEC Rank – The FedExCup ranking for each player.
F$ Rank Differ – The difference between a player’s ranking in the FedExCup points list and the money list.
Player Name (Events Played) – Pretty self-explanatory, n’est-ce pas?
$/FEC Ratio – The rounded number obtained by dividing a player’s money list total by his FedExCup points total.
Ratio Diff – The amount a player’s $/FEC Ratio differs from the average (237) for all players in the top 144.
Diff (%) – The same as the Ratio Diff expressed as a percentage.

The numbers at the very bottom are averages for the top 30, positions 31-60, 61-100, and everyone (“Total”).

So, Really, Is it Different?
Again, no. Let’s look at the stats in order.

First off, the raw rankings. Players within the top 30 averaged a differential of only 2.37 places. This means that, on average, the difference between a player’s rank on the FedExCup points list and the money list varied by 2.37 spots. If we take Jonathan Byrd’s incredible “16” value out of consideration, we get 1.90 – less than two spots difference.

Jonathan Byrd is one of the statistical anomalies available this year. He won only $738,000 in taking the John Deere Classic title the week before the British Open. $738k is less than many other tournaments award for second place (Woody Austin earned $756,000 for finishing second at the PGA Championship).

You’ll note that the average differential increases the further you go down the list. This is because the difference between lower ranked players is smaller. The gap in points between #2 (Singh) and #12 (Garcia) is 8,582 (nearly half of Singh’s 19,129). The gap between #12 and #142 (Janzen) is 8,853. In other words, it’s much easier to change your position at the bottom of the list than the top.

Even still, the average differential is only 4.43 spots. In other words, for 144 players, each is within the same spot on the money list and FedExCup points list by an average of less than 4½ spots. That’s not a lot of variation.

The Ratio and Ratio Differentials
Since this column seeks to answer the question: what’s the difference between the money list and the FedExCup points list, the ratio of dollars earned to FedExCup points earned is most interesting to me. This number was conceived by dividing the dollars a player earned by the FedExCup points earned. Tiger Woods’ calculation is thus: 7,824,385 / 30,574 = 255.916 (rounded to 256).

The same calculation is carried out for each player, and most of the numbers are in the 230 to 250 range. Jonathan Byrd – no surprise here – has a ratio of only 193, again largely due to his 4500-point win that netted him only $738,000 (itself a ratio of only 164).

The same averages are also calculated. Unlike with the rankings, these averages are fairly consistent: the top 30 average a 242 ratio (one FedExCup point = $242 in earnings). The next two groups, 31-60 and 61-100, averaged 238 and 241. The overall average is 237 for all the top 144 players.

Each player is then compared against the 237 average in two ways: by raw differential and percentage. Again, results are fairly consistent: players varied by about 15 ($15/point), or about 6.3%.

Is 6.3% Worth the Confusion?
Most states have a sales tax of higher than 6.3%, yet the PGA Tour saw fit to confuse fans by hoisting an entirely new points system on us that varies from the time-tested money list by only 6.3%. Player rankings vary only by four places or so.

I don’t quite see the point.

In fact, the FedExCup points system may in fact be worse than the money list. Jonathan Byrd is ranked 16 places higher due to his 4500-point win in a weak-field event the week prior to the British Open. He won only $738,000 because the event doesn’t have a large purse. Why? Because John Deere knows it’s going to have a weak field.

Yet Jonathan Byrd earned 4500 points, the same total that Tiger earned in winning the Buick Invitational and only 450 points less than Zach Johnson, Angel Cabrera, Padraig Harrington, and Tiger Woods earned for winning majors!

In the End…
Given all of the above, I see no reason why the PGA Tour didn’t simply re-christen the money list the “FedExCup Money List.” If Tim Finchem wanted to standardize the value of the tournaments in this season-long “points” chase, he could have taken some of the millions of dollars the PGA Tour has spent trying to educate the media and fans about the FedExCup and used it to level out the purses.

10 thoughts on “Money List vs. FedExCup Points List”

  1. I couldn’t agree more. I have been curious as to why they didn’t use the money list myself but just kind of accepted it for what it is. Great article Erik! The difference was even less than I thought it would be, further convincing me that the FedEx Cup points list is a joke. Why complicate something further that is already somewhat complicating to the general golf fan. Kind of reminds me how the Ryder Cup Points system was a joke before Azinger decided to make it all about money. There’s an idea, reward the guys who make the most money! I’d say the PGA Tour is off to a bad start with this thing.

  2. Being a new golf fan I’ve been trying to keep an open mind about the FedEx Cup points amid mostly negative points of view. But after reading this article I too agree with the ‘What’s the point?’ crowd.

  3. My initial reaction to your article was “ok, so they’re similar. But if the points system addresses some anomaly in the money list in order to make a better ranking of players’ performance, that’s good. Even if the difference between the two is small, a little better is still better.”

    Then I read your point about Byrd winning almost the same number of points in the John Deere as did the winners of majors and, well, obviously there are some questions about the validity of the point system.

    I guess it becomes more understandable if you assume the tour/FedEx is using the points as an incentive to play events, rather than as a reward for performance in the hardest events.

    When you think about it, if the tour were to rank something like the John Deere–a traditionally weak field event–really low on FEC points, the Deere people would be rightfully up in arms.

    This discussion reminds me alot of those about the Bowl Championship Series…it’s hard to do something like this well.

  4. This discussion reminds me alot of those about the Bowl Championship Series…it’s hard to do something like this well.

    It sure does, but I go back to one of the earlier ideas (I believe either Dave or myself suggested it): a “strength of field” qualifier. Kind of like a one-year “Official World Golf Ranking” algorithm with no fall-off in points totals. Double the point total for the majors.

    The playoffs themselves are lacking for two simple reasons:

    1. Resetting point totals isn’t fair, but Tiger Woods taking a month off because he’s locked up the trophy isn’t exciting either. No good answer here.
    2. Vijay can miss the cut in the first tournament – heck, he could miss three cuts – and still play in the Tour Championship and even still win the FedExCup.

    The current system doesn’t address either of those very well… but I don’t know how that might be solved. Either way, that’s beside the point of the article: the playoffs could still be done with the re-seeding and all that… I just see no point in having a “FedExCup Point” when there’s already a “Money List.” As I said, rename it “FedExCup Money List” if you want, assign your re-seeded values when the playoffs start, and stop keeping two separate and virtually identical lists: the FEC List and the $$$ List.

  5. Upon reflection, I think this is TW’s way of saying that the playoff system needs major tweaking. He could have finished last in the WGC and PGA and still finished first in the FedEx Cup points list and he’d be no worse off to start the FedEx Cup because all of the season’s points get wiped out and reset, based on where you finished. What if he wins 3 or 4 majors in the future? Where’s the advantage if the points get reset for the playoffs? He could skip them altogether. Does he really need a 10M annuity at age 65?

  6. First off, I agree with your major point about the FedEx Cup points versus money list.

    Where I guess I disagree with you is about the re-setting of points. I guess it all depends on what the point of these playoffs is? See I think it would be best if they made the re-set of points less than they are now. It seems like the champion of the 4 weeks ought to be the guy who plays best over these 4 weeks. As it is, the winner is probably going to be whomever does the best out of the top 10-15 players from the regular season. I understand why they did it this way, this way the best players are pretty much assured of being in the tour championship. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t the top 10 players more or less assured of being in the final event? I’m unsure how this is going to play out but it’s a tricky thing to pull off and like the BCS likely to leave someone if not most everyone complaining about how it all played out.

  7. I love the fedex cup system, and the reseeding. In all sports the goal of the regular season is to get to the playoffs, and the goal in the playoffs is to get to win whatever championship you are trying to win wether it be the Super Bowl or the World Series or the FEDEX Cup. In most sports having th better regular season performance has no major advantage when you get to the playoffs. The only thing i dont like is getting the 10 mil at 65. I THINK THAT SHOULD BE UP FRONT BECAUSE lets say i was someone like zach johnson, someone wh has a chance to win but isnt making 10+Mil a year, i could use that money more now when i am 65.

  8. I agree with most of this article, very well written and the research is definately there to back up the claims. The only part I’m a little confused on is this exerpt:

    “Let’s suppose Vijay Singh wins all four playoff events. He’d blow Tiger Woods out of the water in the FedExCup “Playoffs,” win the $10M annuity and that hideous trophy. Vijay would end the year with six victories (one more than Tiger), but would also be major-less in 2007 (he even missed the cut in a few majors). Would his year have been “better” than Tiger’s? I think not.”

    I agree that if this happens that Singh has not had a better year than Woods, but isn’t that how most playoffs work? Last year in the NFL, NBA, and MBL the team with the best year (win/loss record) did not win its championship. Thats kind of what makes play-off systems intriguing and entertaining to most people. The fact that anything can happen in the post season, and if a team, or golfer peaks at the right time, they have a chance to win it all. Other than that minute point, I agree the PGA play-offs need some tweaking.

  9. The FedEx points are used to try to get users away from focusing on how much money a golfer earns. The US PGA Tour probably feels that the public will soon get upset at how much money a golfer earns as compared to their own wages, as the purses have increased by close to 70% over the past 7 years (2000: $162.2 million to 2006: $273.5 million) — equates to a 10% increase per year. This increase was even during a downturn in the US economy.

    The US PGA Tour was seriously thinking about not even providing the earnings this year on their web site and just providing the FedEx Cup points that each golfer earned. They really want to see the money list go away as it relates to the public user knowing how much a golfer earns. Your article in comparing the FedEx Cup points and the money earnings basically illustrates that.

    If the US PGA Tour only showed the FedEx Cup points, then they could show the public one list (i.e. the FedEx Cup points list) and their members (the golfers) another list (i.e. the money list). Thus, they would be getting the public to stop thinking about the money each player earns in total.

  10. That was an excellent article.
    The reasons for the behavior of the FED EX CUP organizers are, like many things in professional sports, based on getting the most for the advertising dollar. The Fed Ex Cup points list was invented (even though it is nearly identicle to the money list) so the announcers would have to say: ” Fed Ex Cup points list ” 82,000 times during the season. The reason they guarantee the top players a spot in all four tournaments no matter how bad they might play is because they know the TV revenue suffers if the stars aren’t there. (Thus the very predictable and embarassing (for Fed Ex and the PGA Tour )outcome: Woods and Michelson each skipping one of the events (and Woods still winning easily).
    Playoffs are playoffs. The regular season should only count for qualifying the player for the playoffs. Like in all other sports, everyone in the playoffs should start from scratch (barring home field advantage etc, -unavoidable since you have to play somewhere in the team sports).
    Does it make sense to give Roger Federer a 30-love lead in every game in the playoffs because he won the most money in the regular season?
    It would have provided far greater drama had there been some chance of a top player getting “cut” in one of the earlier tournaments.
    It is one more example of the “closed shop” mentality of the PGA Tour and is NOT good for golf in the long run.
    On a similar note, The winner of the Champion’s Tour Q school wasn’t given a card to play on the tour last year. He still had to qualify- a very disturbing decision on the part of the Champion’s Tour organizers. One reason for the popularity of that tour is because of the dreaming it engerndered in so many 40-something low handicap golfers. “What if……”
    It was great for the tour. Now the answer to “What if…..” is: “No . Even if you win the Q School, you can’t play.” Bad idea, guys. You’re viewers are going to lose interest if they can’t dream. One more glaring example of the closed shop mentality.

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