Loving the Much Maligned PGA Playoffs

How can people rip on a series of events that extend our golf season with meaningful tournaments featuring the best players in the world?

Thrash TalkI’m baffled by all the negative press the FedExCup gets. As a golf fan, why wouldn’t I want an extra month of meaningful golf, with the best players on the PGA Tour competing for a huge purse, and bringing golf to some of the biggest media markets in the country?

For years, the golf season effectively started at the Masters and ended at the PGA. But the introduction of the PGA playoffs offers up golf straight through September.

The point system is a bit goofy but the Tour has done a nice job tweaking it in a way that all the top players are compelled to play each event, and there is the chance a guy could swoop in out of the blue and pull down that insane $10 million payday.

I’ve taken a strong stand on needing the big names to play more often and this is the one stretch of the year we’ll see guys like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and the rest of the big guns playing week after week.

I’d go so far as calling it a month-long major, with the added drama of a week in, week out cut. I won’t go overboard in praising the actual point system because I’d be hard pressed explaining it. It seems to work when a guy such as Matt Kuchar takes the top spot after a week-one win. He’s in the middle of a great season and that makes sense.

Where it gets fuzzy is when the projected positions were showing up Sunday at Ridgewood and regardless of how a guy played all season, if he won the Barclays, he’d be at the top of the standings.

But that plays into the idea that these are “playoffs.” If you’re a 14-seed in the NCAA Tournament and pull a major upset in your first-round game, no one’s going to bring up the fact you barely reached the tourney to begin with.

And if you’re an NFL team that goes 14-2, if you play terribly in your first playoff game, the fact you lost to a 9-7 team won’t matter. You’re done.

I like the balance the FedExCup seems to have found, where guys advance week to week based in part on their season-long success. It’s similar to a top seed getting an easier draw in the early rounds of any other sport’s postseason.

As someone who lives in the New York metropolitan area, I also love the juice the Barclays generates in the city’s rich media landscape. Obviously that’s taken a step up with Tiger’s exploits, but there’s something to be said for getting exposure in some of the nation’s biggest media markets. After New York, the playoffs head to Boston, Chicago and Atlanta. It puts the series on a big stage and that’s never a bad thing for golf.

Look back over the past few years and you’ll see plenty of critics say the system is contrived, that it’s been forced upon us, and that the PGA Tour was just trying to manufacture some publicity and interest.

I would agree with all those sentiments, but the bottom line for me is that it worked. We get four consecutive tournaments with the biggest names in the game (so long as they hold up their end and make it that far), playing in meaningful events in big sports-crazed cities.

It all adds up to a successful idea that will only gain steam in the years to come.

Suspending ‘Furyk Rule’ Was Wise

The PGA Tour reversed course on the rule that cost Jim Furyk a spot in last week’s Barclays for missing his pre-tournament pro-am tee time.

It’s one thing to be disqualified for missing your tee time during the actual tournament. But last week Jim Furyk’s phone died, he missed the Barclay’s pro-am, and the third ranked player in the world was bounced from the actual event.

I’m not saying the intent of the rule is bad. The sponsors make the PGA Tour what it is, and you can see that without a strict rule in place, players might “oversleep” to get out of what’s typically a long, difficult day on the course. But considering only about half the field has to play in the pro-am (and typically the biggest names), it’s an unfair rule to let this affect the real competition.

Phil Mickelson was the harshest critic, saying: “The rule itself applies to only half the field,” said Mickelson, noting that only 54 of the 122 players were in the pro-am. “So if you’re going to have a rule that does not apply to everybody, you cannot have it affect the competition… I cannot disagree with it more. I have no idea how the commissioner let this rule go through. It’s ridiculous.”

There’s been too much talk about the rules lately, and whenever someone does something dumb, such as ground a club in the bunker like Dustin Johnson, or warms up with an illegal swing aid during the round like Julie Inkster, there’s talk about how the rule needs to change. Golf is a game of rules, and they’re designed for a reason. But when you start compromising the event itself to protect sponsors (and in turn hurt them by pulling a top-tier player from the field) then something needs to change.

Glad too see the PGA Tour agreed this time.

Golf for a Cause This Weekend

Over the three days of Labor Day weekend, you can help raise money for the families of wounded and fallen soldiers simply by tacking a dollar onto your greens fee.

The organizers of the Patriot Golf Day started with a small idea a few years ago, and as of today, the concept has raised $5.3 million toward scholarships for families affected the most by the toll of war. There are nearly 4,500 facilities participating, so finding a course in your area shouldn’t be too difficult.

It’s Twitter Time

I’ve made the dive into the Twitter world. If you’re a fan of the column, follow me at @ronvarrial for updates, commentary and all the quick hits you’d expect from 140 characters or less.

9 thoughts on “Loving the Much Maligned PGA Playoffs”

  1. I just wonder what Retief Goosen thinks. They didn’t suspend the rule mid-season (which I disagree with – wait for the November meeting) after he was “DNSed” at the LA Open. He was ranked roughly as high as Jim Furyk is now.

  2. As to the Furyk rule. I think they needed to wait. They’ve set up a horrible scenario:

    What happens if Kuchar misses his pro-am tee time next week, is not DQ’d, and ultimately wins the FedExCup with Furyk finishing in 2nd by a close margin?

    The rule already affected the playoffs, getting rid of it now is a bad idea.

  3. I for sure wasn’t a big fan of the FedExCup when it was first came to the tour, thought it was to much of a manufactured event and just another large pay day for tiger. But as it’s worked out the past couple of years I’ve found my self checking the leader board often and not just who is leading the current event.
    Also good luck with twitter, didn’t realize you were so young until I saw your picture, great insite for you age!!!lol

  4. FEDX CUP. It’s purely marketing hype and commercialism. You don’t think so….
    So why don’t we call the World Series the UPS Series or AT&T Series then? Becasue Baseball is still traditional, thats why and they haven’t ruined it in the pursuit of money. .

  5. I have to say that I really don’t care why the PGA TOUR started the FedEx cup, I just like it. Why wouldn’t you? It’s all of the best players for a month in a row, with some added drama thrown in.

  6. FedEx Cup: You hit the nail on the head. The more golf tournaments with the top players the better. I just dont get the complaints that its too commercial. Would the tournaments be any different if instead of the FedEx Cup they were called the Fall Classic Cup? No way. The FedEx Cup is good for the PGA and for the PGA fan. period.

  7. Fed Ex Cup, its the Tour Championship done over and over again, I say skip the first 3 events and go straight to the.. oh yeah.. the Tour Championship. Thank goodness I can still watch the European Tour early in the morning and have the rest of the day to do my chores or even better PLAY golf.

  8. Its marketing, designed to increase interest and viewership and to promote Fed-X in the process.
    Golf would be more enjoyable to watch if all players were treated and covered equally. All we get here in the US is Mickelson and Woods over and over and over again.

  9. I personally love the FedEx Cup too. It fills a gap in the schedule and puts the best players in the world on some sweet courses. Yes, Woods and Phil get the spotlight every week in the media but people love controversy and Woods gives them something to talk about. I think in the long run it will be good for the sport if Woods makes a comeback.

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