The PGA Tour got the 2012 FedExCup Playoffs right. That statement from me is not easy to make, mostly because I have been quite critical of the playoff format. I like to see the best player win the money title, not someone who got hot at the Tour Championship as Bill Haas did last year. The best player last year was Luke Donald, and although he won the money title at the end of the Fall Series I felt if any player deserved the $10M bonus it was Luke and not Bill.
All that said, this year I see the magic that Tim Finchem was trying to create by getting the best players to play in the events at the end of the season. We have been treated to some fantastic golf, by all the big names. Consider this past weeks BMW Championship where the leaderboard displayed names like Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, and Vijay Singh. All the giants of the game, and each of them playing some of their best golf. The only word I can use to describe it is brilliant.
In many ways I am disappointed that they took a week off. I wanted to see these guys carry on right into next week and not lose momentum. I now think that I should not care about who the eventual winner of the FedExCup is, but that now the PGA Tour has created a system where I can watch the best go at it week in and week out at the end of the season.
I watch a great deal of European soccer, and there are no playoffs in Europe. There are tournaments, like the Champions League, but that is a closer parallel to match play than to a playoff system. There is a saying that often gets bandied about, that “the table never lies,” meaning that after 35 or so games the team that has the highest amount of points is truly the best team. I believe there is a great deal of merit to this and I feel that golf should work in the same way. The best player over the season should win the FedExCup. To be fair though, the European soccer league does things that many Americans think are crazy, like letting games end in a tie for one. The other big difference is that every game has the same weight – that is not a good parallel for golf, as the majors should count for more, probably even more than they do now. Still, we should reward the best player over the course of a long season. One could probably argue that if Rory wins the FedExCup then in 2012 that happened. And the years that Tiger won that happened as well. So maybe I am being a bit cloudy in my judgement of the system.
The other counterargument to my complaint is that the Player of the Year award is a recognition that takes into account how well a golfer did over the course of the year in place of the FedExCup. Luke Donald was given that award in 2011 as a recognition of what a great year he had and I should be satisfied with this. In some ways I am, but if this is true than my feeling is that is has hurt the significance of the FedExCup. We are always talking about growing the game of golf, and when I explain to a non-golfer what the FedExCup is their first thought is that this is best golfer of year. When I then explain that, no, the best golfer was the player of the year, the blank stare ensues. I would rather both awards coincide.
Another big complaint I have with the FedExCup playoffs is that is it way too confusing on how it is settled. How they reshuffle at the end of the year, and how the points work out at the end. Golf Channel has someone explaining all of this to us, it should not be that complicated. Again, this is a fairly minor complaint if it is stacked against how well the system has done at continuously getting the best players to play each week.
If the goal was to get the best players to play each week, then the PGA Tour gets an A+, if it was to identify the best player, than maybe a C+ or B-. They have messed with the system a number of times and in their defense the changes have for the most part been very good. And in actuality their may be no “best” system, and what we have now does so many things right that we should enjoy the show.
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