Reactions Vary Over Revamped Format For PGA Tour's Season Finale
The PGA Tour has now "addressed every major sticking point" with its announced changes to the FedExCup and its playoffs, but it may have "created an entirely new set of issues" with the Tour Championship, according to Rex Hoggard of GOLFCHANNEL.com. The Tour has decided to make the event "essentially a handicap tournament" by allowing the postseason points leader to begin at 10 under par. Instead of "countless projections to digest, fans and media will spend their Tour Championship Sunday now crunching the numbers to determine who should have won the finale without pre-weighted scoring." The new format is "certain to lead to an avalanche of criticism." The golf public may be able to "understand the new system but that doesn’t mean it likes the idea." It also may not "sit particularly well that a victory at the Tour Championship will count as an official Tour triumph and come with a three-year exemption." That is a "year more than you get for winning, say, the BMW Championship, which doesn’t use handicaps." There is also the "issue of what the Official World Golf Ranking will make of the professional game’s only 'net' tournament (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 9/18). In California, Larry Bohannan writes some will "scream that giving a player a 10-shot advantage is ridiculous, much like it would be silly to give a team a touchdown lead at the start of the Super Bowl." Bohannan: "What if the last-place player outplayed the first-place player by nine shots in the week, but lost the FedEx Cup title by one shot?" (Palm Springs DESERT SUN, 9/19).
A CHANGE IS GONNA COME: GOLFWEEK's David Dusek noted the 16 golfers on the PGA Tour's Player Advisory Council "learned about" the changes to the FedExCup "back in May." After hearing PGA Tour Exec VP & Chief of Operations Andy Pazder deliver a presentation on the changes, golfer Paul Casey said that he was "receptive to the idea of the strokes-based scoring system." Casey: "The PGA Tour was smart and showed us a lot of TV footage of analysts and guys talking about it. Then they showed us the data on how many people understand it, especially golf fans versus non-golf fans. Everybody can understand that if you finish at 9-under par and I finish at 8-under par, you win the bloody event" (GOLFWEEK.com, 9/18). PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said that the process to come up with the changes "took three years," and every idea conceivable was "put forward and considered." ESPN.com's Bob Harig noted among the many changes "broached over the years was the simple concept of having the playoff events proceed as they have, then crowning a winner at the Tour Championship." From there, take the top four, six, eight players and let them "play the next day for the bonus money." Monahan said that the members of the player council, "for the most part, were opposed." He added that players "couldn't get past the idea that 'I'm battling from the Safeway Open (in October) to the Wyndham Championship (in August) and it's going to come down to an 18-hole shootout'" (ESPN.com, 9/18).
PROS & CONS: USA TODAY's Steve DiMeglio writes overall the "seismic changes to the FedExCup get a thumbs up." There will "no longer be a need for chalkboards or high-tech computers or snazzy graphics to explain confusing scenarios for some player’s march to victory." However, there "remains some head scratching." A golfer could "shoot the best 72-hole score and not win the tournament" (USA TODAY, 9/19). MORNING READ's Jeff Babineau writes the idea behind the changes is to "let fans follow what’s happening a bit easier, which we understand." A majority of this "new and improved plan makes sense, so this isn’t to downgrade the entire program, because there are way too many positives." But it is "really hard to win a golf tournament on the PGA Tour." Babineau: "Now we’re ready to gift an official victory to somebody mostly because of where he started at East Lake, not where he finished?" (MORNINGREAD.com, 9/19). TSN.ca's Bob Weeks wrote the "best way to think of this is that it’s not a tournament at all but really a conclusion to the season." It can still be "exciting and deliver some drama and every player has some chance of winning" (TSN.ca, 9/18). In Atlanta, Steve Hummer writes the Tour "basically devised a one-week, alternative universe, upside-down handicap system for these pros." Fans might wonder that if the Tour was "in charge of baseball, then [the] Red Sox likely would begin the World Series this year already up 2-0" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 9/19).
A WHOLE NEW WORLD? MORNING READ's John Hawkins wrote it is time for the Tour to "take its grand finale somewhere else, to provide the Tour Championship with an environment befitting of its status." There "isn't a meaningful tournament on the calendar with less on-site buzz" than the Tour Championship. While fans can be sure that Monahan "treasures his relationships with Coca-Cola and the Southern Co.," which help cover the Tour Championship’s $9M purse, other potential sponsors "surely would be interested if the event moved to a stronger market." The Tour should "come to terms with the idea that Atlanta hasn't supported the Tour Championship in a way that so many other places would, and that it's time to explore other options" (MORNINGREAD.com, 9/18).