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Volume 26 No. 109
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Tour Championship Begins With Uncertainty Around New Format

The Tour Championship teed off today at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, and PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan has been "touting the simplicity" of the event's new format that will decide the FedExCup champion, even if it "goes outside the conventional playing of a golf tournament," according to Bob Harig of ESPN.com. The FedExCup has "undergone numerous tweaks, but the biggest was announced nearly a year ago." The Tour Championship field of players have been given a "staggered strokes-based bonus that ranges from 10 under par down to even." So, gone is the "points reset that used to occur after the BMW Championship, along with the guessing game that ensues with the various possibilities throughout the rounds." The idea "takes some getting used to, but Monahan reminded everyone that the PGA Tour ran numerous simulations to best approximate the points reset of past years." This year's tournament has 11 players who "didn't win this year" but does not include two major champions in Tiger Woods and Shane Lowry. Monahan said, "If you're going to have playoffs, you have to have volatility. And I think the interest of seeing all the players get themselves into position for this event, including getting inside the top 30 or not getting inside the top 30, is one of the intriguing story lines" (ESPN.com, 8/20).

MONEY ISN'T EVERYTHING: GOLF DIGEST's Brian Wacker noted the FedExCup winner this year will receive $15M, up from $10M the "first dozen years of the Tour’s postseason." Though Rory McIlroy is "not sure" what the answer is to fixing the FedExCup, there is "one thing McIlroy is sure of." He said, "I don’t think the money needs to be front and center, because I don’t think that's what the fans care about." He added, "If the FedExCup really wants to have this legacy in the game, like some of these other championships do, is people starting the tournament on different numbers the best way to do it?" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 8/21). In N.Y., Karen Crouse writes by creating an "end-of-the-year money grab to keep the players interested, the Tour helps solve problems for the game’s financial stakeholders -- players and sponsors -- but may be creating less of an emotional investment for its fans." At risk is "organic fan engagement, the kind the Tour Championship saw last year" when Woods won the tournament, but not the FedExCup (N.Y. TIMES, 8/22). Golf Channel’s Damon Hack said, "I'm going to withhold my judgement." There is "less math than there was in past years, but the players will determine the importance and significance of this event" (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 8/22). 

Justin Thomas begins the tournament -10 under the new format
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Justin Thomas begins the tournament -10 under the new format
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Justin Thomas begins the tournament -10 under the new format
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

NOT IMPRESSED: GOLFCHANNEL.com's Randall Mell wrote the Tour Championship "isn’t really a 'tournament' anymore." The event is "hosting the FedExCup Finale." The PGA Tour "ought to rename this week’s event exactly that." Mell: "You don't, after all, start a tournament with a lead of seven or more shots on two-thirds of the field. ... But the FedExCup Finale? Yeah, you’re damn right you can start that with a lead, even a 10-shot lead on some of the field" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 8/19). In Greensboro, Ed Hardin wrote the PGA Tour's "season-ending 'playoff' has evolved" into a"contrived" event. The trophy "now goes not to the best golfer but to the hottest." The newest playoff structure "plays right into it" (Greensboro NEWS & RECORD, 8/21). In Columbus, Rob Oller writes the Tour "ending its season on a gimmick" is a "bad look." Oller: "Imagine giving Usain Bolt a 10-meter lead in the 100-meter dash or Roger Federer a one-game lead at Wimbledon. ... Preposterous? Of course" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 8/22).

EXCITED TO WATCH: MORNINGREAD.com's Gary Van Sickle wrote the "complicated old scoring system finally got a serious makeover," and it is the" best version so far." Van Sickle: "For the first time in its existence, I don’t hate the FedExCup format. I might even be starting to like it" (MORNINGREAD.com, 8/21). Golf Channel's Jaime Diaz said the new format is "easier to understand" and thus a "better product." The previous FedExCup points system was "particularly hard to follow in realtime at the Tour Championship for players and spectators alike." Diaz: "The Tour should feel good that fortune favors the bold” (“Golf Central,” Golf Channel, 8/21). GOLF.com’s Jonathan Wall also noted the format could “add some intrigue to the outcome” (GOLF.com, 8/19). NBC's Mike Tirico said, "It's new, it's different, and for one, I'm willing to give it a try. It's going to leave us with one clear winner at the end of Sunday and perhaps a finish to remember” (“Vantage Point,” Golf Channel, 8/21).

LIVING UNDER PAR: SB Nation’s Brendan Porath noted the Tour "didn't just start haphazardly throwing numbers next to guys’ names." There was "study and work and they consulted mathematicians" on what scores players should start at. The format is "just going to take some getting-used-to because it is so foreign in golf" (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 8/22). GOLF.com’s Dylan Dethier noted he likes the new format, as the other version “rendered that $10 million prize basically irrelevant because of all the math required to figure out your winner” (GOLF.com, 8/19). 

TIME FOR A NEW VENUE? GOLFWEEK’s Geoff Shackelford wrote "electricity will more likely come from the sky than the grounds of East Lake” this week. The “wet blanket on this season ender is the annual return to Atlanta and a venue we know too well after 15 straight years.” The Tour Championship “desperately needs a rota that draws in the West coast,” as a Pacific time zone venue “pushes golf into prime time on a summer weekend.” With just 30 players in the field, the Tour Championship has the “luxury of targeting a remote location or unexpected market by bringing the world’s best players to a fresh spot” (GOLFWEEK.com, 8/18). 

SCHEDULE PERKS: SPORTS BUSINESS JOURNAL’s John Lombardo noted the PGA Tour’s schedule change is “paying dividends” for the Tour Championship, as organizers are “profiting from a newfound lack of competition from other sports events in the local market.” Tour Championship officials said that moving the event to August from September has “helped increase hospitality sales by 23% while boosting ticket sales between 10% and 15%.” Tournament execs added that there were 340,000 “more tickets competing in the market last year” (SPORTS BUSINESS JOURNAL, 8/19 issue).