Not sure I’m all that crazy about the PGA’s plans to change the FedEx Cup next year, but I can’t wait for this year’s Tour Championship.
Changing the playoffs from four qualifiers to three, starting the FexEx Cup with a bonus system that gives the top players in the field of 30 bonus strokes to begin with and bumping up the prize from $10 million to $15 million is collectively, in my opinion, a bunch of gimmicks.
The elite pros are paid millions of dollars in endorsements, and the better they play, the more valuable they become to sponsors. That’s the business side of golf. But all that matters to fans is whether they can make the shots, or how entertaining they are as individuals. Think of Bubba Watson (Titleist Pro V1x) as probably the best example and John Daly (Titleist Pro V1), from back in the day.
Giving bonus strokes to the top point-earners in the FedEx Cup playoff going into the final isn’t necessary. The PGA is essentially giving added reward for play, kind of like in other sports where finishing well in the regular- season standings provides advantages in seeding for the playoffs.
And unlike some sports such as motor racing or horse racing where a good starting position can influence the results right from the beginning, the draw has no advantage in golf. Starting the first two rounds early or later in the day is a crapshoot because weather can play an important factor. In fact, a player can play great in the first three rounds and start off later in the day, only to find himself battling conditions that weren’t prevalent earlier. It’s the luck, or lack thereof, of nature.
The FedEx Cup has struggled for relevancy for several years because to non-golf fans it had no identity. Even if you followed golf, the FedEx Cup seemed to be an afterthought following the four majors, and got lost in the myriad of tournaments that could include the Ryder Cup, President’s Cup and Olympics.
So changes were made to give the FedEx Cup a purpose, which essentially ends the season before it becomes overtaken by all the pro sports that begin the fall, namely the National Football League.
But interest in this year’s field – certainly at the start – will be strong because of Tiger Woods (Bridgestone Tour B XS). If he is anywhere close to the top come Sunday, the FedEx Cup championship might become one of the top TV events, even more so than any of the projected premier NFL games.
If Woods is out of it by the final round, suffice to say ratings will drop, perhaps even overall general interest because he draws interest from overall sports fan, not just the hardcore golf addicts.
If Tiger wins the FedEx Cup championship, it will be the story of the year in golf and maybe in all of sports this year. I’ve been saying for weeks that the only thing missing from his season so far is a victory. Can you imagine what it would mean if he wins the Tour Championship? There would be a movie in the works. To be honest, I can’t believe there hasn’t been one done already.
Ok, enough with the preamble, here are my top three choices, including a Lefko long shot to pull off the major upset:
Billy Horschel (Titleist Pro V1x): He’s been solid the last few weeks, including tying for third in two of the four tournaments. He missed one due to a sinus issue. He won this tournament in 2014, so I’m going with the horses for courses adage.
Bryson DeChambeau (Bridgestone Tour B X): How do you argue against what he’s done in recent weeks? He was considered one of the good, young players on the tour, but he needed to win to gain confidence. He seems to have a lot of that now.
Justin Rose (TaylorMade TP5): The Englishman is on a tear, having placed second in the last two tournaments. He has also recovered from some back issues. Maybe just maybe he pulls off the win and adds this to his trophy case along with his win in the 2013 U.S. Open win and 2016 Olympic victory.