The PGA Tour owns and operates two flagship tournaments: The Players Championship and The Tour Championship. They bookend the four majors and provide golf fans with six consecutive months of big-time golf.
Without an insurance company or car maker in the tournament title, both even sound like major tournaments.
Yet in 2019, the PGA Tour essentially killed its season-ending flagship event and turned it into a handicap scramble to decide the FedEx Cup – the PGA Tour’s propagandized postseason.
The champ is no longer even marketed as the winner of the Tour Championship. Instead, he’s crowned the FedEx Cup champion.
Even the Tour Championship trophy and prize money have disappeared.
And while the PGA Tour awards the low NET score as an official win, the prize money is considered a bonus and is not recorded as a player’s official earnings.
Meanwhile, to complicate matters even more, the Official World Golf Rankings does not recognize the NET winner, and instead awards points based on GROSS scores.
Think about that. Because it’s so gimmicky, the winner of the PGA Tour’s season-ending flagship event is not credited with a win in the OWGR database. Instead, the win is awarded to the player who shot the lowest gross score – even though that player received no first-place check, trophy, or even a post-round interview.
It’s flat-out nuts.
All is not dire, however: here’s how the tour could quickly turn a boring and brazen money grab into an exciting postseason and finale.
1. Upgrade the Season’s Points Distribution
First things first: the points distribution needs a huge upgrade. When the winner of the Shriners gets 500 points and the Masters champ tallies 600, it’s time for a major overhaul.
Now, in a perfect world, points would be related to a strength of field metric. But that would cause more confusion, convolution, and volatility.
The easiest method, particularly for fan engagement, would be to simply tie the points to tournament purse. This would also appease – instead of insult – the title sponsors.
This could be accomplished by simply multiplying a player’s earnings by five ten-thousandths (.0005).
For instance, a $2,000,000 first prize for a major would also include 1,000 FedEx Cup points (e.g., 2,000,000 * .0005).
Further, a tournament which offers say a $1,200,00 first prize, the FedEx Cup points would be 600, while the winner of an opposite field event with a $600,0000 first place prize would reward 300 points… and so on.
- The Masters: $2,070,000 (1,035 pts)
- WGC-FedEx: $1,820,000 (910 pts)
- the Memorial: $1,674,000 (837 pts)
- WM Phoenix Open: $1,314,000 (657 pts)
- Sony Open: $1,188,000 (594 pts)
- Barracuda: $630,000 (315 pts)
This is a simple and far more equitable approach to award points, which would better reflect a tournament’s muscle as bigger purses always draw more elite fields.
2. Create Tour Championship Course Rotation
Let’s face it. East Lake may be a charming little location in urban Atlanta with historic ties to the late, great Bobby Jones. But it’s a bottom tier venue relative to TV vistas. There’s nothing iconic, picturesque, or even memorable about the track. In fact, it’s quite boring.
How much more exciting would it be if the PGA Tour created a rotation of big-name, scenic venues such as Pebble Beach, Harbour Town, Sea Island, Whistling Straits, Kiawah Island, and/or Pinehurst – then market the season as The FedEx Cup Race to Pebble Beach. This would be a valuable advertising product for the host venue [think a resort] and a massive chip for the tour to use in negotiations.
3. Repurpose the FedEx Cup as The Stanley Cup of Golf, Not a Money-Grabbing Points Race
The PRIZE is the FedEx Cup trophy. Not the cash.
The FedEx Cup should be marketed as the Stanley Cup of golf – the ultimate season-ending prize.
Pay for a newly designed piece of hardware that’s massive, shiny, and wholly unique. Then spend millions on marketing the trophy, not bonus money that’s hidden from fans.
4. Reduce the Number of Qualifiers
The current lot of 125 is an absolute joke. For instance, Chesson Hadley made it into the playoffs on the number – at 125. His season included 27 starts and a single top-10 finish. He was ranked No. 257 in the world.
Folks, if that is worthy of a playoff spot, then the playoffs are not worth your attention.
Sure, give the Top 125 a ticket into next season (unless otherwise exempt) and maybe a cash bonus. But cut the opening leg to the Top 80 (or so) on the season’s points list.
If you look at those who finished 71-80, the average number of top-10 finishes was 3.5. Still not impressive, but much better, and those numbers would most likely improve if players knew they required a top-80 finish as opposed to a top-125 result.
Leg No. 2 (the BMW) is trimmed from a field of 70 to 60, while the Tour Championship remains at 30 but has a twist on the weekend.
- Leg 1: 80-player field (36-hole cut, top 60)
- Leg 2: 60-player field (no cut)
- Leg 3: 30-player field (36-hole cut)
5. Top Point Getters Clinch Spots in Fields
Instead of carrying points into the playoffs as a reward, the season’s best performers would clinch spots into the fields of the three playoff stops, based on where they finished in the regular season points race.
This would guarantee the season’s elite players are in the field for the finale while avoiding the marketing disaster of big names getting knocked out in the opening two legs.
- Top 80 clinch spot in Quarter Finals (FedEx St Jude Championship)
- Top 20 clinch spot in Semi Finals (BMW Championship)
- Top 10 clinch spot in Finals (Tour Championship)
- Top 5 clinch spot in Finals (Tour Championship) weekend
6. Regular Season Points Reset
This is the playoffs; you don’t carry your regular season record into the postseason. All points gained through the final regular season tournament (Wyndham Championship) get wiped clean.
Like with a brush? No. Just deleted.
But fear not, the season’s best performers will be justly rewarded. (See below)
7. Rebrand The TOUR Championship as The Super Bowl of Golf
With the rebranding of the FedEx Cup trophy as the ultimate season-ending prize, the Tour Championship would revert to the season-ending flagship event and marketed as the PGA Tour’s Super Bowl with the best players vying for the ultimate goal of hoisting the coolest trophy in all of golf: the all-new massive, shiny FedEx Cup – in the winner’s circle as the TOUR Champion.
Dump the handicaps and points: it’s a 30-player finale, with a twist. (more below)
8. Bring Back Official Money to The TOUR Championship
Since the advent of the pro golf tour, fans have always enjoyed following the money list. It’s why, back in the old newspaper days, the sports sections would list the winnings (i.e., “check cashers”) of Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, not just the boring final scores. Fans love to analyze the prize money – what a missed putt on 18 cost so and so, and whatnot.
For the PGA Tour to cancel the Official Money of the finale, and tuck it away as a “bonus,” in what it markets as the “biggest purse” in golf is nonsensical.
Of the $15 million prize money, allocate half ($7.5 million) as the tournament purse, which – with a 30-player field – would give the TOUR Championship the highest purse in all of golf. Use the other half for FedEx Cup bonuses or whatever.
9. Points Reset For the Finale
Playoff points will be carried over from the first leg to the second and ultimately decide the Top 30 that get into the Tour Championship: the 20 Players, who compiled the most points in the opening two rounds, and who otherwise didn’t qualify through the Top 10 in the regular season, qualify for the TOUR Championship. They would join the Top 10 exemptions.
But from there, it’s a clean slate. The points are wiped clean with all 30 starting off on equal footing. Sort of.
10. TOUR Championship: Points Format Finale
The Top 30 who make the TOUR Championship will be comprised of the Top 10 regular season exemptions and the Top 20 playoff point getters.
Further, the winners of the two opening playoff legs also clinch a spot into the weekend rounds, along with the Top 5 season qualifiers, equaling seven (7) total weekend exemptions into final rounds – no matter what.
This rewards those who performed best in the regular season as well as the top playoff performers and avoids the chance that someone could win the opening two legs and then miss the cut in the championship.
The Top 30 will play two rounds of stroke play with the Top 16 (including exemptions) moving onto the weekend for a 36-hole blitz, playing the exciting Stableford points format.