FedEx playoffs should be based on par, not points

Matt Kuchar
Carlos M. Saavedra/SI
By any measure, Matt Kuchar leads the FedEx Playoffs heading into the final event.

For a system based entirely on points, the FedEx Cup series continues to miss the point. Completely.

After criticism in the first two seasons that the point system was too complicated, the PGA Tour tweaked it. What that meant, simply, was greatly reducing the number of points. It also significantly increased the importance of the four playoff events, which are worth 2,500 points each, five times what a regular season tour event is worth. The four major championships are each worth 600 points. You can do the math: Winning the Grand Slam would be worth 2,400 points, 100 points fewer than Matt Kuchar got for winning the Barclays. But since the points reset before the Tour Championship, like NASCAR bringing everyone back to the same lap for a final sprint to the finish, maybe it doesn't matter.

If you can live with that, then you're probably also fine with Charley Hoffman being No. 3 in points going into the Tour Championship even though he didn't qualify for any of this year's four major championships. Kevin Streelman is 67th on the money list, and he's in Atlanta. Martin Laird is 44th. They're golf's wild-card teams, and that's O.K.

The Tour could tweak the points system every year, however, and it wouldn't address the real problem: the points don't relate to anything real. They're arbitrary numbers, and no amount of adjusting will change that fact. (Also, it's virtually impossible to "keep score." Sure, the TV networks try to provide the projected FedEx Cup standings, but they change every minute as big chunks of points are added and subtracted from players' projected totals.)

The only chance of making the FedEx Cup race interesting to viewers and the media is to score in terms of something we can understand: relation to par. Simply keep track of players' cumulative scores during the four playoff tournaments.

At each FedEx Cup event after the opener, there would be two leaderboards. One for that event, and one for the FedEx Cup. Dustin Johnson might be leading the BMW at eight under, but Matt Kuchar is leading the FedEx Cup at 29 under. That way, every player in the field (and every fan) knows where he stands in relation to the FedEx Cup race.

That's pretty much the only way anyone will arrive at the 72nd hole at East Lake and know what he has to do to win the FedEx Cup, and the only way any player will ever stand over a putt knowing it's worth $10 million, a moment I think we're all rooting for.

I have computed how the FedEx Cup standings would look using my system. Ten players who made it into the field at East Lake would be out in my scoring system because they either failed to play (Jim Furyk was disqualified because he missed his pro-am tee time) or missed a cut along the way. That includes Furyk, Phil Mickelson, Geoff Ogilvy, Justin Rose, Tim Clark, Ben Crane, K.J. Choi, Jeff Overton, Ryan Moore and Bo Van Pelt. Cumulative scoring would encourage, and possibly require, perfect attendance, and field sizes could be adjusted accordingly.

To reward the players who win each playoff event, I give them a five-shot bonus. Kuchar won the Barclays in a playoff at 12 under, so his FedEx Cup score is adjusted to 17 under. Hoffman and Dustin Johnson also earned the bonus with their playoff wins.

A few things stand out in these new standings, listed below. Tiger Woods easily makes it to the Tour Championship with a cumulative three-week score of 18 under. In the real FedEx Cup system, Woods finished 42nd and didn't advance. Some other notable differences: Y.E. Yang moved from 67th to 13th, Adam Scott moved from 14th to fourth, and Streelman jumped from 29th to eighth. Ernie Els, eighth in the real list, dropped to 28th in my table.

The Tour says its revised system guarantees victory for any top-five player who wins the Tour Championship, and that it is mathematically possible, though unlikely, for the player ranked 30th to claim the FedEx Cup.

In my top 30 players, there's a spread of 31 strokes between Kuchar at 33 under and Angel Cabrera at two under. Since the winner gets a five-stroke bonus, that's really a 26-shot spread. It is very possible to make up 26 shots in a 72-hole event. The spread between first place and last place at the BMW Championship, for instance, was 26 shots. What a coincidence.

Tiger would begin the Tour Championship 15 shots behind Kuchar. Wouldn't it be fun seeing him try to whittle away at that lead every day?

Cumulative par may be an obvious alternative, and it doesn't reflect how well a player performed during the regular season, but that's O.K. Once the playoffs start, it doesn't matter how many games the Yankees won in the regular season, either.

Cumulative score relative to par for Barclays, Deutsche Bank and BMW Championships. Tournament winners earned a five-shot bonus. Rankings under current FedEx Cup point system are in parentheses.

1. Matt Kuchar (1) -33
2. Charley Hoffman (3) -29
3. Steve Stricker (4) -27
4. Adam Scott (14) -25
5. Dustin Johnson (2) -23
6. Paul Casey (5) -22
7. Luke Donald (7) -20
8. Kevin Streelman (29) -18
8. Tiger Woods (42) -18
10. Retief Goosen (17) -17
10. Jason Day (6) -17
10. Charlie Wi (33) -17
13. Y.E. Yang (67) -16
14. Ryan Palmer (16) -15
14. Bubba Watson (18) -15
16. Kevin Na (20) -13
17. Martin Laird (9) -11
17. Michael Sim (45) -11
19. Zach Johnson (19) -10
20. Nick Watney (28) -8
21. Bill Haas (31) -7
21. John Senden (50) -7
23. Greg Chalmers (56) -6
23. Justin Leonard (59) -6
25. Stewart Cink (38) -5
25. Marc Leishman (44) -5
25. Hunter Mahan (15) -5
28. Ernie Els (8) -3
29. Robert Allenby (27) -2
29. Angel Cabrera (61) -2
31. Rickie Fowler (32) -1
32. Matt Jones (63) 0
33. Rory McIlroy (36) 0
34. D.J. Trahan (49) 0
35. Camilo Villegas (25) 0

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