Monday, January 23, 2012

It's not volatile enough. It's too volatile. No one understands it. It keeps ending before the Tour Championship begins.

"Did they play that this year? I didn't watch a second of it," Jack Nicklaus told the Los Angeles Times in October. "Two years in a row, it was basically over before the Tour Championship was even played, and that doesn't make sense."

He's right. Woods had it all but wrapped up in 2007, and this year Vijay Singh needed only to complete his four rounds. The PGA Tour has failed by trying to please too many constituents and turning checkers into chess. From the beginning, the Cup was supposed to sustain fan interest through the Tour Championship. It has not.

For the Cup's third iteration, the Tour announced in November that it will wait to reset season-long point totals until before the Tour Championship (as opposed to before the first FedEx event).

We're told that this means any of the 30 players who make it to the season finale will have a mathematical chance to win the FedEx Cup. We'll see.

And this won't be the last big change, either, because the Cup is still misunderstood. It can't be a big finish to the season and an accurate reflection of the entire year at the same time. Let's all just decide right now that it's a playoff, which means disabusing ourselves of the idea that the guy who had the best regular season must make the Tour Championship. Abandoning this misplaced objective to validate a nice year would help untangle the biggest hairball of this thing: the math.

The Cup in its first two years was the credit default swap of golf: totally incomprehensible. Let's just ditch the calculators and use the money list to set the field for the first FedEx event at the Barclays; after all, it worked for Ryder Cup qualifying.

Finally, while we're under the hood, let's fix the eliminations. There are so many compelling ways to pare 144 players down to one, from sudden-death playoffs to match play to skills challenges, and the Tour uses none of them. Start with 128 players, then go to 64, 32 and finally 16 for a winner-take-all event at East Lake.

The first three events have to mean something, so let those tournaments determine not only who gets into the Tour Championship but also the seeding (if it's match play) or other advantages (stroke play). Give Singh a 15th club, a second caddie or a golf cart. Let him play from the forward tees or make the pairings, but, duh, don't give him the $10 million before anyone's hit a shot.

Who's running this thing — Congress?

 

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