Six Ways to Make the Playoffs Better
1. SHOW US THE MONEY
Sorry, but they do deferred payment in baseball, not golf. Not only are the fans confused by the $10 million deferred payment that goes to the winner not to mention by how the rest of the $35 million FedEx jackpot is split up but so are the players, who are just now waking up to the knowledge that a check does not await them at the conclusion.
When, at the recent Bridgestone Invitational, a clueless K.J. Choi said that he'd donate the entire $10 million to charity if he won, Stewart Cink shot back, "He'd have to get a loan."
Adds 31-year-old Tiger Woods, who'd have to wait 14 years to get his hands on his cash, "I may be dead by the time my retirement fund comes around."
The bottom line here is that cash is king. The Tour could even emulate the World Series of Poker and have a big FedEx delivery truck drive up to the East Lake course and dump the $10 million on the 1st tee. Is that hokey? No doubt. Is it good TV? Absolutely.
2. WHY A MEASLY
Want to make a splash? Supersize the first prize to $25 million, cash. Where would the extra money come from? Easy.
The entire FedEx Cup purse is $35 million. Right now all 144 players who tee it up in the first playoff event (and, go figure, six guys who don't make the playoffs) get a piece of the pie.
Maybe that was a smart way to get the rank and file to go along with a shorter season, but the FedEx Cup shouldn't be a guaranteed payday for guys who can't play dead.
This should be Smith Barney money you have to ear-r-rn it. Give the winner an attention-getting $25 million. The remaining $10 million is divvied up among the 29 other pros who make it to the Tour Championship.
The 114 guys who don't make it to Atlanta have the regular purses in the other playoff events as a consolation prize, so they have no reason to cry.
3. THE SPLITTER
The FedEx Cup is a season long event, and one of its aims was to entice top players to tee it up more often. Check the 2006 money list and you'll see that the top 10 money winners averaged only 21.4 starts, with Tiger Woods playing a bare-minimum 15. But the players who ranked 21st through 30th in earnings averaged 26.7 starts.
How can we get the top guys to play more? We split the FedEx Cup season into three roughly equivalent mini seasons. The top finisher in each third is guaranteed a ranking equivalent to 10th place on the reset at the start of the playoffs, and each trimester runner-up is guaranteed the equivalent of 16th place. (If someone finishes higher in the seasonlong standings, he starts from the higher position.)
Splitting the season could be a real incentive because the Tour's own computer models show that the FedEx Cup champion will most likely come from the top 15 positions. Using the 2007 schedule, we'd end the first third after the Shell Houston Open in early March. The second third would run from the Masters through the Stanford St. Jude Championship in June, and the final third would end with the Wyndham Championship.
In theory, a player who gets off to a good start on the West Coast might decide to add tournaments and try to win the first third. Also, a split schedule would focus attention on the FedEx Cup points race from the get-go.
4. BONUS BABIES
Using the three-miniseason setup described above, bump up the FedEx points available at the three tournaments that end each trimester from 25,000 to 40,000.
The opportunity to guarantee yourself a top 10 start in the playoffs with one big week should draw a lot of players into the field and heat up the competition.
5. DESIGNATED HITTER
There are 11 Tour events that Tiger Woods has never played for one reason or another, and several more that are routinely saddled with weak fields.
To help those Tour stops out, we propose that to be eligible for the FedEx Cup playoffs, a player must enter at least one of the following 10 tournaments during the season: PODS Championship, Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, Shell Houston Open, Zurich Classic, EDS Byron Nelson Championships, Travelers Championship, John Deere Classic, U.S. Bank Championship, Canadian Open, Wyndham Championship. Is that asking too much?
6. LEMANS START
Forget the points, the calculations and the reset. Call this the minimalist FedEx Cup for those who think the current system is too complicated: After the PGA Championship, the top 144 money winners start from zero in the Barclays and the Deutsche Bank.
The 70 guys who win the most money in those two tournaments advance to the BMW Championship. The top 30 after that event move on to the Cup's grand finale at the Tour Championship.