Tiger wouldn’t have won the 2018 Tour Championship under 2019’s new format

August 20, 2019

Some significant changes were made to the FedEx Cup playoffs this year, and regardless of how you feel about them, one thing is for sure: Had this year’s changes been instituted last year, Tiger Woods would not have won the Tour Championship.

Wait, say what?! You heard me. One of 2018’s most indelible moments — the swarming crowds, the Tiger chants, the return of the roar — would be up in smoke.

How is that possible, when the Big Cat so memorably triumphed by two shots over Billy Horschel? It has everything to do with the new strokes-based system that will be put in play at this year’s Tour Championship. Unlike previous years, which have featured a different champion for the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup, going forward, the FedEx Cup champion must also win the Tour Championship.

But there’s a catch! To reward performances in the previous two FedEx Cup playoff events, the Northern Trust and the BMW Championship, the top players in the FedEx Cup standings will be given a head start at the Tour Championship, with the No. 1 player beginning at 10 under par, the No. 2 player at 8 under, the No. 3 player at 7 under, the No. 4 player at 6 under, and the No. 5 player at 5 under. Players 6-10 start at 4 under, players 11-15 start at 3 under, players 16-20 start at 2 under, players 21-25 start at 1 under, and players 26-30 start at even par.

So with that in mind, let’s go back to 2018. Check out how the leaderboard would have looked at the start of the Tour Championship:

-10 Bryson DeChambeau
-8 Justin Rose
-7 Tony Finau
-6 Dustin Johnson
-5 Justin Thomas
-4 Keegan Bradley
-4 Brooks Koepka
-4 Bubba Watson
-4 Billy Horschel
-4 Cameron Smith
-3 Webb Simpson
-3 Jason Day
-3 Francesco Molinari
-3 Phil Mickelson
-3 Patrick Reed
-2 Patrick Cantlay
-2 Rory McIlroy
-2 Xander Schauffele
-2 Tommy Fleetwood
-2 Tiger Woods
-1 Aaron Wise
-1 Kevin Na
-1 Rickie Fowler
-1 Jon Rahm
-1 Kyle Stanley
E Paul Casey
E Hideki Matsuyama
E Gary Woodland
E Marc Leishman
E Patton Kizzire

Woods would have started the Tour Championship with an eight-shot deficit to the then No. 1-ranked Bryson DeChambeau. Now, here’s what the final leaderboard would have looked like at the Tour Championship’s conclusion, with the head starts incorporated into the players’ final scores:

-14 Justin Rose
-13 Tiger Woods
-13 Billy Horschel
-13 Dustin Johnson
-11 Bryson DeChambeau
-10 Justin Thomas
-10 Tony Finau
-9 Webb Simpson
-7 Xander Schauffele
-7 Rory McIlroy
-6 Hideki Matsuyama
-6 Rickie Fowler
-6 Tommy Fleetwood
-5 Jason Day
-5 Jon Rahm
-4 Gary Woodland
-4 Paul Casey
-4 Kyle Stanley
-4 Aaron Wise
-4 Cameron Smith
-2 Francesco Molinari
-1 Patrick Cantlay
E Brooks Koepka
E Keegan Bradley
+1 Patton Kizzire
+1 Marc Leishman
+2 Kevin Na
+6 Patrick Reed
+6 Bubba Watson
+10 Phil Mickelson

As you can see, Woods would have fallen a shot short of the title, given the six-shot head start awarded to Rose. While the idea of Tiger’s historic victory being denied is outrageous in retrospect, it spotlights just how difficult it is to produce a playoff system that is competitive throughout, yet still rewards a full season of good play. It goes without saying that it will be interesting to see how the new system plays out this week.

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