Now we come to the most exciting part of the golf season — the playoffs. Not the FedEx Cup. The other playoffs. The Web.com Tour Finals. It's a poor man's FedEx Cup playoff system based on money won instead of a confusing points system that resets for the last event.
This four-tournament Web.com series is the new Q-school. It's supposed to be so much better and so much more interesting than the old format. That's how PGA Tour officials pitched it, at least, but one week into it and hardly anybody is paying attention. Gee, maybe scheduling it opposite the FedEx Cup playoffs wasn't such a great idea. Also, nobody seems to understand how it works.
So let's straighten that out.
First of all, eligible players include Nos. 1-75 on the Web.com money list, and Nos. 126-200 on the PGA Tour money list. The top 25 money winners on the Web.com are playing for pecking order in 2014, while the rest are playing for the last 25 PGA Tour cards up for grabs for 2014, plus pecking order.
And this is where the new system begins to fall apart.
It's okay for Tiger Woods to finish 64th at the Deutsche Bank Championship and slip only one place in the FedEx standings, to second, because the FedEx is based on a player's body of work all season. Tiger is being rewarded for his five wins, no matter how inconsistent he is in the playoffs. But in the Web.com Tour Finals, the 25 players who played the best on the Web.com all season and who are guaranteed PGA Tour privileges next year have to grind out an additional four full tournaments — that's 288 holes — just to establish the pecking order next year. They could very easily be leapfrogged by the PGA Tour rejects (Nos. 126-200) who didn't keep their cards this season, and so far that's the way it's playing out.
Former Masters champion Trevor Immelman fell into the 126-200 group (he was 143rd on the FedEx Cup points list) but won last weekend's Hotel Fitness Championship, the first stop on the four-event series. The $180,000 first prize guarantees that Immelman will finish among the top 25 and get his PGA Tour card back, and he'll obviously earn a pretty high priority ranking, likely among the top 10.
A year ago, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said, "With the Web.com Tour becoming the pathway to the PGA Tour, it was important to continue rewarding season-long performance."
But with one good week Immelman jumped every Web.com grad, whose position was based on a full year of good work, except the No. 1 money-winner. How is that rewarding season-long performance?
"I think it's a better system where performance matters over the entire season," Web.com Tour president Bill Calfee said a year ago when the system was put in place.
Except it doesn't matter nearly enough. The guy who finished second on the Web.com money list for the whole season is slugging it out with the guy who finished 200th on the PGA Tour points list? There is something wrong with that. I've never understood why Mr. 200th Place Finisher gets a shot at a Tour card and the best player in college or amateur golf does not. And whether the 200th player from the PGA Tour is better than the 25th player from the Web.com is a debate that has no correct answer.
This is clearly not the best or fairest way to reward performance over the entire season. In fact, it borders on not making any sense whatsoever. Eight of the 25 Web.com grads missed the cut at the Hotel Fitness Championship, so they're sliding to the back of the priority list.
Four Web.com tournaments seem like a lot of trouble to determine priority rankings that change during the PGA Tour season based on points accrued. It's called the reshuffle. In past years, the Q-school and Web.com grads earned their rankings separately and were alternately mixed in together. Then their rankings were reshuffled after the end of the West Coast portion of the tour. So all a good finish from Q-school or Web.com got you was a good ranking for the season's first eight tournaments.
This isn't much different. As for this system being a more marketable format for the public, it seems doubtful that the Web.com wind-up is going to gain any traction or interest. Not with the FedEx Cup finishing at the same time, closely followed by the Presidents Cup, which will then closely be followed by the start of the 2014 season under the revised PGA Tour schedule.
You may now resume your naps.
Let's go to the Van Cynical Mailbag:
Van Cynical, Why not pair Phil and Tiger in the Presidents Cup? Add some spice to a non-event event. Don't you think THEY want to prove it can work? — Michael O'Connor via Twitter
You're not thinking outside the box, Mannix, you're thinking outside the brain. Tiger and Phil don't want to prove anything that involves actually spending time together. They are the opposite of a bro-mance. I believe each man would be happy if the other took a decade-long sabbatical to Saturn's fourth moon. I agree that such a boffo pairing would spice up a decidedly unsexy event. But remember, there's nothing to keep Tiger or Phil from declining to play in what amounts to a yet another PGA Tour marketing venture whose greatest historical moment was two teams playing to a tie and then having the commissioner make up a new rule, on the spot, to allow it. Anyway, the moral here is, keep 'em happy, keep 'em playing.
Vans, Is there overtime in the FedEx Cup playoffs or do they go straight to a shootout? — Dan O'Neill via Twitter
I'd say they should go right to a Merrill Lynch Chip-Off but this isn't the 1980s anymore, therefore only the oldest golf aficionados will even know what I'm talking about. You've gotta Hook 'Em, Dan O, with something catchy. Remember the Tour Championship playoff where Bill Haas splashed a shot out of the pond at East Lake? That's about the best we can hope for. The Tour has cleverly arranged the points, which are reset at the last minute, to make sure a tie won't happen.
Gary, Do you think the PGA Tour took away a key part of the Phoenix Open by eliminating caddie races? — Douglas Schwimer via Twitter
When one of those caddies falls and breaks his neck or shoots his eye out, you wouldn't be laughing then, Dougietime. This is a golf tournament, not Sideshow Bob's Carnival. Let's keep Phoenix Open fans focused on what they should be focused on — wagering on golf shots hit to the 16th green by players, screaming at sign-board carriers to tip their hats and then a wasted evening of drinking and carousing at the Bird's Nest.
Van Cynical, Were you the one who did a story about Sam Snead's victory total being corrected and that Tiger Woods should already be considered the all-time winningest PGA Tour golfer? — Doug S. via email
Yes, that piece was by me and golf historian Sal Johnson in our U.S. Open preview issue. We downgraded Snead's victory total from 82 to 74 because some were for 18- and 36-hole events (not official length today), some had fields of 16 or fewer players, and five were wins with partners in team events (not official today). With 79 wins, Tiger has already passed Snead, in our view. Other Tour records that should be revised include the all-time consecutive in-the-money record (Ben Hogan with 177, not Byron Nelson or Tiger Woods) and Byron's 11 straight wins, which should be reset to 10 because one was with partner Jug McSpaden in a two-man event. It's not right to rewrite history, you say? The PGA Tour has done it several times already.
Vans, Why does Sergio's 3-wood on Sundays act like mine does every day? #anywherebutstraight — Alex Williamson via Twitter
Maybe it's not acting.
Gary: McIlroy, Donald, Westwood, McDowell and Garcia = missing in action? What up European golf? Why are Rose and Stenson the new standard-bearers? — Kokomice via Twitter
Success breeds complacency, it's only human nature. Rose and Stenson are still the hungriest, perhaps. McDowell did have a nice run in early spring, and won at Harbour Town after the Masters. He and McIlroy aren't ready to go away yet. Westwood turned 40 and doesn't putt like a youngster anymore but still had six top-10 finishes. Donald isn't among the top 165 in greens hit in regulation — poor iron play. And Sergio — who knows where his head is? Plus, this isn't a Ryder Cup year so the Euros feel no sense of urgency, perhaps.
Vans, Instead of a playoff hole to decide a PGA Tour event, why not have a 300-yard closest to the pin contest? — GolfGiftGuy via Twitter
When the U.S. Open was at Oakmont, they had a name for a hole that — a par 3. That's kind of a strange playoff idea, Guy, but it might fit in with that rain-plagued LPGA tournament in Bermuda that featured 12-hole rounds of golf.