It’s been reported in several places this week (first place I saw it was GolfNewsNet) that Dustin Johnson is going to be paid $175,000 for finishing 30th in the FedEx Cup standings, despite the fact that Dustin is on a “voluntary leave of absence.” That’s not sitting well with some people, but I’m not one of them. To begin this quick primer, I present to you, the FedEx bonus money distribution payouts, directly from the tour website:
I was engaged in a lengthy twitter debate with Geoff Shackleford on Monday night on this subject (you can read the majority of it here, if you care to) when I responded to a post of his that was titled “Money Not Well Earned.” While I respect Geoff’s opinion (and I’ve been a fan of his work for many years), for many reasons, I did not agree with the assertion that the money was not earned. Let’s start with this tweet:
@djs123sports @NoLayingUp @brianros1 It’s a playoffs bonus pool. Shouldn’t you have to show in the playoffs to get it?
— Geoff Shackelford (@GeoffShac) September 9, 2014
Notice in the chart above, that nowhere on the PGA Tour website does it describe the money distribution as playoff specific money. It simply lists the final FedEx Cup position, and the corresponding payout. Despite not playing in any of the playoff events due to his “voluntary leave of absence,” DJ still sits at 30th in the FedEx Cup standings. He was 4th in the FedEx Cup standings when his voluntary leave began, and despite enormous amounts of points being handed out through the first three playoff events, only 29 players finished with more points than DJ. What I’m struggling to understand is why some think he doesn’t deserve the money for finishing in 30th?
The “Voluntary Leave of Absence”
The PGA Tour has received a huge amount of criticism for their lack of transparency regarding player fines, suspensions, and other disciplinary actions. You’re not going to find anyone who agrees with their policy, except for maybe DJ himself. Everyone knows that Johnson’s “voluntary leave of absence” was anything but voluntary. When it was reported by golf.com that DJ was suspended due to a third positive drug test, the PGA Tour responded with the following statement:
“With regard to media reports that Dustin Johnson has been suspended by the PGA Tour, this is to clarify that Mr. Johnson has taken a voluntary leave of absence and is not under a suspension by the PGA Tour.”
It’s one thing to criticize the tour’s policies, but its another to call them liars. Do I think they’re skating by on a technicality? Absolutely. But they explicitly stated that he’s not suspended. Golf.com responded:
“The difference may be seen as semantic. Faced with a suspension for a failed drug test, a Tour player has the right, under published Tour guidelines, to appeal his penalty. The Tour was preparing for Johnson to lodge such an appeal. But Johnson waived that right and decided to take his self-described leave of absence.”
The tour’s stance remains that DJ is not suspended. He took a “voluntary” leave presumably to get around the suspension. You can roll your eyes at the technicality, but I think it is critical in this scenario. So if he’s not suspended by the tour, why wouldn’t he be able to collect his 30th place money? Even if he was suspended, could he collect?
The FedEx Cup Playoffs
The playoffs do not function like normal tour events. There are no alternates, and no priority systems involved. If you’re in the top 125 at the end of the regular season, you make it into the Barclays. If a player gets injured or has to withdraw, number 126 does not get into the event. That continues all the way through the Tour Championship. I could not disagree more with the premise that Dustin Johnson is taking a spot away from someone else (Stuart Appleby finished 31st in the FedEx Cup standings) at the Tour Championship. If Jason Day withdraws from the event (a reasonable scenario, given his WD at the BMW), Appleby still does not get in. From the tour website:
The finale, the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola in Atlanta, will be comprised of the top-30 qualifiers following the BMW Championship… In the event that a player who qualifies for a Playoff event chooses not to play in that event, there will be no alternates, and the field will be shortened.
That’s air tight right there. Dustin Johnson was never removed from the FedEx Cup standings, which makes sense, considering the tour that administers the FedEx Cup has explicitly stated that he is NOT suspended (and I’m still not sure he would get removed even if he was technically suspended). Also, consider the fact a Masters exemption is given to “those qualifying for the previous year’s season-ending Tour Championship (Top 30 in FedEx Cup prior to tournament).” Again, Appleby did not qualify for the tour championship. So on what grounds could the tour say that DJ shouldn’t get his money? A win and seven top-10’s earned him 1,769 points, which was good enough for 30th. Dustin is going to get his money.