The Tour Championship is unimaginative, anticlimactic, and an inadequate coronation for the PGA Tour season, let alone the FedEx Cup ‘playoffs.’ It’s time for the powers-that-be to seriously rethink the format, freshen things up, and work to make the annual event something we can really get excited about. There’s really no excuse for golf fans to be more captivated by the minor league Web.com playoffs than the FedEx Cup playoffs, yet here I am, again totally underwhelmed by the current iteration of the Tour Championship/FedEx Cup finale and much more interested to see which guys win their Tour card via the Web playoffs.
So what can Finchem and crew do? The easy option would be to make the Tour Championship a one-and-done match-play event (in concert with euthanizing the WGC Match Play) whereby the top-32 guys after the BMW are seeded accordingly and given the opportunity to compete for the $10 million annuity and honor of ‘Tour Champion’ mano-a-mano. The bracket could be engineered to give the top 2, 4, or whatever guys byes and thus reward their season-long excellence. In all, pretty standard-fare stuff to organize and implement by the Tour office, and I think a vast improvement on the status quo.
A more complicated idea would be to rip a page from the FIFA World Cup playbook, get exotic with the Tour Championship, and stage a match-play based event involving both round-robin group play and a knockout style tournament. Here’s how I would construct it:
- The leader of the regular season FedEx Cup standings gets a bye into the knockout stage of the Tour Championship and is seeded #1.
- The top three players (aside from the regular season leader) in the FedEx Cup standings after the BMW Championship receive byes into the knockout stage and are seeded #2, #3 and #4, respectively.
- The next best 16 finishers in the FedEx Cup standings after the BMW Championship qualify for Group Play at the Tour Championship.
- One week, Thursday through Wednesday, ideally at a baller West Coast venue (for primetime TV purposes)
- Group play is comprised of four randomly drawn groups, each consisting of four players (to be done live Sunday night on Golf Channel following the completion of the BMW).
- Group play occurs Thursday through Saturday with contestants playing one 18-hole match each day.
- Group winners are decided on total record, advancing to Knockout Play (in the event of a tie, players break the tie on ‘Tiebreaker’ Sunday).
- Two-man ties are broken in match-play format on Sunday (already beat the guy? Too bad, beat him again). Three-man ties are broken by stroke play on Sunday.
- The 4 group winners advance to Knockout play beginning Monday.
- The 4 group play winners are slotted into the knockout bracket based on their respective position in the final FedEx Cup leaderboard so that the #1 seed gets the lowest finisher, #2 seed the second lowest, etc.
- Monday is an 18-hole quarterfinal match (airing on Golf Channel in primetime).
- Tuesday is an 18-hole semifinal match (again in primetime, and again on Golf Channel).
- Wednesday is a 36-hole Final in primetime on NBC.
Winner gets $10 million.
Here’s how this would look in reality:
Byes to Knockout Play
#1 seed: Rory McIlroy (regular season FedEx leader)
#2 seed: Chris Kirk
#3 seed: Billy Horschel
#4 seed: Bubba Watson
Randomly Drawn Groups:
Group A: John Senden, Jason Day, Russell Henley, and Matt Kuchar
Group B: Jordan Speith, Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, and Martin Kaymer
Group C: Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Cameron Tringale, and Hunter Mahan
Group D: Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Bill Haas, and Jim Furyk (Group of Death…I think???)
Group Play Schedule:
Thursday through Saturday is Group play, with 8 singles matches being contested each day. Sunday is ‘Tiebreaker’ day, where any Group ties are settled and winners declared (if you clinch on Saturday, great, you get a day off).
That’s three, most likely four, highly entertaining, quality days of golf. And this is just Group Play.
Note: I’ve anointed the following Group winners (with their FedEx Cup standing in parentheses): Jason Day (#10), Jordan Spieth (#11), Rickie Fowler (#9) and Adam Scott (#12).
Rory McIlroy v. Adam Scott (Jesus! /hands up, /leaning back)
Bubba Watson v. Rickie Fowler (Good versus evil, errrrrrr, golf boy versus golf boy)
Chris Kirk v. Jordan Spieth (It’s like that Mellencamp song, two American golfers growin’ up in the heartland)
Billy Horschel v. Jason Day (This match may be judged on number of GIRs bagged, a true ball-striking celebration)
Tell me you’re not excitedly tuning in Monday night for those matches, let alone the possibilities on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Most importantly, though, the Tour Championship would be transformed from a math-heavy, mostly boring, four-day limp home to a seven-day extravaganza featuring intriguing matches each and every day. No math. No projecting of FedEx positioning Thursday afternoon. We can make brackets and run gambling pools. All in all, this seems like a no-brainer to me. Do it, Finchey!!
If you have better ideas, please share them in the comments below. And if you like the current iteration of the FedEx Cup/Tour Championship please share *that* below too–you’ll be the first person I’ve met who does.