Debate: Are the major changes to the 2019 FedEx Cup and Tour Championship brilliant or contrived?
This week the Associated Press' Doug Ferguson and Golf Digest's Brian Wacker reported that the tour is finalizing a new FedEx Cup structure in which the year-long points system will be abandoned at the Tour Championship. Instead, the FedEx Cup leader will start the season-finale at East Lake at 10 under par, while the rest of the 30-man field's scores will be staggered according to their position. Additionally, the new seeding system would automatically award the FedEx Cup and its sizable purse to the winner of the Tour Championship, thus avoiding the potentially confusing situation in which one player wins the season's final tournament and another player wins the FedEx Cup. This was the case in 2017 when Xander Schauffele won the Tour Championship, but Justin Thomas won the FedEx Cup.
Though the PGA Tour has a history of tinkering with its postseason format, this is undoubtedly its most progressive change. But, as is inherent to all radical ventures, it's been one met with mixed reception. Some are applauding the proposal, believing it solves the Schauffele/Thomas conundrum. Others deem it, well, a stunt that undermines what a postseason tries to achieve. Two of Golf Digest's own, digital editor Sam Weinman and staff writer Joel Beall, speak for each side of the debate.
Quick, name the most memorable finish to the FedEx Cup Playoffs. You had to think about it, right? Maybe because there HAVEN’T BEEN ENOUGH memorable finishes to the FedEx Cup Playoffs. The problem with the season-ending points competition, now in its 12th edition, is that for all the whiteboards and on-course branding we’re exposed to this time of the year, the FedEx Cup Playoffs still haven’t distinguished themselves as anything more than four loosely connected 72-hole tournaments. This new idea that defies everything we’ve come to know about stroke-play competition—the leader gets a headstart?—does that. It creates something wholly unique, distinct from everything else.
And better yet, it makes sense! The real challenge facing the Playoffs to date is that it has never been able to reconcile how to balance season-long proficiency with a late-summer surge. By spotting the points leader a couple of strokes advantage, you’re able to do just that, thus giving Tim Finchem’s brainchild its best chance to carve out an identity all its own. —Sam Weinman
It's a gimmick
Good on the tour for borrowing this component from its major sports brethren. Very similar to the NFL spotting the New England Patriots a touchdown in the Super Bowl, or the NBA giving the Golden State Warriors an 8-0 start in the Finals. Oh, right, those things don't happen, because they would be ridiculous, which this proposal is.
That the tour already carries over the regular-season standings—thus ensuring the top 15 players make it to East Lake—is enough of a head start (which, in that same breath, hinders the chance of a Cinderella making real noise). Worse, applying this framework to past Tour Championships shows it curbs, not spurs, a dramatic finale. Case in point: Rory McIlroy's sudden-death victory in 2016—arguably the pinnacle of the postseason's existence—would have been a ho-hum Dustin Johnson three-shot win under this format.
Props to the PGA Tour for its enterprising spirit, yet there are more dynamic ideas—like cuts and resets after 36 and 54 holes or adopting the GolfSixes configuration—that would facilitate the desired fireworks. And if the plans are implemented, officials should rename the chase "The FedEx Cup." Because playoffs, it is not. —Joel Beall