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Jon Rahm is not a fan of the FedEx Cup Playoffs format: 'I don't think it's fair'

August 20, 2021

Jon Rahm plays his third shot on the 15th hole during the second round of the Northern Trust.

Stacy Revere

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Jon Rahm knows the FedEx Cup Playoffs format well—it's out of sheer familiarity. The Spaniard has made the Tour Championship in each of the four years he’s been on tour and is a shoe-in to make it to East Lake once again this year. He entered the postseason fifth in the standings and, after opening the Northern Trust with 63-67 and 36 bogeyless holes, he’s projected to move into the top spot should he hold on for the victory.

Given his remarkable form and clear status as the game’s premier player at the moment, Rahm has to be the favorite to win the $15 million grand prize in 16 days’ time. That does not mean he likes the format of these playoffs, though. Not even close.

“I don’t think it’s fair,” the 26-year-old said Friday at Liberty National. “I don’t like that at all. I think you have the playoffs itself and win the first two, and if you don’t play good on the last one, you don’t—you can end up with a really bad finish.”

Rahm’s referring to the format the PGA Tour debuted last year, where points become irrelevant after the BMW Championship. Each player, depending on his position in the FedEx Cup, starts the Tour Championship at a certain score and, from there, they play a 72-hole tournament to determine the order of the top-20 finishers on tour.

The scenario Rahm’s describing is indeed possible. If a player wins the first two FedEx Cup Playoffs events to (likely) take the lead in the postseason, he’d begin the Tour Championship at 10 under par, with a two-shot lead over the guy in second. If the leader puts up a clunker at East Lake and tumbles down the board, that would de-value the two previous wins.

“I understand the system, and the way I was told by one of the PGA Tour officials—I’m a Patriots fan, and if the Patriots win everything and get to the Super Bowl, and they don’t win the Super Bowl, you don’t win the Lombardi Trophy, right?” Rahm said. “My answer was, they still finished second. They have to understand golf is a little different.

“At the end of the day, you could win 15 events, including both playoffs events, and you have a two-shot lead. I understand it’s for TV purposes and excitement and just making it more of a winner-take-all, and they give you a two-shot advantage, but over four days that can be gone in two holes, right?

“I don't know what system is best. I do like going to East Lake with this new one in the sense of knowing where you stand and what you have to do. You know, the years prior, so many different combinations of what could happen. It was kind of hard to get your head focused on one thing, right. I don't think it's a fair system in that sense now, but it's the one we have and it's what we've got to deal with.”

Last year, Dustin Johnson won the first playoff event and finished runner-up in the second, where he lost in a playoff to Rahm, started the Tour Championship with a two-shot lead … and did indeed win the FedEx Cup despite both Xander Schauffele and Scottie Scheffler shooting lower 72-hole scores.