Are you ready for the PGA Tour playoffs?!?!
Whaddya mean you thought the golf season was over after the PGA Championship? Who told you that?
Oh, well Jim Nantz is a wise man, but this is the rare case where he's led you astray.
The FedEx Cup Playoffs, the tour's month-long postseason, start on Thursday. Despite its nine-year existence, a substantial contingent remains in the dark on how the playoff's format works. Fear not: We're here to answer every question you could possibly harbor towards golf's playoffs. Let them rip.
Q: Boy, that Wyndham Championship was something! Do you think Tiger Woods can carry over that momentum into the FedEx Cup?
A: Um, no.
Q: Why not?
A: Well, he failed to qualify. Only the top 125 players, according to the FedEx Cup rankings, make the Barclays, the first of four tournaments in the playoffs. Woods, who came in T-10 at Greensboro, ended up at 178th in the standings. Which is to be expected from someone who owned just one top-10 finish on the season.
Q: How do the FedEx Cup rankings work?
A: Glad you asked, and once the team of NASA scientists finds out, we'll be happy to report their discovery.
A: Well, the crude answer is, points are awarded for each tournament. The winner can get anywhere from 250-600 points, depending on the strength of the field, with other players receiving their allotment depending on where they place in each tournament. It's not a straightforward equation, which is how Jordan Spieth leads with 4,169 points, which is 1,710 more than Jason Day, who's in second place.
Q: Sounds confusing.
A: Tell the NASA scientists that.
Q: So, with such an astronomical lead, Speith has the FedEx Cup wrapped up?
A: God no. Once the FedEx Cup begins, it's anyone's game, as the winner of each of the four events is awarded 2,000 points. So while a strong summer can get you a head start, the FedEx Cup basically rewards whatever golfer plays best in that four-tournament window.
A: True, that's been a common complaint. But how many times do you see a wildcard team in the NFL or MLB win the title?
Q: Good point. So what tournaments comprise the FedEx Cup?
A: The Barclays, Deutsche Bank Championship, BMW Championship and the Tour Championship. The first three rotate venues. This year's Barclays is at Plainfield Country Club, the Deutsche Bank at TPC Boston and the BMW at Conway Farms Golf Club.
Q: Hey, those are some nice courses! I'm guessing the same applies to the Tour Championship, right?
A: About that...
Q: What's wrong?
A: Well, not that there's anything wrong, per se, about East Lake Golf Club, site of the Tour Championship. It's a Donald Ross design and was a former home to Bobby Jones. Unfortunately, it lacks the pizzazz you'd want out of a season-ending venue.
Put it this way: East Lake is like a ham-and-cheese sandwich. Perfectly suitable, gets the job done...but you're not bragging, or necessarily even happy, about having one.
Q: Huh. Have you ever played there?
A: Nope. And after that description, I'm guessing I never will.
US PGA TOUR
Q: So the 125 players will be competing in these four events?
A: Well, the top 125 are eligible for in The Barclays. After that, the top 100 advance to the Deutsche Bank. That field is cut to 70 players for the BMW, with the Tour Championship hosting the 30 players with the most points.
Q: Not a bad idea! I'm guessing that condensed field produces only marquee winners?
A: Sure, let's go with that.
Q: You mumbled. One more time.
A: Well, the last four winners -- Bill Haas, Brandt Snedeker, Henrik Stenson, Billy Horschel -- have never won a major, let alone won one in their respective FedEx Cup championship campaigns. It's kind of the elephant in the room: How can you crown someone the playoff winner when they failed to compete at one of the four main tournaments of the season? This was especially true of Horschel in 2014, whose best finish at a major was T-23. So, the point equation is a work in progress.
Q: I see. Any special parameters associated with the Tour Championship?
A: Are there ever! For the final week, the point totals are reset. Whoever is in first gets 2,000 points. Second, 1,800. This goes all the way down to the 30th player in the field, who's given 168 points. Any of the 30 players at the Tour Championship can theoretically win the FedEx Cup with a victory at the Tour Championship; however, a win doesn't necessarily equate to winning the FedEx Cup. The only caveat applies to the top five players, as a Tour Championship conquest does translate to the postseason crown.
Q: I'm confused again.
A: Trust me, the players have no idea how it works either. But that's the fun of it!
A: No, it's a pain in the butt.
Q: Anything else?
A: Well, the winner gets $10 million. To some, the ad campaigns putting emphasis on this bounty seem tone deaf. What should the public care about money they won't win? Conversely, that prize does secure a strong playing field. Oh, and there's this trophy, which appears to be the rendition of what an artist in 1984 thought the future would look like.
Q: You don't seem to be too excited about this.
A: Actually, I am. Yes, I'm not big on the venues, or the contrived and complicated points system, or the sentiment that I, someone struggling to pay bills, should care that a millionaire has a chance to become richer.
But for all its faults, the FedEx Cup does give golf zealots another four tournaments of must-watch theater. And with a multitude of rising stars, you better believe we're thankful for any opportunity to watch these guys compete.
Q: Final question: Who are you picking to win?
A: Robert Streb.
Q: That's kind of a random answer.
A: This is a season where a 22-year-old was four strokes away from the Grand Slam. A 51-year-old won a tour event. "Zach Johnson: Hall of Famer?" is an actual argument now. The former No. 1 player in the world missed a chunk of the season thanks a soccer injury and is skipping the first playoff event. And, despite all that, one of the biggest topics in the sport concerned the game's involvement with a possibly racist billionaire. What does make sense this year?