PLAYOFF TIME PGA TOUR STYLE
The game of golf entered a new era in 2007 when the PGA TOUR launched the FedExCup, a season-long points competition offering $35 million in bonus money and the Tour’s first-ever playoff series. With the opening round of the four season ending playoff events scheduled to begin August 27 at The Barclays in New Jersey, the race to golf’s richest prize is about to get underway. Coupled with $32 million in tournament prize money and another $35 million in season ending FedExCup bonus money, there’s a total of $67 million on the line over the four week race to crown this year’s FedExCup champion.
It seems as if every avid golf fan on the face of the planet has had some form of opinion regarding the FedExCup point system. Maybe the point system is too volatile during the playoffs. Maybe the point system is not volatile enough during the playoffs. Maybe the point system is simply too difficult to understand without a master’s degree in advanced mathematics.
So how does it work? During the 43 events on the regular PGA Tour schedule, Tour members earn FedExCup points based on their results, with a strong emphasis placed on winning and high finishes. Once the regular season ends, the top-125 players advance to the FedExCup Playoffs. The pressure packed series of four events features a progressive cut beginning with 125 players at The Barclays, continuing with the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston which tees off the top 100 players and the BMW Championship in Chicago which starts with a field of 70 players. Only the top-30 players will make it to the TOUR Championship in Atlanta where the FedExCup Champion will be crowned.
Tiger Woods won the inaugural FedExCup in 2007 and again in 2009. Others to hoist the trophy include Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, Bill Haas, Brandt Snedeker, and Henrik Stenson. Billy Horschel won in 2014. Before the playoffs began, the 27-year-old Horschel’s resume didn’t exactly strike much fear into opponents. He had one career PGA Tour victory in 2013 and posted a strong top-five finish in the 2013 U.S. Open but had otherwise failed to make his mark as an elite golfer. And he looked nothing like a FedExCup champion in the first playoff event, missing the cut at The Barclays. Then, he turned things around in a heartbeat.
Horschel brought his best to the Deutsche Bank Championship, the second of the four playoff events and while he failed to hold on to his Sunday lead over a charging Chris Kirk, with two tournaments left, he made the most of it. With a win at the BMW Championship in resounding fashion holding off Bubba Watson in the final round he followed-up with a victory at the season-ending TOUR Championship where he made no doubt of his FedExCup title. In the end, Horschel earned $14.8 million playing golf on the PGA Tour during the 2013-14 season including regular season earnings, playoff winnings and his $10 million share of the $35 million FedExCup bonus pool. That’s a lot of money, but it doesn’t undermine what he did for his caddie after all the dust had settled. According to a story in Golfweek, Horschel left a $10,000 tip for the locker-room attendants at East Lake Golf Club, site of his title-clinching victory and then dished out a cool $1 million to caddie Micah Fugitt for helping him reach the pinnacle of golf financially.
The FedExCup will likely never rival the major championships, and the PGA Tour may keep tinkering with the format for years to come, but however you slice it the FedExCup Playoffs are all about the kind of excitement that happens when you bring the top players in the world together for a four tournament series with more than $67 million on the line. Over time, the FedExCup Playoffs will be as natural to golf as a run to the World Series or the Stanley Cup playoffs and golf will be better for it.