The Sports Revolution: Golf’s Major Playoffs

Let me set the scene for you: It’s the final week of the golf season, except nobody notices because the most important tournaments have already been played.

Let me reset the scene for you: It’s the final week of the golf season, and everybody’s* attention is riveted as the most important tournament wraps up six weeks of must-see golf.

*“Everybody” here does not, of course, mean “everybody,” but rather, you know, anyone somewhat enthused by the adventurous journey of that petite dimpled ball.

This is the third year of the FedEx Cup—golf’s subpar attempt at concocting end-of-season excitement with some absurd form of “playoffs.” There are four tournaments, a point system, and a reduced number of players in the field each week. But in 2007, Tiger Woods won easily because he dominated the whole year, and in 2008, Vijay Singh won easily because he won the first two of the “playoff” tournaments.

Golf’s problem is this: It wants the playoffs to be approached both by the players and its fans with the same level of seriousness and significance as the sport’s major championships, played intermittently throughout the season. But therein lies the rub: The playoffs won’t be taken this seriously while they’re competing with the major titles.

If Woods as expected holds on to win this week’s Tour Championship, he will earn an additional $10 million and his second FedEx Cup in three years. It will do absolutely nothing, however, to atone for his blown lead at August’s PGA Championship or to further his case for being golf’s greatest player ever. His race is with Jack Nicklaus, and it is quantified entirely by their respective number of major titles (18 for Jack, 14 for Tiger).

There are two ways to infuse the FedEx Cup with some semblance of significance. The first is to completely eliminate the major championships, which does no one any real good. The second is the tried-and-true principle of, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”

The FedEx Cup shouldn’t compete with the major championships; it should become them.

Look, it was nice that they played The Barclays—i.e. the first round of the Cup—on top of an old garbage dump in Jersey City where you had magnificent views of NYC, but the tournament itself holds minimal appeal (hence CBS’ constant cross-cuts to said scenery). Imagine this instead: four tournaments in six weeks played at the world’s greatest venues in the world’s greatest tournaments. You start in late July with 128 players at The Open Championship, cut it to 96 at the U.S. Open, take a week off, down to 64 at PGA Championship, week off, then finish your season in style with the best 32 players at Augusta National on Labor Day Weekend with The Masters.

You keep score cumulatively over the four tournaments. People get cut after each tournament, and whoever has the lowest score for 16 rounds of golf in the biggest tournaments on the best courses gets to take home the FedEx Cup.

Now, Pierre hears you: But what happens to whoever wins The Masters? What if that’s not the same person who wins the Cup? Well, to get a little, one must give. In order to achieve a true national champion in college football, we had to sacrifice the sanctity of the Rose Bowl. The current set-up means The Masters gives you a quarter-champion—a winner for a week. The chances of pretenders or flukes wearing the green jacket (I’m looking at you, Trevor Immelman!) is far higher now than it would be under my system, where to wear golf’s greatest coat, one must play 16 rounds of impeccable golf over four weeks. In other words, a true champion emerges.

What are your other complaints? That the rest of golf’s tournaments are meaningless? They’re meaningless now! The tournaments from March to July can be the regular season, helping us whittle down to 128 for The Open Championship. What else? That I’m grouping golf’s otherwise spread-out excitement into one stretch run? Exactly, I’m ratcheting up the excitement; instead of a tepidly attractive week here and moderately enticing week there, I put it all together during a six-week span where golf exploits the late-summer doldrums of the sporting schedule. And if you think spreading everything out works, consult the marketing team of the Davis Cup.

You can’t have playoffs if “regular-season” tournaments carry more weight. Pierre’s FedEx Cup solves all of golf’s problems and makes it the premier sporting event of the late summer. It’s time for a sport of tradition to step into the present.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Dion Frautschi on March 29, 2013 at 3:16 AM

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