Normally, news and opinions about the PGA TOUR aren’t covered on NEOHgolf.com. Because usually that news and those opinion are ubiquitous throughout the national golf media and there isn’t much more to offer here.
But after watching the TOUR’s AP news story trial balloon about offering players a head-start in the 2019 playoffs, then reading commentary from myriad golf writers about their ideas for new potential formats, I had to weigh in. Because to me, the solution is obvious — but I still haven’t seen it laid out anywhere. So here we go.
First, the PGA TOUR has been making the playoffs concept far too confusing for years. And since next year the playoff schedule will be reduced from four events to three, they should also reduce the number of players capable of winning a season-long title like the FedEx Cup.
Plus the concept should make for better TV and still be based on traditional tournament golf — instead of giving players a head-start or naming two winners in one event.
Now, the rank and file players aren’t going to allow the PGA TOUR start with less than a top-125 field in the first playoff event. OK fine. But the second event field should be reduced greatly, to 60 players. The points awarded for these first two playoff events should be set so that only a pair of wins gets the player starting at 125 into the Tour Championship. Points should also be set so that one playoff win and one made cut is required for any player starting the playoffs outside the top-30 to get to the Tour Championship. Setting points for the playoffs this way makes the season-long concept far more valid.
So start the playoffs with a 125 player stroke play event. Then cut and go to a 60 player stroke play field for the second event.
From that second playoff tournament, the top 16 players in FedEx Cup points qualify for the Tour Championship, with their points list order used to seed them for match play. That way, points matter.
The Tour Championship becomes a win-or-go-home match play event, 18 holes each day. (BTW, dump the WGC Match Play event, too; round-robin is awful. Focus the TOUR’s once-a-year use of match play here.)
Having a small match play field for the Tour Championship would offer more attention for every player and more TV time for every match. Require all players to wear a mic during competition so we hear the strategy and interaction on every shot, so fans get to know any of the players who aren’t already mega-stars. Limit the announcer jabber, let the players and caddies talk.
Thursday’s matches whittle the field from 16 to 8 players. Friday from 8 to 4. Saturday 4 to 2. Pay the losers of each match a pre-set amount and send them home. No anti-climactic losers-brackets or runners-up matches.
Then on Sunday, the grand finale is an 18 hole match — maybe in prime-time with the final few holes under the lights — where the winner gets 10-times+ more money than the loser.
And that final match winner is crowned the FedEx Cup Champion.
Simple. Fair. Exciting. Good TV.
FOOTNOTE: To those who argue that match play doesn’t make for good TV: c’mon. Match play is inherently more interesting by nature. Man-vs-man, win or lose, played for an incredible sum of money. It’s the job of the TV executives to make it good TV! Create compelling content to use between shots. Use audio and video tech in fresh ways. Integrate the sponsors so they love it. Go in-depth on the players, the course, their equipment. This should be easy…