Thursday, August 23, 2012

FedEx Playoff Approaches With Little Buzz

Wait… Did you hear that?  Neither did I.

That silence is the lack of buzz that the PGA Tour’s FedExCup playoff is generating. 

The FedExCup playoff system is very similar to NASCAR’s playoff system in that competitors earn points based on finishes in regular season events.  After the final event of the regular season, the top 125 golfers in the standings qualify for the first playoff event.
Last week’s Wyndham Championship (won by Sergio Garcia on the same day that Augusta announced their acceptance of their first woman members) was the final event of the PGA Tour’s regular season.  A big reason that the lack of buzz is surprising (at least to me) is the fire power among the top five in the standings.  Fifth place currently belongs to Bubba Watson who really became a crowd favorite this year at The Masters.  Third place belongs to Rory McIlroy who is coming off of an impressive eight stroke victory at the PGA Championship.  First place belongs to none other than Tiger Woods.  Enduring intense scrutiny for not winning a major championship this yes, Tiger has put together a solid season winning three events (more than any other player on the PGA Tour this year). 

This week’s event The Barclays will be the first event of the FedExCup playoffs.  Bethpage Black in New York will play host to event and is widely considered to be one of the tougher courses on the PGA Tour schedule.  It is at The Barclays this week that Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy will be paired together in a group for rounds one and two for the first time in their careers.  You can bet the house that that group will be the most followed grouping on TV.
After The Barclays, the second leg of the FedExCup playoff moves to the Deutsche Bank Championship played at TPC Boston.  TPC Boston typically sees lower scores with tournament winners shooting around 20-under.  Unlike the first round at The Barclays where the top 125 players compete, the Deutsche Bank Championship whittles the field down to the top 100. 
The BMW Championship is the third leg of the playoff where the field is cut even further down to the top 70 players in the FedExCup standings.  The BMW Championship will be played at Crooked Stick in Carmel, Indiana after a run at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club. 
Finally, the FedExCup playoffs come down the Tour Championship which takes the top 30 players in the standings.  Taking place at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, GA, the winner of the season long PGA Tour FedExCup is crowned.  Last year Bill Haas took the Tour Championship which won him the FedExCup in dramatic fashion.
Prize money is a huge reward of the FedExCup playoff.  With total prize money in the neighborhood of $35 million, the winner takes home a whopping $10 million for the season’s worth of work.  The second place finisher brings in $3 million; third place gets $2 million all the way through the top 150 players. 

 Although the prize money is big, the stakes just don’t seem to be taken too seriously by the fans and media.  There is very little build up going into these playoffs.  Moving into next year, the stakes could be raised to a point that could garner more attention among golf fans.  Starting in 2013, the FedExCup standings will essentially replace the PGA Tour Money List as the determining factor for the Tour cards the following season.  This raises the stakes much, much higher because now the top 125 spots matter as opposed to maybe the number one spot.

FedEx’s dealings with the PGA Tour began back in 1986, where it started out as a tournament sponsor (FedEx St. Jude Classic).  The FedExCup began in 2007, and prior to this year, the PGA Tour and FedEx extended the agreement containing the FedExCup playoffs through 2017. 

The change for the future that will place importance on the top 125 spots will probably not bring too much extra coverage to the playoff.  However, if the big names at the top of this year’s FedExCup standings can stay in contention (Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Bubba Watson), then the playoff is sure to gain media and fan momentum by the time the Tour Championship rolls around on September 20 to 23.  For now we can enjoy The Barclays because I think most of us can agree that any golf is better than no golf at all.

--Information gathered from and Sports Business Journal.

Follow Kevin Rossi on Twitter at @kevin_rossi.

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