September 9, 2020
The FedEx Championship Conundrum
The final event of the 2019-2020 PGA season is over. The best player won the season long chase for the FedEx Cup, but somehow it isn't as fulfilling or satisfying as it should be. Maybe it's because the general public is confused with how players accumulated FedEx points and the staggered start to begin the final tournament of the year. In my opinion, the new "all or nothing" approach is less than satisfying for me and traditional golf fans.
A short recap of how players earn FedEx points. At each regular PGA tournament the winner receives 500 FedEx point, World Golf Championship winners earn 550, and major championship winners get 600 points. Non winners also receive points based on their finish in the tournaments. When the play-offs begin the point totals are tripled, so the winner gets 1,500 points. There are two play-off events leading up to the Tour Championship. That is why Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm vaulted ahead of Justin Thomas, who was the point leader for most of the year. Under the system adopted last year the leading point getter started the Tour Championship at 10 under par, second at -8, third at -7, fourth at -6, fifth at -5, six through 10 at -4, 11 to 15 at -3, 16 to 20 at -2, 21 to 25 at -1, and 26 to 30 at even par. Realistically, that gives only the top 10 a decent fighting chance to catch the leader.
The total prize for winning the FedEx Cup is a staggering 15 million dollars. To claim that prize the victor must win the Tour Championship. Dustin Johnson was given a two shot advantage over Jon Rahm, which could easily vanish in one hole. It is almost too much to ask for a player to continue his exceptional play for another four days to grasp his reward. Rory McIlroy won last year's event coming from five shots back at the start of the week. He had the lowest four round total and beat Justin Thomas, the point leader by 10 shots for the week to secure the victory. In this year's event Xander Schauffele had the lowest four day score, but started too far back of Johnson to catch him.
It is difficult to be the leader of a tournament before you even hit the first shot. There is a different mindset that you have to accept. Dustin came out aggressive and knew he had to play very well to secure the title. He did just that. His play was brilliant and he hit the clutch shots when it was needed. The staggered start was soon forgotten after players settled into their positions after two rounds. Then it was a regular tournament and the best man won.
The PGA Tour and FedEx want this to be the climax and pinnacle of the golf season. 15 million dollars is silly money for one golf tournament victory. East Lake Country Club is a wonderful venue to host this championship, but it doesn't have a championship caliber feel. Looking back at the winners of the FedEx Cup since its inception in 2007, there have only been quality winners. When looking for criteria for World Hall of Fame credentials a FedEx championship will be highly regarded. In two weeks we will have a US Open championship at Wing Foot. I look forward to that event with much anticipation, because that will have the tradition, feel and prestige of a great tournament. The FedEx Cup still doesn't instill the same reverence.