Update: Reset Cup As A Stroke Play

Believe it or not, Doug Ferguson has filed yet another rave review for the FedExCup and it includes a nice mention of all the fawning (well, rear-end-kissing) texts Tim Finchem received for the BMW Championship leaderboard (any follow-up texts today congratulating him on a 2.5 rating that would indeed edge out a poker championship on ESPN).

Thankfully, Randall Mell points out this year's ridiculous oddity and the overall awkward nature of the cup: Louis Oosthuizen can finish second this week and win the Reset Cup without winning any playoff tournaments.

Now, in an alternate universe where the bar is a bit higher than merely celebrating a gathering of stars no matter how silly the competition, we look for ways to actually make this competition appealing to a wider audience.

Gary Van Sickle's suggestion for an aggregate FedExCup continues to appeal despite one (not deadly) flaw: season-long points don't mean much besides getting you in the playoffs. However, the issue of trying to reward good play during the regular season could be remedied and that's not important right now. (It's easy to visualize a stroke-based system that rewards the top players and penalizes the bottom feeders.)

Seeing as how we are through three playoff stages with only the Tour Championship at East Lake next week, Jim McCabe updates us on the leaderboard for those who have played all three playoff events (Dufner and Garcia therefore are DQ'd).

Here are the top 10 (McCabe lists more and has more plus some other good playoff notes worth checking out):

    •    Rory McIlroy, 41 under
    •    Dustin Johnson, 36 under
    •    Tiger Woods, 34 under
    •    Louis Oosthuizen, 34 under
    •    Phil Mickelson, 31 under
    •    Lee Westwood, 31 under
    •    Brandt Snedeker, 25 under
    •    Ryan Moore, 24 under
    •    Adam Scott, 24 under
    •    Nick Watney, 19 under

How would this not be a more interesting race to follow at East Lake along with the Tour Championship itself? Two tournaments going at once and every fan can understand scores to par. And as Van Sickle has proposed, perhaps a five-stroke credit for winning a playoff event to, gulp, incentivize the boys.

More important, would this be fan friendly?

When the PGA Tour's dynamic video scoreboards take a break from showing ads or telling us who the host professional is, they could easily tell us where the tournament and FedExCup stand. Right? And wouldn't the entire affair have more credibility with fans if they could actually understand what is going on? Or is the fan that low on the list of the insulated world of the PGA Tour that they simply do not care about that aspect of the Reset Cup?

Van Sickle's Simplified Scoring System...And No Reset!

I think he's simplified the idea, but Gary Van Sickle's cumulative scoring idea for the FedExCup has much more merit than I remember because it, (A) makes the boys play all four weeks, (B) introduces the much-needed danger element in the early stages where a missed cut at Barclays means you're out or a few rounds dogging it can cost you a chance, (C) ties the events together while offering a nice reward for those winning the actual tournaments.

Here's the top 10 going into the BMW, with five-shot victory bonuses for the Deutsche Bank and Barclays winners:

1. Rory McIlroy (-26)
2. Louis Oosthuizen (-24)
3. Nick Watney (-21)
T4. Brandt Snedeker (-20)
T4.Dustin Johnson
6. Tiger Woods (-17)
T7. Kevin Stadler (-13)
T7. Lee Westwood (-13)
T7. Phil Mickelson (-13)
10. Brian Harman (-12)

 

Reset Cup's Most Important Week...To Players And Immediate Family

I admire Doug Ferguson's determination to show us just how important the FedExCup is to players in this story filed on the BMW Championship's eve. Unfortunately, the player quotes reveal the fundamental flaw with the "playoffs." They are not fan-friendly.

"This is the biggest one," said Pat Perez, who checks in at No. 55 and is somewhat of a long shot to get to East Lake. "The biggest prize to me is top 30. The $10 million is nice, but it's only for one guy. I'd like to be in the top 30 because then I'm in everything. I'd have a chance to win majors. And that's what you need - a chance.

"If I could never win the FedEx Cup but knew I would be top 30 for the next 10 years? Sign me up."

The BMW is the most important of the playoffs because of the exemptions at stake. Reaching the top 30 here, fueled by a convoluted points system which absurdly over-values the playoff weeks, does make this week important for 2013, yes. But reasonable or interesting?

As evidenced by another week of not receiving a press release in my inbox touting television ratings, the playoffs do not appear to be "important" to fans.  The continued quiet on the network telecast ratings front would seem to confirm that. Or maybe it's just not that brilliant to bring the top players together for three weeks of golf when football season is starting and folks are distracted by too many other things.

Oh and there was Tiger's latest put down of the cup, as quoted in this Jay Coffin roundup of today's presser:

The goal this week regarding FedEx Cup positioning: “This is a different format that I’ve played the FedEx Cup. I didn’t play last year. I wasn’t even in the damned thing, so it’s nice to be here and be able to contend in this thing. It’s interesting, you can go and win the first three playoff events, finish second in the last one and not win it. But it’s what we have.”

The Reset Cup Has Arrived!

Sadly, I'm almost sure Tiger Woods meant his FedExCup comments Wednesday as a subtle insult, yet I'm guessing a few Ponte Vedra algorithm programmers cancelled their Cialis refills after reading this today.

Ryan Lavner posts the quote on GolfChannel.com:

“Right now, we’re all playing for position going into the reset at the Tour Championship,” Woods told reporters in his pre-tournament news conference Wednesday at The Barclays. “Before it was just trying to accumulate whatever you can and keep it rolling. Now, you’re playing for a reset, and then anything can happen.”

Playing for a reset. Goosebumps!

FedExCup To Be Mired In Algorithm Hell For The Foreseeable Future

Doug Ferguson reports that the Ponte Vedra's permutations pundits have been running the numbers and by golly, the beleaguered points system doesn't get any better no matter how many times they try to rejig things.

PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw said even though FedEx Cup points will start being awarded this week at the Tournament of Champions, changes could be made at the next policy board meeting in March, though "I would say that's unlikely."

The formula has been working well for the most part. The reward for a strong regular season is a high seeding going into the playoffs, which translates to better odds of reaching the Tour Championship. And there's still plenty of volatility for a high finish in the playoff events, as Reavie showed last year and Laird did in 2010.

Points are worth five times as much in the playoffs. Votaw said tour officials looked at how the standings would be if points were only tripled, or quadrupled, and didn't see anything worth changing.

"Going down to four [times the points] doesn't change a whole lot. We don't think going down to three changes much," Votaw said. "There has to be some premium on funneling down to the playoffs. The whole question of volatility has been a vexing one from the start. But we think the last three years have been good."

Volatility was evident all the way to the end last year. Bill Haas narrowly got into the Tour Championship as the No. 25 seed, then won the $10 million bonus by winning the Tour Championship with most of the top players in the standings faltering.

Bill Haas' FedExCup Win Is The Best Thing To Ever Happen To The FedExCup

Think about it: every year the absurdity of the FedExCup has purportedly been "validated" by big name, established winners. Haas, winning his first event of the year and his third on the PGA Tour, ends the run that the Commissioner cited as evidence of the Cup's stature. And that's a good thing if you want to see the "playoffs" reach their potential as the exciting, dramatic competition it could be.

Now, television ratings were barely up this year and that will be cited against the 2011 Tour Championship and FedExCup finale. But a thrilling conclusion was delivered by having the champion of the Tour Championship capturing the Cup (for those who watched). Imagine guaranteeing that kind of finish each year but somehow whittling the field down to an elite number of players by Sunday, heaving the points out the window, and watching the players fight it out for $10 million in an easily explainable weekend of golf (lowest score wins!).

Brandel Chamblee's idea for something along those lines--essentially a variation on the LPGA's ADT Championship--is an interesting one and was put forward in a NY Times piece by Karen Crouse:

Under the current system, points are cumulative and the fields are reduced after each of the three tournaments leading to the 30-man Tour Championship. Chamblee suggested that once the four rounds of playoffs begin, each golfer starts with a blank slate every tournament.

The top 125 in the points standings would compete in the first event, with cuts in subsequent tournaments at 100, 70 and 30. The 72-hole stroke-play event would begin on Wednesday and crown a winner on Saturday. On Sunday, according to Chamblee’s proposal, the top four finishers would compete in an 18-hole playoff to determine the FedEx Cup champion. His idea has the added benefit of preventing players from taking a tournament off.

Thanks to Bill Haas, we no longer have to hear how the current gerrymandering system has rewarded the best player and steadiest of the year.  And thanks to Bill Haas, perhaps a riskier, wackier and more sensational format can now be put on the table for the finale to the FedExCup.

Bill Haas Didn't Know He Won The FedExCup When He Won The FedExCup

It's hard to imagine that Bill Haas was unaware that he won the $10 million FedExCup. After all, have you seen the PGA Tour's electronic scoreboards? You can get FedExCup standings, but apparently in September when it matters, information was tough to come by! (Maybe not surprising since you may recall I've written about how tough it is to get scores in between the ads, player info and other stuff on the video boards.)

The final round highlights include Haas' brilliant playoff recovery shot from the 17th hole lake but do not capture the bizarre moment Haas talked about in his post round press conference.

Q. Could you clarify when you actually did find out that you had not only won the $1.44 but the 10 mill? And did you fall out of your chair?

BILL HAAS: Well, we went up and did some TV interviews up in the grandstands there on 18 and both trophies were there and there was no other player, (laughter), so I kind of assumed and I looked at my wife and she was there, and she nodded her head. So that was when I realized.

I saw Tim Finchem, I said, I didn't know I had won this, and he was like, congratulations, you won both. That's what he said, both are for you.

The scribblers in attendance weren't buying his claim.

Q. Two-part question: How is it possible that you didn't know you were playing for $10 million?

BILL HAAS: Well, I knew I was playing for it, but even winning it --

Q. No, that the playoff was for the -- when you teed off in the playoff, you did not know you were playing for the FedExCup title and the $10 million?

BILL HAAS: Uh-uh.

Q. How is that possible?

BILL HAAS: I didn't ask, and nobody told me and nobody --

LAURA HILL: Bill, come on now.

BILL HAAS: Well, I knew if I won, that was the only way I could win the FedExCup. If I finished second, I knew I couldn't win the FedExCup. So in theory I knew I was playing for it. I'm not going to sit there and say, well, it's not a million on the line here, there's $11 million, let's put some more pressure on it, because it's not worth it. It's not worth that stress. I was just trying to win that golf tournament. And actually even more than that, I was trying to hit good shots in the moment, and even though I did it some of the time, I still was trying to stay not thinking about what's going to happen if this doesn't come off. I was just trying to hit each shot, and now it just fell that way. It's awesome.

Q. The second question is if you did know you were playing for the $10 million in the playoff, would there have been more pressure?

BILL HAAS: I don't know, because like you said, I knew $11 million was on the line somehow, whether Luke Donald won it or Webb Simpson won it or I won it, it was there, so that was in my head. When I was putting for that 4-footer to win, it was just to win the TOUR Championship, knowing that was all I could do.

The highlights, including the shot on 17 and the final putt:

Would You Be More Interested In Round Two Of The Tour Championship...

...if the field of 30 was getting cut to, say, the top 20 in FedExCup points after completion of second round play? Perhaps a playoff for those tied to get to Saturday would liven things up too?

I say this because I tried to watch much of The Tour Championship today and it's just not even the least bit compelling event for a concluding tournament to the "playoffs." The golf course doesn't exactly thrill with heroic shotmaking required, yet I can't help but think that the format is still the real killer.

Would some modified version of the LPGA's ADT Championship, which included a Friday and Saturday cut, add greater interest to the first two rounds at East Lake?

Throw in another cut Saturday to the final ten, and does this "playoff" and accompanying tournament become more interesting?

Playoff System Designed To Ensure Tiger Woods Makes It To The Final Weekend Begins Without Tiger Woods

Just remember over the next four weeks: every time we get a rundown of the points permutations, FedExCup standings, points resets, whiteboard scenarios and other geeky nonsense, this was a points system built around making sure one person would be playing right up to the final weekend at East Lake.
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