...is finally getting murkier by the day. Why finally? Because we've known since the announcement. But now that writers and players are facing its arrival, questions are being asked, scenarios contemplated and the word "playoffs" scrutinized.
Doug Ferguson reports that players are already talking about changing it because of the silly idea of 144 players qualifying for a playoff, especially when only 125 theoretically get to come back the next year.
Meanwhile in the USA Today, Jerry Potter analyzes how the point system will work and includes this quote from the PGA Tour's Ric Clarson:
"We've run hundreds of computer models," Clarson says, "and no player came from lower than 13th seed to win the Cup. If you're not in the top 15 going into the playoff, your chances of winning aren't great."
But Commissioner Tim Finchem has contradicted with his Yankees analogy several times, including Wednesday's press conference at East Lake:
But the only question I've gotten is the seeding. If a player plays at an exceedingly high level and he basically has to start over again, is that fair? Actually they're not starting over again. They have a bit of an edge because the seeding -- it's kind of like home field advantage maybe in team sports.
But my reaction to that, in every conversation and my reaction back has been the same. If the New York Yankees win 315 games and they win 20 more games than everybody else, they still start over. That's what the playoffs are all about. And in every single conversation the reaction back is, Yeah, I get that. That makes sense to me.
What the players have asked for, Let's make it as much as possible like a real playoff. That's what we've tried to do, and I think there's real enthusiasm. We're just going to have to see how it plays out in '07. I, for one, am pretty confident it's going to be spectacular.
So we've got one guy saying only 15 have a chance to win, the other saying that the elite merely have a slight edge going in, but by and large, it's a virtual free market setting once the four weeks of playoff golf commence.
Okay, so here's the problem. The system that rewards the top point-getters going into the playoffs also emphasizes playing more often. Great. Except, come playoff time, it locks in top players to positions that will make it hard for anyone outside of a small group to win, making the playoffs less likely to produce wild point swings or Cinderella stories.
An alternative system would not emphasize "seeding" and therefore create no extra incentive to play more often during the season. But that system would leave things wide open going into the "playoffs." Great for an exciting finish, but bad for making stars play more often during the course of the year.
Ultimately, they are going to have to decide what is more important. A system that rewards those who play more often and play well, or a system that sets things up for an exciting finish. I'd go with the latter of the two, since the stars have proven that they will only play where they want to play.