The first reactions are in on the PGA Tour's Tuesday announcement and it's apparent there are a few questions that need to be raised.
Gary Van Sickle analyzes the changes (or lack thereof) to the FedEx Cup and notes the inclusion of marijuana and cocaine on the banned list. He also isn't too wild about the Tour's decision not to deal with FedEx Cup points.
Steve Elling asks what took so long to rejig the schedule. Of course, with not even a cosmetic change in the points structure and no decision on tweaks to the playoff points structure, you have to wonder if the particulars of a drug testing program have overwhelmed the boys in Ponte Vedra.
I find it inexplicable that the playoff points volatility was not addressed. Now, Elling points out in his piece that this will be revisited in February, as does Doug Ferguson in his recap, but a major sports organization of the Tour's caliber should not be tinkering with a playoff format midseason.
Buried late in Elling's column is this little shocker regarding the change in FedEx Cup payout and Finchem's gabfest with writers following the PGA Tour's media summit:
Finchem said governmental pressures contributed to the tour's decision to back away from giving the FedEx winner's bonus out in deferred payment. Instead, next year, the winner will receive $9 million in cash and $1 million in deferred payment. Elected representatives in Washington, D.C., are taking a long, dim look at large deferred payment plans, Finchem said.
One publication reported that if Woods won six FedExs Cup titles, he would have a $1 billion nest egg by the time he retired, based on earnings projections.
"That (report) got some attention," Finchem laughed.
Should be interesting to see if anyone pursues this angle.
I wonder if this hits at some of the complaints players like Sean Murphy have had about the deferred compensation?
** Looks like I'm not the only one who can't comprehend a mid-season playoff adjustment. Both Jason Sobel and Bob Harig at ESPN.com don't get it either.
Sobel, after suggesting a leaner look to the points system I hadn't seen mentioned before, writes:
February??? As in, three months from now? As in, during the season? The PAC and the Policy Board were in constant discussions about these matters -- which also, we believe, may include whether the number of players in each playoff field will remain the same -- from season's end until now, but still couldn't come up with a worthy decision.
What's the hold up? Why not work to finalize such decisions prior to Tuesday's announcement? Instead, it seems like the tour is taking a make-up-the-rules-as-we-go-along mentality. Call us old-fashioned, but we'd like to see everything in place prior to the schedule taking effect.
Apparently, the discussion didn't last too long, at least as it pertained to the FedEx Cup. Other than the Tour Championship move -- a no-brainer, considering all the talk this year about the heavy late-season schedule that would have asked the top players to compete for five straight weeks in 2008 -- and a change in how the bonus money will be paid, we are left with the same points-earning system and qualification for the playoffs that was largely met with indifference this year.
And that is disappointing, given the healthy amount of opinions offered by players, fans and media that the system could use some tweaking.
"The biggest complaint we heard was that the system was too complex," Finchem said. "And we just didn't share that view."
It's not that the system was complex -- players are awarded points based on their finish in a tournament, with everyone who makes the cut getting something in a similar proportion to how prize money is paid at each event -- it's the fact that the compilation of points didn't create the kind of drama tour officials envisioned throughout the year. Despite incessant hype, few paid attention to the FedEx Cup standings until after the British Open, when the playoffs drew near. And with 144 making the playoffs and only a dozen or so players truly capable of winning the whole thing, the regular season remained more about the major championships and the individual tournaments, not something greater.
Finchem did leave open the possibility of change to the playoff events, but it won't be decided until the tour's policy board meets again in February. That smacks of changing the rules in the middle of the game, but with so many players qualifying for the playoffs, changing how they operate will hardly have any effect so early in the year.