Third-time lucky? Third time's a charm?
Pick your platitude, but when the PGA Tour trots out its third FedEx Cup points incarnation in as many seasons in 2009, the fresh revisions announced Tuesday will ensure that the oft-panned series will finally end with a wallop, not a whimper. Three strikes and yer out? Not gonna happen, tour officials said.
|The scenario that kept Padraig Harrington from the Tour Championship won't happen in 2009. (Getty Images)|
"There's 100 percent certainty the winner won't be known until after we arrive in Atlanta," said tour official Steve Dennis, one of the program architects.
Because both the regular-season and series points distribution have been re-jiggered, every player that makes the 30-man field in Atlanta has a chance of winning -- although not everybody's odds will be equal. This time, seasonal point totals will be reset three weeks later than in 2008, just before the big-money Atlanta sprint is contested. On your mark, reset, go.
Next time, the top five in points after the Atlanta reset control their own fate and each is ensured the $10 million bonus if they win at East Lake Golf Club. The next five have a terrific chance, Dennis said, depending on where the players ranked ahead of them in points finish for the week, while the remaining 20 have lesser odds and need help from those seeded ahead of them.
Broadly, the third FedEx Cup fix can be characterized as a compromise between 2007's first year, when points were perceived to be weighted too heavily on regular-season performance, and 2008, when critics ripped the playoff-centric revision that allowed huge points jumps based completely on good play in the Fed Ex Cup series.
"I think what we will see is very much a balance of '07 and '08," Dennis predicted. "In '07, it looked like nobody went anywhere (in the Cup series) and in '08, it looked like people were falling out of the sky."
Some other important specifics:
• Fields for the first two events have been trimmed from 144 and 120 players, respectively, to 125 and 100. The last two stops remain at levels of 70 and 30 players. Many players complained for two years that the opening Barclays field of 144 was too large. "People believed that only the top 125 keep their cards, so it ought to feel like it's not a triviality to get in this thing," Dennis said.
First blush: Short-field events are risky and never seem to deliver the crowds and buzz of full-sized tournaments. NASCAR stages its Sprint Cup events within full-field races in the fall, keeping track of its 12-driver Sprint points on the side, but tour players seem to think culled fields is more compelling. Again, the tour could track FedEx Cup points within more interesting full-field formats, but nobody wants to hear it.
• Points have been scaled back across the board, but regular-season play looms larger than in 2008. Majors are worth 600 points, WGC events are worth 550 and regular-season tournaments are worth 500. The four FedEx Cup events offer 2,500 points, but anybody who entered the series in the upper echelon is likely to advance to Atlanta. Padraig Harrington won two majors last year, but missed the first two FedEx Cup cuts and failed to advance to the Tour Championship, which wouldn't happen under the same scenario in 2009. "He'd be solidly in the Tour Championship," Dennis said.
First blush:: Ah, compromise and concession, the telltale handiwork of committees. But any plan that ensures a two-time major winner a spot in the FedEx Cup finale sounds like an improvement. Under the new scheme, Harrington would have made the Atlanta field, but would have needed a win and a collapse by top points leaders to win the $10 million bonus. Fair enough.