The next generation of the 2019 FedExCup Playoffs includes significant changes this year, but nothing is more important than this particular concept: The season-ending TOUR Championship will be easier to follow.
Starting with next year’s event at East Lake Golf Club, there will be only one leaderboard. No separate FedExCup points standings. No projections that fluctuate with each holed putt. No analytics to determine who might or might not have an advantage.
And on that Sunday afternoon, there will be one champion crowned. One winner standing on the 18th green, holding up one trophy—the FedExCup. Nothing will be shared. Everything will be definitive.
Winner takes it all
“Win the TOUR Championship and you are the FedExCup champion,” declared PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan. “It’s that simple.”
Credit a new scoring system called FedExCup Starting Strokes that will be implemented at the 2019 TOUR Championship. A strokes-based bonus system related to the FedExCup standings, players will start the opening round with scores between 10 under to even par.
It will replace the system in which FedExCup points are reset going into East Lake. No longer will there be two separate leaderboards—one for the tournament, the other for the FedExCup race.
The main benefits? Fans will immediately understand what’s going on, and players will know exactly where they stand at all times. The change also eliminates the possibility the TOUR Championship winner might not win the FedExCup.
Other changes include:
- A doubling of the FedExCup bonus pool money to $70 million. The winner’s share has the largest increase, from $10 million to $15 million.
- Among that $70 million will be a $10 million Regular Season bonus pool called the Wyndham Rewards Top 10 that recognizes players who earn the most FedExCup points through the Wyndham Championship, the final event of the Regular Season.
The bonus program will provide additional drama to the Regular Season finale and also place a greater premium on full-season performance, thus elevating the significance of each tournament on the schedule. “No doubt it will create a compelling, dramatic conclusion for the TOUR’s ultimate prize,” Monahan said.
In 2015, the TOUR first started the process of identifying ways to improve the FedExCup competition. The changes were made after extensive research and feedback was received from the PGA TOUR members, media partners and the TOUR’s 5,000-member fan council. The 16-member Player Advisory Council and four player-directors were then instrumental in helping TOUR officials shape the end result.
Here’s how the points system will work in next season’s FedExCup Playoffs, which will consist of three events and finish prior to Labor Day:
The top 125 players in points after the Wyndham Championship will qualify for the Playoffs. The top 70 after THE NORTHERN TRUST will advance to the second Playoffs event, the BMW Championship. Then the top 30 will make the TOUR Championship.
That’s when the FedExCup Starting Strokes kicks in.
The No. 1 player will receive a 10-stroke head start. In other words, he will tee off for the first round at 10 under. No. 2 starts at 8 under. No. 3 starts at 7 under; No. 4 starts at 6 under; No. 5 starts at 5 under. Players ranked 6-10 start at 4 under; players 11-15 start at 3 under; players 16-20 start at 2 under; players 21-25 start at 1 under; and players 26-30 start at even par.
While the format itself is easier to track, the ultimate outcome may not be drastically impacted. The PGA TOUR did not want to compromise the drama at East Lake. The goal was not to change the system but to make that drama easier to follow.
“Our objective was to assign strokes values that as closely as possible approximate the win probabilities that our current system provides,” said Chief Tournament and Competitions Officer Andy Pazder.
In order to get close to matching those win probabilities, the TOUR worked with a leading educational institution to run a total of one million simulations. This season, the No. 1 player in points entering East Lake had a 28.8 percent of winning the FedExCup; next season, the No. 1 player will have a 27.1 percent chance of winning.
Despite all the changes, the basic perspective remains the same. Said 2017 FedExCup Champion Justin Thomas: “You still have to play great golf to win a FedExCup.”
This article first appeared in the PGA TOUR December 2018-May 2019 issue, which can be read here.
See also: Justin Rose at the FedExCup