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The PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs need a match play boost

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor
Matt Kuchar at The Barclays
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Charley Hoffman won the FedEx Cup's second of four straight stroke play tournaments - it's time to mix it up. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

It's the fourth year of the FedEx Cup playoffs on the PGA Tour, and I must admit I haven't exactly caught playoff fever, unless it feels a lot like lethargy.

It's still way too hard to keep track of the points and who needs to finish where each week to stay alive. And by fall, I'm pretty sick of 72-hole stroke play events.

That brings me to my new hybrid format, which could be used in FedEx Cup events. It blends the drama of match play with the necessity of stroke play to hold television viewership.

The inspiration comes from the recent U.S. Amateur and the FIFA World Cup. And, no, vuvuzelas aren't part of it, which can only be a good thing in making it easier to understand around the world.

Thursday and Friday: pool play

This is a format that could work in a 100-player field or in the 30-player field the final week. We'll start with 60 players, which is closest to the size of the field in the third week of the FedEx Cup format.

Players would be divided into 12 pools of five (based on regular-season winnings). Over the course of the first two days they would play nine-hole matches against each of the players in their pool -- with no extra holes as tiebreakers.

There would be a similar points system to the World Cup: three points for a victory and one point for a draw. Tiebreakers would be determined by a few factors, such as ease of victory (2 and 1 would trump 1 up). Birdies could be another, and it could even come down to the longest putt made, which could put the PGA Tour's obsession with measuring everything to good use.

To accommodate a possible squeeze in daylight, shotgun starts could be used. Or when two competitors are ready to tee off, they would go to whatever hole is open on the golf course, whether it's No. 10 or No. 4.

Saturday: stroke play

The top two golfers out of each of the 12 pools head into the weekend. The 24 golfers are split into four groups and compete against each other in 18 holes of stroke play. They will play in two threesomes each, and the low score in each six-man group advances to Sunday.

The twist is that the four lowest scores of the 24 players wouldn't necessarily make the final. You could have one bracket red hot with a bunch of low cards and another that has a bunch of guys hacking it around, but one player emerges from each group, much like how Major League Baseball's divisional play rewards division winners more than overall record.

Sunday: round robin semis and match play final

With four players left on Sunday, they will again play a nine-hole, round robin format against each other, which means each player is guaranteed three matches. The two top performers would compete in a nine-hole, match play final with sudden death, if needed.

This should appease TV because it will have more golfers on the course than a traditional match-play format, and the events will likely end closer to the network's allocated time -- No 10-and-8 blowouts, which are possible in a 36-hole match.

It also promotes nine-hole play, a format that is never used during the year, and the common golfer who plays in their after-work league would identify with it greatly. That is, of course, if the PGA Tour cares about Joe Muni Golfer, which it has seldom shown in the past.

This format on the final day would be great to use on the final weekend of the playoffs, because it'd be two guys staring each other down for $10 million.

This whole structure could appease audiences with a more cut-and-dry format and less math required. But it's not a dull, redundant stroke-play-only format that we're all sick of after a full summer of the same.

Throw in some more appealing venues -- ideal destination courses we can all play and not mostly private clubs -- and more sports fans may actually tune into the action, whether Tiger Woods is playing or not.

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker.

 
Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • PGA TOUR Playoffs format

    Dave wrote on: Sep 9, 2010

    I thought you were trying to make the system easier, not more difficult, to understand. Good grief, you lost me before I got to the weekend format.

    Reply