28 August 2007

Fix the FedEx Cup

One week into the much belly-ached FedEx Cup "Playoffs," the howls from the golf scribes can be heard from here to Madagascar. It's "irrelevant," "too complicated," "contrived," among other things.

So, we know the system is broken even before the first edition is completed. But does anyone have an idea on how to fix it?

I do.

Let's just assume the FedEx Cup concept is here to stay for a while: Since the PGA Tour has invested considerable resources to make this a go, it's not getting ditched after a season or two. And let's assume the current four-tournament format will stay in tact, too.

That leaves us with the most vexing problem: The points system. At the moment, it can only be described as an accountant's wet dream. It's convoluted. It's not user-friendly. It requires a mainframe and/or a highly-capable spreadsheet -- not something an average sports fan has at his disposal between the beer and chips.

The points system can easily be fixed and still achieve desired results. Keep in mind that baseball statistics are popular because most of it can be done with a pencil and paper -- and at most with a small calculator. The points system should be the same way.

Here's how it can be done:

1. Ditch the pre-playoff points system: This year, just before the "playoffs" the top 25 on the money list and the FedEx Cup points list are exactly the same 25 players, with slight variations in order. This tells me that the whole concoction of the pre-playoff points system is useless. The money list has been around for a long time and is an accurate assessment of a player's season. Stick with it.

2. Convert the money list into the playoff points list: That's simple to do. For example, Tiger Woods earned $7.82 million before the playoffs. So he has 78.2 points entering the playoffs. Vijay Singh at $4.47 million has 44.7. You're just moving the decimal point around a bit -- any fourth grader can do that.

3. Assign points to the top 25 players in each tournament -- but only in double digits. The winner gets 50 points, second place 25, third place 24, and on down the line, with the 25th-place finisher getting 2 points and anyone making the cut 1 point. The winner gets a big bonus as he should, allowing anyone within 50 points of the pre-playoff leader a realistic chance to catch up.

And just to compare, this is what the current FedEx Cup points list looks like:

1. Steve Stricker - 104950
2. K.J. Choi - 102900
3. Rory Sabbatini - 100650
4. Tiger Woods - 100000
5. Phil Mickelson - 99613
6. Vijay Singh - 99000
7. Jim Furyk - 98850
8. Zach Johnson - 97350
9. Adam Scott - 97150
10. Ernie Els - 96967

This is what my scale -- let's call it the Zoo Points -- looks like:

1. Woods - 78.2
2. Stricker - 76.1
3. Mickelson - 62.0
4. Choi - 61.7
5. Sabbatini - 58.6
6. Geoff Ogilvy - 45.6
7. Els - 45.1
8. Singh - 44.7
9. Mark Calcavecchia - 42.9
10. Scott - 40.4

The Zoo Points are much easier to keep track of, and I will argue, more fair. Zoo Points give a little more weight to regular-season accomplishments. Yet, any player on this list still can catch Tiger Woods, if they win one of the remaining tournaments. And you can sit on your couch and figure all this out toward the end of each tournament, not needing the Tour or CBS computer for the last word.

And one more thing -- I know you'll ask this, so I'll go ahead and answer it: Why should Woods be able to skip a tournament and still keep his lead? My response: Why not? Woods had a terrific regular season, amassing $3 million-plus more than the next guy (Singh) on the money list (and deserves to be more than just 1% ahead of him). Look at it as if Tiger earned a bye in the first round of the playoffs. Don't they do that in the NFL, too?

As a public service, I'll unveil the Zoo Points each week until the conclusion of the "playoffs." I'm sure you'll be quite satisfied with the results.

1 comment:

steve said...

I agree that your points system makes sense. My problem is that 144 qualify for the first event even though 125 on the money list get their cards for next year and that 120 qualify for the second event. I think 50 is enough for this to be called a playoff. Also, I would like to see the Tour Championship played at match play,either with a round robin or a double elimination similar to the NCAA College Baseball World Series, with the top 8 qualifying after 3 events.The golfing public understands match play more than a NASCAR inspired points race