Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Time Again To Tweak The PGA Tour!

Taking a page from NASCAR, the PGA Tour needs to reward lap leaders.

And, in all fairness to the tournaments following the Tour Championship and to the participants in those post-Tour Championship events, include them in the race for the FedExCup.

It’s the first week of January 2008 and that, of course, means the 2008 golf season, the PGA Tour in particular and the all-important quest for the FedExCup, begins.

With the FedExCup, it’s safe to say that the PGA Tour is trying to create the most public excitement out of the weekly schedule that starts with the Mercedes-Benz Championship this week in Hawaii and culminates with the Tour Championship in Atlanta in late September. But, the general golfing public plus the millions who do not follow golf but who are taken in annually by the Masters, the US Open, the British Open and, to a much less extent, the PGA Championship, are not yet involved in the FedExCup.

The Ryder Cup, which is the week prior to the Tour Championship and the crowning of the FedExCup Champion, is of more interest and has more significance to most golf fans than the FedExCup and a lot more interest than the weekly update of the FedExCup standings. The experiment last year has been tweaked a little this year, but it’s not enough.

Every week, members of the PGA Tour play golf for money, lots of money to which average golfers just cannot relate. Most of us have a hard time making a 3-footer on the final hole to seal that $2 bet. We can’t imagine doing the same for the $1.1 million first place prize of the average professional event.

But, golfers love the professionals because these guys earn every penny each week. These guys, with a few exceptions, are not paid to show up. They have to compete and score better than the others to get that fat paycheck. No $300 million, 10-year contracts out there for golfers for playing the game.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the tour. I love watching the television broadcasts. I just think if the Tour is going to have a FedExCup, there needs to be more pizzazz to the Cup, and each event needs something extra for the fans and the players. Let’s start with the events.

The lap leaders—six each event—need to be rewarded. The six (which includes ties) are: tournament leader after first round; tournament leader after second round; low score of second round; tournament leader after third round; low score of third round; and, low score of fourth round. (Obviously, the low score of the first round is the tournament leader after the first round, and the leader of the tournament after the fourth round wins the tournament and the huge first place purse.)

With about $300 million in purses to be awarded this year, according to the tournament list on, the Tour should designate about 1% of that total each week (somewhere between $12 million and $15 million for the entire tour which could be raised with another sponsor) to rewarding daily winners. It’s a simple formula. The lap leaders (six categories) and ties would split $50,000. It’s possible and probably that the low score of the second, third and fourth rounds will not be posted by the tournament leader.

In total, that’s $300,000 in extra prize money (cash, not annuity, which should also be counted in official winnings)—three round leaders (first, second and third) and three low daily scores (second, third and fourth)—per tournament, sometimes given to one person who may lead from start to finish with the low round each day, or it could be given to as man as six different players or more.

Additionally, those lap leaders should be rewarded with FedExCup points, one point for 5% of every dollar won as a lap leader. A $50,000 first round leader would get 2,500 points (if two are tied each would get 1,250 points). The second round low score would get the same. For the tournament, in addition the regular FedExCup points, an additional 15,000 points would be awarded, possibly to one player, or split among several players.

What will this do for each tournament and the tour? It’ll add another layer of excitement for the players and the fans. It’ll keep the FedExCup in the spotlight during each tournament round, not just during the final round. Players who do not make the cut could leave with a check and FedExCup points. What’s wrong with that? Nothing.

The other change I suggest is to include the tournament held the week of the Ryder Cup (this year) and the six events following the Tour Championship in the FedExCup points. In other words, give FedExCup points in those events: 25,000 points for each event but less is okay. Just equate the points to tournaments with similar purses. And, do not forget the additional 15,000 points for the lap leaders. The points awarded for these tournaments would be part of the next (2009) FedExCup season.

Tiger Woods and others who skip these events—primarily used to determine who makes the top 125 and an automatic return to the PGA Tour—would probably be against the idea, but this would be a simple change that would excite those events and the players participating. Maybe, a few more of the top players might participate in those year-end events, rewarding the efforts of the tournament organizers and sponsors who want a little more star power in the field of players.

Imagine in January 2009, before the first stroke is made, when the 2009 FedExCup points list is posted with names at the top as a result of playing in October and November events. It’s possible that some of the players may do a Ricky Ricardo impression: “We’ve got some making up to do, Lucy!”

Lap leaders and FedExCup points for the post-Tour Championship events: These are simply ideas which I feel would increase value of the PGA Tour to the players, to the fans, and to those events who deserve more than the “Fall Finish” label. It’s a good tour as it is. But, the PGA Tour officials and the players need to continue to tweak it for the fans.

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