1. A chance to start anew
The 10-year sponsorship extension between the PGA Tour and FedEx announced last week offers not only a great opportunity for players to cash in over the coming decade but an excellent chance to now get the format correct, namely when it comes to the playoffs.
Since its inception in 2007, the FedEx Cup has gone through several tweaks, tour officials delicately trying to balance the success a player has during the regular season while offering up some playoff volatility.
It sometimes results in the FedEx Cup champion not being the overall top player on tour for the year. Rory McIlroy winning the FedEx Cup (he had two tournament victories during the playoffs) over Dustin Johnson (who was PGA Tour Player of the Year) in 2016 is an excellent example.
If you follow how most U.S. team sports operate, however, nobody should have a problem with golf crowning an overall champion who wasn't the best during the regular season.
The issue is more about coming up with a plan that doesn't involve a convoluted points system.
"I think it works very well as currently constituted, but always open to other ideas,'' commissioner Jay Monahan said. "We're spending a lot of time talking about what all the options are. We get great input from our players. We spent a lot of time over the last couple of years talking about it and looking at the way it stands today and looking at where we might be able to improve it. I think you'll see us make some really positive adjustments as we go forward to what is already a very strong competition.''
2. Shrinking the playoff series
Paring down the playoff series from four events to three would be a good start. For a good part of the FedEx run, we've seen numerous examples of exhausted players going through the motions. The four playoff events come two weeks after the PGA Championship, which is a week after a World Golf Championship event. That is usually just two weeks after The Open. It makes for a ton of golf, and some of the players are running out of gas.
A change to the schedule that would move the PGA Championship to May would certainly help. So would having just three playoff events, a very real possibility beginning in 2018 as Dell Technologies is only on board to sponsor the event, formerly known as the Deutsche Bank Championship, for this year.
Three events offer up all manner of possibilities. You could pare down the playoff field, making the last regular-season events more compelling as players would be scrambling to get in. Instead of the 125 who now qualify, it could be 100 -- and forego having a 36-hole cut.
You could require that those eligible compete in all three events if they want to win the FedEx Cup or even compete in the Tour Championship. You could assure that they are played in three consecutive weeks.
And maybe, just maybe, you could come up with a system that creates more drama.
Anything involving match play should be thrown out. It's not going to happen. There a reason there is just one match play event a year, and the fear of losing top players early in the tournament is very real. The tour and the television partners want more than just a few players competing at a time.
Somehow, the Tour Championship should not be about points but about who shoots the lowest score that week. In the PGA Tour's defense, it has seen the winner of the Tour Championship also win the FedEx Cup in eight of 10 years. That seems incredibly fortunate because since the points are skewed, it is no guarantee. Last year, McIlroy had to have many things go right to win the overall FedEx title.
The easiest solution is to have whoever wins the Tour Championship win the FedEx Cup. Lowest score over 72 holes wins. If you were 30th in points, squeaked into the field, and win the tournament, you win the whole thing. Is that fair to the leader in points? No. But it would make a big deal out of who gets in, and everybody has an even bigger incentive to win the tournament.
So why not a separate pool paid out to the highest points earner? It keeps you engaged the entire season, but it also allows for the excitement of 30 players starting from 0 and competing for the entire bonus pool. (Don't forget, as it presently is set up, the playoff events have purses of $8.5 million, not including the bonus money.)
Monahan suggested there is a good chance the bonus pool will be increased as part of the new arrangement, which allows for some flexibility to get creative. There is now time to make something happen.
4. The young and the old
With his victory at the Players Championship, Si Woo Kim at age 21 years and 9 months is the youngest player ranked among the top 50 in the world -- which is 25 years older than the oldest, Phil Mickelson, who is 46. Kim jumped from 75th to 28th with the win. Mickelson is 21st.
5. Rafa's celebration
Rafael Cabrera Bello shows his emotions as he did when he missed a putt during the Players Championship -- and again on Sunday when he holed out from 181 yards for an albatross on the par-5 16th. Cabrera Bello inadvertently tossed his 8-iron into the nearby water.
All the emotions.— THE PLAYERS (@THEPLAYERSChamp) May 16, 2017
There are two more chances to qualify for the U.S. Open at Erin Hills via the top 60 in the Official World Golf Ranking, the first of which is the May 22 ranking. Russell Henley at No. 53 and Charley Hoffman at No. 54 are playing this week's Byron Nelson Championship, as is Tony Finau at No. 65. Finau who would likely need a top-5 finish this week to move up the necessary spots. Players can also qualify via top the 60 as of June 12, which is the Monday prior to the tournament. Sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open takes place on June 5.
7. And more deadlines
Qualifying for The Open via the Official World Golf Ranking goes through May 29, with the top 50 making it to Royal Birkdale. That is the last opportunity to make it via the world rankings, but the Open has several other avenues via tournament finishes leading up to the championship. And it typically goes off the Official World Golf Ranking for alternates.
8. Caddie woes
It was an interesting week for Vijay Singh. The World Golf Hall of Famer got on the leaderboard through two rounds at the Players Championship before eventually tying for 16th. Singh, 54, had missed seven straight cuts.
Golf Digest then reported that nearly four years to the day from when Singh brought a lawsuit against the PGA Tour for the way it handled his 2013 admission that he had taken a substance that was on the tour's banned list, a judge ruled that the case could proceed to trial. The tour had been hoping for a summary judgment.
And in between, Singh lost his caddie, Kip Henley, who took to Twitter to announce the split. Singh is known for being a demanding boss.
Life's filled with tough decisions.I just made one an hour ago.I am seeking gainful employment.Pleas don't ask for details.— Kip Henley PGA loopr (@KipHenley) May 14, 2017
9. How did he do that?
There wasn't much left to play for when J.B. Holmes and Kyle Stanley arrived at the 17th hole Sunday at TPC Sawgrass. The 54-hole co-leaders were out of contention for the tournament title at that point.
Holmes ended up knocking two balls in the water and making an 8 -- which is the same number of strokes that Stanley took on the hole for the week. Yep, Stanley birdied the (almost) island-green 17th all four days.