The Cup runneth over What the PGA Tour's new playoff system really means.

Posted: August 19, 2007

After months of build-up, hype, mountains of newspaper and magazine stories and endless TV commercials, the FedEx Cup playoffs are finally here.

So far as I can tell, only one guy - a beady-eyed, pencil-neck geek toiling in the basement bowels of PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. - truly understands or cares how the whole thing works.

For the rest of us - and I'm including a couple of PGA Tour players I've talked to - here's a just-the-basics primer on the FedEx Cup as we head into next week's first of four playoff stops, The Barclays in Westchester, N.Y.:

Question: Tell me again what the FedEx Cup is all about.

Answer: It's the PGA Tour's best effort to end the season earlier and with a bang - specifically, a four-tournament, monthlong playoff series that begins with this week's The Barclays and concludes in a month with the Tour Championship in Atlanta.

For its model, the PGA Tour borrowed loosely from NASCAR's Chase for the Nextel Cup, in which the year's top 10 drivers cap off their season with a 10-race finish.

Q: Is the FedEx Cup the new measure of success?

A: PGA Tour officials desperately want it to be, which is why the winner gets a whopping $10 million.

They have promoted the heck out of it. They've devoted a whole separate section to it on their Web site, www.pgatour.com. They send out FedEx Cup standings to newspapers every week. They talk it up every chance.

So far, the reaction from you, me and what seems like an alarming number of players is a collective look of confusion and uninterest.

Among the players, at least, that's beginning to change now that the playoffs are finally here.

Q: Simply, how does it work?

A: So far, in the first 33 weeks of the season, PGA Tour players have competed for titles and money, as usual, but they also have competed for FedEx Cup points.

Each week, 25,000 points are at stake, with 4,500 points going to the tournament winner. (Winners of major championships and the Players Championship get 4,950 points; winners of World Golf Championships get 4,725 points.)

After today's conclusion of the Wyndham Championship, the top 144 players in FedEx Cup points will qualify for the playoffs.

During the playoffs, 50,000 points will be on the line each week, with 9,000 points going to the winner during the first three tournaments and 10,500 at the Tour Championship.

Q: Who leads in points?

A: Tiger Woods, naturally, with 30,574 points, followed by Vijay Singh (19,129), Jim Furyk (16,691), Phil Mickelson (16,037) and K.J. Choi (15,485).

Come to think of it, except flopping the names of Furyk and Mickelson in third and fourth, the FedEx Cup points list looks very much like the PGA Tour money list.

As of today, the 144th player in points is Marco Dawson with 1,669.

Q. Where's the drama?

A: With each progressive week of the playoffs, the field will be reduced as players who fall short on FedEx Cup points are eliminated.

At this week's The Barclays, the field will be 144 strong - oops, make that 143 strong, because on Friday, much to the embarrassment of the PGA Tour, Woods announced he would be a no-show, exhausted from his back-to-back wins at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship.

"My body is spent and I need a short break," said Woods, who previously had said he intended to play all four events.

After The Barclays, the field will be cut to the top 120 for next week's Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston. The field will be reduced to the top 70 for BMW Championship in Chicago the week after; and for the finale in Atlanta at the Tour Championship, the field will be cut to the top 30.

Q: How could somebody like Marco Dawson with only 1,669 points to Tiger Woods' 30,574 possibly have a chance?

A: To help level the playing field, the FedEx Cup points will be reset for the playoffs, with each player seeded according to his regular-season finish.

Woods, who has sufficient points to maintain No. 1 even if No. 2 Singh wins at Wyndham, will start the FedEx Cup playoffs with 100,000 points.

The No. 2 seed will start with 99,000, No. 3 with 98,500, No. 4 with 98,000 and so on, down to No. 144 with 84,700.

Mathematically, anyone who makes the playoffs can win the FedEx Cup. In computer models the PGA Tour has run, however, no player seeded outside the top 13 at the start of the playoffs went on to win.

Q: Remind me again what was wrong with the old way of doing things.

A: Two things. The PGA Tour season had become too long, beginning the first week in January at the Mercedes-Benz Championship in Hawaii and dragging on in the first week of November, the old date for the Tour Championship.

Besides wanting to provide a big-bang end to the season, golf was getting killed in the TV ratings once football season started.

Q: What's this about the winner not actually getting a check for $10 million?

A: True. Turns out the winner of the FedEx Cup won't be handed a check for $10 mil on the 18th green at the Tour Championship. Rather, the money is deferred. It will go into his retirement account, accessible when he turns 45 in monthly payments over five years. Or the winner can defer it until he turns 60.

Bummer.

Contact staff writer Joe Logan at 215-854-5604 or jlogan@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/joelogan.

Chase for the FedEx Cup

Here is a look at the four tournaments that make up the PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedEx Cup. The name of tournament, size of field and number of players that advance to the next tournament are listed:

Tournament Dates Field Advance

The Barclays Aug. 23-36 144 120

Deutsche Bank Aug. 31-Sept. 3 120 70

BMW Championship Sept. 6-9 70 30

Tour Championship Sept. 13-16 30 Final

FedEx Cup Leaders

(FedEx Cup points in parentheses)

1. Tiger Woods. . . 30,574

2. Vijay Singh. . . 19,129

3. Jim Furyk. . . 16,691

4. Phil Mickelson. . . 16,037

5. K.J. Choi. . . 15,485

6. Rory Sabbatini. . . 13,548

7. Zach Johnson. . . 13,341

8. Charles Howell III. . . 12,126

9. Adam Scott. . . 11,196

10. Scott Verplank. . . 10,691

11. Steve Stricker. . . 10,621

12. Sergio Garcia. . . 10,547

13. Woody Austin. . . 10,483

14. Hunter Mahan. . . 10,185

15. John Rollins. . . 9,708

16. Boo Weekley. . . 9,591

17. Aaron Baddeley. . . 9,402

18. Ernie Els. . . 8,980

19. Mark Calcavecchia. . . 8,966

20. Padraig Harrington. . . 8,783

21. Justin Rose. . . 8,698

22. Luke Donald. . . 8,676

23. Geoff Ogilvy. . . 8,623

24. David Toms. . . 8,251

25. Robert Allenby. . . 7,536

26. Brandt Snedeker. . . 7,370

27. Jonathan Byrd. . . 7,329

28. Stewart Cink. . . 7,080

29. Heath Slocum. . . 6,801

30. Stuart Appleby. . . 6,799

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