PGA Tour makes big changes to playoffs, season-ending Tour Championship
ATLANTA — The biggest payday in golf is getting bigger.
The PGA Tour and FedEx announced major changes Tuesday to the season-long race to the FedExCup starting next season, including the grand prize for the champion being bumped to $15 million from $10 million.
The playoffs also will be reduced from four events to three, and the postseason finale at The Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club will have a simplified scoring system to determine the overall champion.
Further, there will be a new Wyndham Rewards Top 10 race doling out $10 million to the best players during the regular season, with the leader in the standings heading into the playoffs getting $2 million and the 10th-place finisher getting $500,000.
In addition to the Wyndham Rewards, the FedExCup bonus pool will increase by $25 million to $60 million.
“We’re thrilled with these changes put forth today. In fact, it’s been a long time coming, and we’ve really looked forward to this day,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said Tuesday during his state of the union address at East Lake Golf Club. “But you take these changes and you combine them with the new and improved schedule, and we think this is a significant step forward for the PGA Tour.”
The adjustments coincide with the Tour’s significant changes to the schedule, which now will see the season conclude before Labor Day to escape the looming shadows of the NFL, MLB and college football.
The schedule adjustments include the playoffs being reduced to three events – the Northern Trust, BMW Championship and The Tour Championship. The first playoff event at the Northern Trust will feature 125 players with a cut down to the top 70 for the BMW Championship. Both events will award quadruple points compared to regular-season events.
As has been the case since the FedExCup Playoffs’ inception in 2007, the postseason’s last event, The Tour Championship, will feature 30 players. But starting next year, points will not be reset. Instead, the FedExCup points leader after the first two playoff events will begin The Tour Championship at 10-under par. The next four players in the standings will start at 8 under through 5 under, respectively. The next five will begin at 4 under, regressing by one stroke per five players until those ranked Nos. 26-30 start at even par.
There will no longer be a need for high-tech calculators as head-scratching scenarios explaining what a player would have to do to win the FedExCup are eliminated. Instead, the player with the lowest score at the end of the week will win The Tour Championship, the FedExCup and $15 million.
Monahan, who said the Tour considered many format changes, said he loves the beauty of the simplicity of the scoring at the playoff final.
“Win The Tour Championship and you are the FedExCup Cup champion. It’s that simple,” Monahan said. “And we have no doubt it will create a compelling, dramatic conclusion for the Tour’s ultimate prize.”
But it will be weird, said defending FedExCup champion Justin Thomas. He said the strokes-based system will take some getting used to, especially if you start 8 to 10 shots back and shoot over par and you’re basically eliminated after the first round. Or you could have the best 72-hole score and not win the tournament.
“It’s never going to be perfect,” said Thomas, who last year won the FedExCup while Xander Schauffele won The Tour Championship. “No system in any sport is ever going to be perfect, and the Tour has done such a great job of talking to us and trying to get it as good as possible. For how much pride we take in our wins, I think that that’s something that’s going to be a little different.
“We’re just going to kind of see how it unfolds, and hopefully it turns out well. I liked the way that it is now, but like anything, you’re just going to have to get used to it and we’re just going to have to become comfortable with it because that’s the way it is. Hopefully, and I’m sure it will, it will produce a lot of great drama and a very deserving winner.”