By Ed Travis
Justin Rose won the FedExCup bonus of $10 million on points, despite a rather mundane three-over-par effort on the final day at the Tour Championship.
Don’t ask me to explain the points system, since not even the players clearly understand it. However, in 2019, there’s a completely new and different scoring plan in place for the FedEx Cup. We will no longer see Steve Sands and his electronic ‘what if’ scoreboard, but I’m sure golf fans will get tired of hearing Golf Channel, as well as, the NBC announcing crew wearing out the phrase, “he controls his own destiny.”
In 2019, the player with the lowest gross score for the Tour Championship still may not win the FedEx Cup, because the tournament will be a handicap event. The FedEx Cup points leader will enter the Tour Championship with a handicap-adjusted score of -10 strokes under par, while the second-place points leader, starts with -8 under par. Each player continues to receive fewer strokes all the way down to Nos. 26-30, who start at even par, receiving no handicap adjustment to their score.
If the new plan were in place this year the FedEx Cup leader, Bryson DeChambeau, who finished at -1 under par tied for 19th this year, would have received 10 handicap adjusted strokes. His adjusted score would have been -11 under par for the tournament (-10 handicap + -1 actual score). That still would not have been good enough to have won this year, however.
Woods, who entered the Tour Championship in 20th position, would have received a two-stroke advantage to finish at -13 under par (-11 + -2), but eventual runner-up, Billy Horschel would have also finished tied with Woods at an adjusted score of -13 under. The third-place finisher, Dustin Johnson finished four shots behind Woods, in actual score this year. Under the new scoring format, he would have received a six-stroke handicap adjustment to total -13 under par to produce a three-way tie.
One wonders, will that mandate a scorecard playoff, just like the member-guest at your club?
Not so fast my friends.
Justin Rose, who carded a final round three-over-par 73, finished tied for fourth place this year. In 2019, however, he would have ended up with a better net score than Woods, Horshcel or Johnson. His -6 under par total would be adjusted by eight shots to -14 under par, good enough to win both the Tour Championship and the $10 million FedEx Cup.
Which is exactly what the PGA Tour, FedEx, The Southern Company and the television media want to happen.
When I first read the press release describing the new system my reaction was, “A handicap event…really?”
In a typical first tee negotiation, “I’ll give you two a side, and if I beat you by less than four shots you win.”
That is exactly what the FedEx Cup is changing to. Hopefully the new handicap system won’t be as big a pain in the cerebral cortex as the current point system.
The players will grumble and grouse, but they will show up. Especially with the new and improved bonus pool increasing to $60 million from the current $25 million. Plus, the winning share increase to $15 million, from a paltry $10 million.
Players will still earn regular season points to determine who gets to the playoffs, but at least the contest for the FedEx Cup and the Tour Championship should be easier to follow.
It does mean, however, that Steve Sands will have to stick to post-round interviews only on Tour Championship Sunday.