Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Is the PGA Ready for the Southern Cup?

All this talk about the failings of the point system got me to wondering… is there a way to make a point system work?

While I’m not a huge NASCAR fan, I do live in North Carolina where racing is something of a religion, so I know a little about the sport. And one thing that strikes me as odd is that, while the Tour used the NASCAR point system as a model for their own, when they ignored one of the most interesting aspects of the racing system:

In NASCAR, you can get points for more than just winning.

That’s right. No matter what your finish position is, you are eligible to make even more points based on your performance during the race. If you’re interested, you can learn more about the NASCAR system here, but the idea behind the Southern Cup is a fairly simple numbers game. While the PGA system rewards winning, I want to reward performance as well.

Here’s how it works:

Points are awarded to the top 70 and ties at each tournament; 1st place gets 450 points,10 points more than 2nd gets at 440, and then we go down by 5 points (3rd gets 435, 4th 430, 5th 425, etc.) until we reach 70th place, which gets 100 points. Ties all get the same number of points (if four players are T4, they all get 430 points); and if more than 70 make the cut, they all get the 70th place points. The four majors get a 25 point bonus per position (475 for 1st, 125 for 70th) and alternate field events get the normal points.

This setup prevents anybody from getting so many points from wins that they can take the Cup while playing only 15 or 16 tournaments; if Tiger, Phil, or any of the big boys want this trophy, they’re gonna have to play for it. (That is what the Tour wants, isn’t it?)

Now for the bonuses:
  • Eagle bonus: 5 points for each eagle made during the tournament. Rewards aggressive play among the bombers.
  • Birdie bonus: 5 point for each birdie over 10 in the tournament. For example, 12 birdies = 10 points (12 – 10 = 2 eligible birdies; 2 * 5 = 10 points.) Rewards aggressive play among all players.
  • Driving bonus: 15 points for hitting more than 75% of fairways during tournament. Rewards accurate play, thus helping the shorter hitters.
  • GIR bonus: 15 points for hitting more than 75% of greens in regulation during tournament. Rewards accurate play among all players.
  • Round leader bonus: 5 points for each round you led at the end of the day. Rewards aggressive play among all players.
  • Dominator bonus: 25 points for winning tournament by 6 or more strokes. Rewards aggressive play by winner.
And here’s the kicker: There’s a limit to how many points you can earn at a tournament―475 at a normal tournament, 500 at a major. The only exception to this is the dominator bonus, which is added regardless.

This should tighten up the season’s competition somewhat, don’t you think? Let’s say you have a bad putting week, but your driving and iron play are exceptional. Getting the Driving and GIR bonuses gives you 30 extra points, the equivalent of 6 places. Or you make a lot of birdies and eagles but have one really bad hole; you lose the tournament, but you get extra points to offset one bad mistake. But there’s no way to make up enough points to erase a really poor showing; there is no “catapulting” from the bottom to the top in one or two weeks.

At the end of the season, only 60 players make it to the playoffs. Points are reset, using the 475 major point scale. Each player then receives an additional 10 points for each win during the regular season (15 points if the win was a dominator win), and the 60 players play three tournaments with no cut and no limit on their ability to accumulate points. (Individual tournament winners are still determined by score, not points.) The top 30 point getters make it to the Tour Championship, where all points are wiped out and all that matters is their score at the end of the week. The winner of the Tour Championship wins the Southern Cup… and believe me, he earned it!

The rank-and-file of the Tour would probably like the main season, as it makes it a bit easier to stay close to the leaders; I don’t think they’ll like the four-week playoffs at all since, if you don’t make the playoffs, you get a month-long vacation. But what do you think?

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