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Thursday, September 2, 2021

My "Fix" for the TOUR Championship Scoring Format (Video)

While several players have talked about it, it seems that Patrick Cantlay's comments have attracted the most attention. The video below from Golf Today includes his comments in the first 1:30 or so and it has everybody talking. Rex Hoggard included it in his article about the feelings of Tour players about the format.

So I figured why not? I'll take a shot at "fixing" the scoring myself!

The question itself is simple. You want the season-long FedExCup Points List to mean something in the Playoffs. However, the players -- quite understandably -- want the winner to actually shoot the lowest score to win the TOUR Championship rather than an 'adjusted' score that awards strokes for position. And the TV networks have their own financial concerns. It seems to be a very difficult situation that can't please everybody.

But is it really? Yes and no. Everyone involved has a reason to be unhappy.

If you merely count the actual scores the players shoot during the TOUR Championship, there's a feeling that you have rendered the FedExCup Points List irrelevant. Although you can fairly argue that the limited field for this event was determined solely by the Points List, it is a bit of a sticky situation if you try to do more.

Unlike, for example, a NASCAR event where you could use the points list to determine each driver's starting position without any real argument -- after all, cars take up physical space and only two drivers can be at the front while the rest stretch out behind, which is a basic physical reality of a race and therefore gives the guys in front a small but significant advantage that all the drivers expect and see as fair. By comparison, everyone in a golf tournament can start at even par without any physical interference. Creating an artificial 'distance between competitors' seems less fair.

If you use match play rather than stroke play to score the event -- the FedExCup Points List being used for seeding -- the fans may love it but the TV networks won't. Not only is match play a bit difficult to program -- after all, in the extremes matches can last only ten holes (a 10&8 win) or go the full 18 plus 2, 5 or even 10 extra holes. It's not easy to design a broadcast window flexible enough to cover all the possibilities.

In addition, the most popular players could go out the first day and you lose in the ratings. That's just a fact.

And of course the players, as already mentioned, have a problem with the idea that they could shoot the lowest score and not win the event. That happened to Xander Schauffele last year, as Hoggard summarizes in his article:

Schauffele’s plight at last year’s finale also doesn’t help the format’s street cred. He began the week at 3 under (No. 14 on the point list), posted four rounds in the 60s for an adjusted 18-under total and lost by three shots to Dustin Johnson. Without strokes-based scoring Schauffele would have won by four strokes, a fact that’s recognized by the world ranking, which awarded Schauffele first-place points, but not the Tour.

You can see where everybody's coming from, right? There's no obvious way to satisfy everybody.

So my solution is a compromise -- as I assume the final solution that gets accepted will be.

Here's my solution:

There are 30 players in the field, determined by their FedExCup point totals. I say let's borrow some ideas from the NCAAs and combine stroke and match play together.

Let's start with two days of stroke play, all 30 players jockeying to make the cut. What's the cut? We drop the 14 highest scores, leaving only 16 players who go to match play.

There's no way you won't have some ties after match play. Now we return to the FedExCup Points List to sort out the seeding. For example, let's say we get four players tied in third place and they came into the event at 5, 16, 19 and 28 on the points list. The third seed is #5, the fourth seed is #16, the fifth seed is #19 and the sixth seed is #28.

Now you place your seeds as usual -- #1 VS #16, #2 VS #15 and so on. Day three of the event plays these eight matches (round of 16). To determine their final positions, use the points list to determine which player finished in #9 thru #16. Since technically all eight players went out in the same position since they went out in the same round, let the yearlong points race determine the final order.

Day four plays four matches in the morning (quarterfinals) and two matches in the afternoon (semis). Use the points list to determine the final order of #5 thru #8. Same deal -- yearlong points race determines final finish position.

Day five plays the finals and consolation matches to determine the winner, runner-up, third and fourth places. These players get their positions purely on the merit of their play this week.

I think this is the best overall solution.

  • The Top4 winners are determined purely by their scores while the rest of the field is determined by scores with the points list breaking ties. You made the event via the season-long points list but you won because you played the best THIS WEEK.
  • The TV networks get two days with all 30 players and three days with the real competitors in an exciting format that fans love and they're used to programming due to experience with the NCAAs and the WGC-Dell Match Play.
  • And FedEx sees their sponsorship rewarded by determining the Final30 who make the event and then breaking ties for the 26 'also-rans.'

Is it a perfect solution? Probably not; I don't think there is one. But I think it's the best compromise for everybody while eliminating the main problems of the current format.

At least it's a place for all parties to begin talking.

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