The PGA Tour is nearing completion of a points system for the 2007 FedEx Cup, the heart of its restructured schedule that will culminate in a four-week playoff series at the end of next summer. A proposal is expected to be ratified this week by the Player Advisory Council, which will meet before the Colonial Invitational. Once approved, the plan would be put to vote and finalized during a players meeting at the end of June.
Although points will replace dollars as the official measure of a player's position in the standings, the difference could prove to be quite minimal, as one might surmise from the basics of the proposal:
• All "regular" tour events will award a total of 25,000 points. The World Golf Championships will award 26,250, with the four majors and the Players Championship worth 27,500.
• The winner of each tournament will receive 18 percent of the total points -- the same percentage as a standard purse breakdown -- meaning Brett Wetterich's triumph at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship would have earned him 4,500 points. All players who make the cut will receive points.
• The top 144 in the standings through the Carolina Classic at Greensboro (the week after the PGA Championship) will be eligible for the playoff series.
• At that juncture, players will be awarded a fixed point total according to their position in the standings -- points accumulated during the regular season will not carry over into the playoffs. The No. 1 player will get 100,000 points. Second place will be worth 99,500, and the increments will decrease all the way to No. 144, which will be worth 84,000.
• Each playoff tournament will award 50,000 points in an attempt to encourage a lot of fluctuation in the standings over those four weeks.
• The size of the field for the season-ending Tour Championship has not been determined. There has been talk of reducing the playoff fields from 144 to 132, then to 120, then perhaps to 60 for the Tour Championship. The issue is likely to become a key topic of conversation at the PAC meeting.
Having devised the formula outlined above, the tour will be implementing a system that rewards exceptional performance yet keeps a lot of players -- at least 50 too many -- in the running for the year-end prize. It ensures equity for the first 7½ months, then promises a flurry of movement in the homestretch -- perhaps more than most credible competitive models would allow.
One of the tour's top priorities is to keep the system fan-friendly: easy for casual followers to understand, intriguing enough for the junkies to start Calcutta pools or indulge in some form of group wagering. As one player told me, "We're trying to create [widespread] interest here. The word 'bet' hasn't actually been used, but it's basically understood."
If the tour reduced the number of playoff qualifiers to 80, then eliminated 20 guys each week so only 20 remained for the Tour Championship, we'd have the type of cutthroat, nerve-melting format that is needed. The proposed system is a giant compromise to the tour's middle class, dangerously hyper and far too bloated to have the same stimulating effect as NASCAR's year-end series, in which only 10 cars compete.
Of course, no sports league rewards mediocrity better than the PGA Tour. It answers to a bulky constituency, diluting its product for the sake of shortsighted individual gain, failing to realize the boat would move much faster with a lot fewer oars in the water.
John Hawkins is a senior writer for Golf World magazine.