By: Pro From Dover
The Fed Ex Cup is not working!
Here are a few of the problems:
- No one, including the players involved, completely understands it.
- It gives the appearance of a contrived event.
- Many fans see it as just another very fat payday for millionaires.
- Did we mention no one understands it?
- The prestige associated with the majors just doesn’t transfer.
We applaud the PGA Tour for making an effort to overcome their late season doldrums. It has been a creative attempt to maintain interest while folks are busy getting ready for the real New Year’s Day: Labor Day.
The Tour understands that with football starting, baseball races getting interesting, kids returning to school and parents becoming taxi services they need something extraordinary to maintain interest.
The Tour has been receptive to constructive criticism and they have tried mightily to produce a series that is riveting. It just hasn’t happened and we’re not sure it can be fixed.
But we’ve come up with a couple of great ideas as alternatives.
The first option is take the winners of the four majors and have them play a 36 hole tournament. Offer them a pot full of money to play at a beautiful locale on a December weekend and the crowds and the TV ratings will go through the roof. What’s that? It’s been done?
Yes, it’s been done since 1979 and this year it will be staged in Bermuda with Angel Carbrera, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink and Y.E. Yang playing for a jaw dropping first prize of, hold your breath now, $600,000. Granted, the worst of the four will get $200,000 just for showing up but somehow, we just can’t imagine Tiger dragging himself off his yacht, firing up the G 5 and heading to Bermuda for a shot at that money.
In the 1960’s International Management Group, the mother of all sports representative agencies, staged a TV series called “Big Three Golf” which had Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player going against one another in match play. Each match was filmed and they were televised over several weeks. It was a similar idea to the Grand Slam but it resides in the bowels of some film library now.
In 1983 IMG came up with another interesting idea: The Skins Game. Arnold, Jack, Gary and Tom Watson played hit and giggle over two days for a bunch of money and it was a ratings success for a couple of years but then it entered a slump of tedium and mediocre players and it sleeps with the fishes.
Ah, but we have another sure winner idea. Stage a 72-hole event with all tournament winners for that season at the end of the year. Oh, really? That’s being done?
Well, actually it has been staged since 1953 when Al Besselink prevailed. For the past nine years, Mercedes has been the sponsor and the tournament has been played in Hawaii in January. It’s presented as the first tournament of the new season which has never made a lot of sense.
Granted we have been in the depths of a recession but the event has been such a windfall for Mercedes that they abandoned their contract with the PGA a year early and in January 2010 the event will be sponsored by SBS. That’s the Seoul (Korea) Broadcasting System. It would seem logical that a tournament of champions for a given season would be played at the end of that season, not the beginning of another.
The challenge in all this comes from the nature of golf. The tournaments are self defining, distinct events. 72 holes, a cut, a winner. They are individual dramas played out over four acts (sometimes with play off encores.) The majors have a special importance and the Players Championship is getting there so it’s very difficult to come up with something to top those in gravitas.
The players know who the best is. They vote on the Player of the Year. There is special note made of the top official money earner. The PGA of America awards the Vardon Trophy to the leading low scorer on the PGA Tour (60 rounds minimum) and the PGA Tour presents the Byron Nelson Award (50 rounds minimum) for the same category. (The PGA of America - PGA Tour schism is a story for another day.)
Fans also think they know who is best. Most have their favorite and a rooting interest. So, all the Fed Ex Cup does is present a bunch of successful players an opportunity to make a pile of money before they pack it in for the year.
Our preference, if the PGA Tour thinks it must, would be to invigorate the Tournament of Champions. Stage it at the end of September, open it to all winners for the season, perhaps add the leading money winner from the European Tour and have a go at it for big money. It would maintain the flow of the season and add an exclamation mark.
Bravo to the Tour for trying the Fed Ex Cup, but maybe it’s time to move on to an old idea brought back to meaningful life.