Since 2007, the PGA Tour’s season has ended with a playoff system called the FedEx Cup playoffs, with the winner of the Tour Championship being awarded the FedEx Cup. Tiger Woods is the only two-time FedEx Cup champion since the playoffs debut, taking home the top spot in both 2007 and 2009.
The format of the playoffs has changed a lot since Woods picked up those two victories over a decade ago. Three big changes were made to the format that are starting this year; these changes were made with the intent of making the playoffs more exciting and easier for fans to follow.
1. There are now only three events instead of four
Since it’s inaugural season in 2007, the playoffs have consisted of four tournaments; the Northern Trust (formerly known as the Barclays), the Dell Technologies Championship (formerly known as the Deutsche Bank Championship), the BMW Championship, and the Tour Championship.
Under this four-tournament system, the top 125 players in the FedEx Cup standings during the regular season would be invited to play in the Northern Trust. The top 100 players in the standings after the Northern Trust would advance into the Dell Technologies Championship, followed by a cut down to the top 70 players for the BMW Championship and a final cut down to the top 30 players for the Tour Championship.
Starting this season in 2019, the Dell Technologies Championship is no longer a part of the playoffs. As a result, the field will be cut nearly in half from 125 all the way down to 70 in the BMW Championship in just one week. This change will put an added emphasis on the Northern Trust as it is the only chance for the players ranked outside of the top 70 to make a move before being eliminated.
2. The playoffs have been moved to an earlier date
In past seasons, the FedEx Cup playoffs didn’t begin until late August, eventually wrapping up in late September. This year, with the playoffs shortened down to three weeks, the Northern Trust was moved up to August 8, and the Tour Championship will be decided on the weekend of August 24-25.
The new PGA Tour schedule keeps golf fans on the edge of their seats all season long. The Players Championship takes place in March and is followed by the Masters Tournament in April, the PGA Championship in May, the U.S. Open Championship in June, the Open Championship in July, and the playoffs in August. No lulls in the schedule is great for the game.
3. Players will receive a stroke advantage based on their rankings in the Tour Championship
The most significant change in this year’s FedEx Cup playoffs format is also the most exciting. In recent years, the FedEx Cup points were reset before the Tour Championship based on the player’s place in the standings. For example, last season, Bryson DeChambeau was in first place in the standings heading into the Tour Championship, so he was given 2000 points. Justin Rose was in second place with 1800, Tony Finau in third place with 1,520, and so on.
The issue with this system was that the winner of the Tour Championship could wind up not being the winner of the FedEx Cup. This happened in both 2017 and 2018. Tiger Woods triumphantly defeated the field to win the Tour Championship last season, but he only had 279 points heading into the event, so his 219 + 2000 for the win (2,219) wasn’t enough to overcome Justin Rose’s 1800 + 460 for a tied-for-fourth finish (2,260). In what other sport is the winner of the championship not the champion?
This has been fixed in 2019. Instead of being rewarded with extra points for being at the top of the FedEx Cup standings like Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy, players will be rewarded with strokes in the Tour Championship. The breakdown is as follows, with each player’s ranking followed by the stroke advantage they will start with:
FedExCup Leader: −10
Second Place: −8
Third Place: −7
Fourth Place: −6
Fifth Place: −5
6-10th Place: −4
11-15th Place: −3
16-20th Place: −2
21-25th Place: −1
26-30th Place: 0
Props to the PGA Tour for coming up with a system that still rewards the regular season and the previous two events in the playoffs, but makes sure that the winner of the Tour Championship is also the player that hoists the FedEx Cup in the end.