There is no doubt that Bill Haas played the best golf in the Tour Championship and deserved to win the whole kit and caboodle including two trophies and about $11 million in cash sweeps. His magical play, especially as the ultimate escape artist on the three playoff holes, will be the remain a thing of legend. His aquatic recovery on 17 would have made Lloyd Bridges and Woody Austin feel proud. With this dramatic ending of two of the best young American players locked in battle, logic would say that everyone should be satisfied with this show, the sponsors, the fans, the players, and the tour officials.
But the truth is that the PGA Tour’s attempt to create “Playoff Fever” through the FedEx Cup mechanism is still a disappointing failure. This has not turned into the back nine at Augusta or the stretch drive to the Super Bowl. Their inability to communicate clearly to the fans and the players in real time who is gaining ground, who is losing ground, who can win the pot of gold, and who is out of it remains the Achilles Heel of this concept.
To his own admission, Bill Haas did not know he had won the FedEx Cup when he climbed the stairs after sinking the winning putt. If he did not know for sure he was putting for the $11 million how compelling is this competition.
Let’s be honest, if you watched the broadcast of the final round there is no way you had a sense of how your personal favorite was doing until Steve Sands got on with a white board and a dry erase marker and penciled in the possibilities for you like a teaching assistant explaining the Laffer Curve to a class of freshman economics students. At one point in the broadcast they showed one of the leaders in the clubhouse thumbing through an app on his iPhone-clearly this was the only way he was going to know where he stood in the proceedings. There is something wrong when the players and the fans need a seeing eye dog and an MIT professor to update them on the current status of a golf tournament.
Bottom line is that if they want to create a real sense of riveting anticipation they need to end the bifurcation of the results of the final tournament and the year long competition. Fans and players cannot comprehend a parallel competition in real time.
After much musing and deliberation, my number crunching cohort R.M. and I have come up with the solution. It is really simple, we need March Madness in September. Four tournaments make up the playoffs. In sequence the first two tournaments winnow the fields from 125 to 60 and 60 to 30 respectively. The third tournament takes it from 30 to 4, the “Final Fore”, who play for the whole FedEx enchilada the last week.
This FedEx Championship event would be an innovative affair where the four guys play each other for three days in variety of formats for travel money and caddy fees to get it down to two finalists. The two still standing play on Sunday a three point Nassau, with presses, for the $10 million-winner takes all. Now that could be the back nine at Augusta every year.