Spruce up FedEx Cup with more match play

Jim Furyk celebrates his win at the 2010 Tour Championship, which also gave him the $10 million FedEx Cup prize.

ATLANTA – With another FedEx Cup season coming to a close, I wonder if we could have something more exciting to write about than the new Coca-Cola Freestyle machine in the media center.

Of course, it’s an accomplishment for the 30 players to even get here at East Lake. And clearly the players are embracing the playoff concept, or you wouldn’t have seen Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington make the trip to the Greensboro event just for a chance to qualify for the playoff opener.

But as the playoffs continue, it becomes more of a money-grab and less a compelling competition. Indeed, it may be the only sports playoff in history in which the best part occurs in the early rounds and the last rounds are just flat.

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Sadly, this is what has our correspondent most excited at the Tour Championship: the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine in the media center.

A lot of this has to do with the fact that the last two events do not have a cut, a concept I still don’t understand. Back in the day, when players took trains and boats to get to events, maybe I could understand the guaranteed money. But not in the days of private jets.

Let’s not forget that, not too long ago, players could finish in the top 25 and still not make a check. Just look back at the 1950 Los Angeles Open. Harry “Lighthorse” Cooper and Doug Ford played four rounds, finished out of the top 25 and got zero for their efforts. Of course, Cary Middlecoff tied for 23rd and earned a whopping $82.50, but I think you get the idea.

So, the bottom line: How do we get the focus back on the golf and off the Coke machine?

The answer, at least to me, is simple: match play. Or maybe an amalgam of stroke and match play.

Thursday and Friday, for instance, would be two days of stroke play, then cut to the top 16 on Friday night. If you get lucky, the cut won’t be even and then there would be a sudden-death playoff for the final spots. (Go to a U.S. Open qualifier, watch a 5-for-3 playoff, and see how compelling a playoff can be.)

Then it’s match play for the remaining 16 players in a format that everyone plays on Saturday and Sunday – the winners advance and the losers play off for spots as well to determine their final position.

This simple solution would be compelling golf every day and, most importantly, the winner will capture the FedEx Cup, just like what happens in every sport in every playoff.

And, by the way: I love the Vanilla Coke at the Freestyle machine.

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