No changes in store for the FedEx Cup system
KAPALUA, Hawaii — In the past two years of the FedEx Cup playoffs, a runner-up finish for Martin Laird at The Barclays and for Chez Reavie at the Deutsche Bank Championship was enough for them to lock up a spot in the Tour Championship — and three of the majors — after what had been ordinary seasons.
That scenario is not likely to change for 2012.
After crunching numbers using different models, the PGA Tour has decided to leave the points structure alone for the FedEx Cup. The system was changed after each of the first three years in existence. This is the third consecutive year with no tweaking.
At least not yet.
PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw said even though FedEx Cup points will start being awarded this week at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, changes could be made at the next Policy Board meeting, in March, though "I would say that's unlikely."
The formula has been working well, for the most part. The reward for a strong regular season is a high seeding going into the playoffs, which translates to better odds of reaching the Tour Championship. And there's still plenty of volatility for a high finish in the playoff events, as Reavie showed last year and Laird did in 2010.
Points are worth five times as much in the playoffs. Votaw said tour officials looked at how the standings would be if points were only tripled, or quadrupled, and didn't see anything worth changing.
"Going down to four (times the points) doesn't change a whole lot. We don't think going down to three changes much," Votaw said. "There has to be some premium on funneling down to the playoffs. The whole question of volatility has been a vexing one from the start. But we think the last three years have been good."
Volatility was evident all the way to the end last year. Bill Haas narrowly got into the Tour Championship as the No. 25 seed, then won the $10 million bonus by winning the Tour Championship, with most of the top players in the standings faltering.
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RANKING THE TOURS: The first month of the golf season is when American players typically complain about the Official World Golf Ranking, either how many spots they dropped since they last played or how many more points are available on the European Tour. Over the course of the season, though, the PGA Tour remains the strongest, and its players will have ample opportunity.
The average ranking points awarded to PGA Tour winners last year was 54.05, compared with 43.78 points for European Tour winners. Throw out the four majors and four World Golf Championships, and the average points for PGA Tour winners was 46.94 compared with 35.12 in Europe.
There were only nine weeks when European Tour events offered more world-ranking points — Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Malaysian Open, World Match Play, Wentworth, Scottish Open, Dunhill Links Championship, Madrid Masters and Andalucia Masters. Of those last three tournaments, two were opposite Fall Series events in America, and the last one was opposite the U.S. tour's Asia Pacific Championship.
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NOT A TOTAL LOSS: Dustin Johnson, Fredrik Jacobson and Brandt Snedeker didn't make it to Kapalua for the Tournament of Champions, though $59,000 will make it into their bank accounts.
Because they are recovering from injuries and unable to play, those three players will be awarded last-place money. It is not official and will not count toward the money list.
Eight other players who chose not to play will not get last-place money. Most of them are international players who are taking time off, from South Africa's Charl Schwartzel to England's Luke Donald, who played three times in December.
Justin Rose, whose wife gave birth to their second child on Sunday, does not get last-place money. According to tour policy, that's only for players who can't compete because of a serious personal emergency, injury or other disability that requires medical attention.
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STEINBERG STABLE: Mark Steinberg added another prominent name to a new stable of golfers. Gary Woodland has left Hambric Sports Management and now is with Steinberg at Excel Sports Management.
Steinberg, whose contract with IMG was not renewed last summer, took Tiger Woods with him to Excel. Since then, he added Matt Kuchar and Woodland from the PGA Tour, and U.S. Women's Amateur champion Danielle Kang.
Woodland and Kuchar won the World Cup in November, ending a 10-year drought for the Americans. Steinberg said that week is where Woodland began to decide on a switch.
"The two of them got to talking, he approached me after the World Cup and I was obviously interested," Steinberg said.
Woodland is regarded as a rising star, an athletic player who only started competing nationally when he transferred to Kansas as a sophomore after giving college basketball a try. He won the Transitions Championship last spring and made the cut in all four majors.
Steinberg said the plan is not to add players by the dozen.
"IMG was such a factory. We represented so many great players," he said. "We want to take a little bit more dialed-down approach to a smaller-knit community of people we want to represent."
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DIVOTS: In an email Q&A with The Associated Press for the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship, Tiger Woods was asked why he never considered adding a few tournaments and taking up European Tour membership to win both money titles, as Luke Donald did this year. "To fulfill playing commitments on both tours is a huge undertaking," he replied. "I really admire Luke's achievement." ... Ian Poulter will be taking off the entire month of January for good reason. Poulter only recently disclosed that his wife, Katie, is expecting their fourth child in four weeks. ... Nick Watney's wife gave him a surf board (called "The Dominator") for their anniversary, and he planned to bring it to Maui to try some grown-up waves. Alas, the board was broken on a recent trip and he couldn't surf. The good news for Watney, a surfing novice, is that it improved his chances of a healthy start to the new season.
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STAT OF THE WEEK: Twelve of the 28 players at Kapalua are in the Tournament of Champions for the first time.
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FINAL WORD: "Getting that invite to your first Masters ... it's probably not as big of a deal to the younger guys. But when you've tried for 14 or 15 years, it's a real emotional moment." — Harrison Frazar, who at age 40 will be playing in his first Masters.