ATLANTA — On Tuesday morning, the media and golf fans were made aware of the changes that are coming to the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup playoffs next season. Instead of maintaining the point race after the BMW Championship, the golfer with the most FedEx Cup points will start the Tour Championship at 10-under par, the player with the second-most points will begin at 8 under and so on.
The sixteen players on the Player Advisory Council, including Paul Casey, Stewart Cink, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas learned about all this back in May at the Wells Fargo Championship.
After hearing Andy Pazder, the PGA Tour’s chief tournament and competitions officer deliver a presentation on the changes, Casey said that he was receptive to the idea of the strokes-based scoring system.
“Every time I have ever come here, the scenario is like you’ve got to do this and he’s got to do that, and you can win, but you won’t win,” Casey said in the practice area at East Lake Country Club. “The PGA Tour was smart and showed us a lot of TV footage of analysts and guys talking about it. Then they showed us the data on how many people understand it, especially golf fans versus non-golf fans. Everybody can understand that if you finish at 9-under par and I finish at 8-under par, you win the bloody event.”
The desire for great simplicity, for the sake of the fans and players alike, was echoed everywhere on the driving range at East Lake Country Club on Tuesday morning.
Keegan Bradley, the winner of the BMW Championship two weeks ago who enters this week ranked sixth on the FedEx Cup point line, said, “It will make for interesting viewing for sure. You’re going to have less confusion about who is going to win the tournament and who is going to win the FedEx Cup. It helps simplify the winner for the fans.”
For the most part, Billy Horschel, who won the FedEx Cup after he won the Tour Championship in 2014 and some top-ranked players stumbled, likes the changes.
Being extremely analytical by nature, Horschel noted that he won the Tour Championship with a score of 11 under and the last two champions won at 12 under. Under next season’s system, Horschel would start the Tour Championship five shots behind Bryson DeChambeau, noting that East Lake is a hard course, so making up a big deficit will be very tough.
“(Bryson) wouldn’t have to do anything spectacular to keep his lead over me,” Horschel said. “If he shoots 2-under par every day, he’s going to beat me. That would put him at -18. I’d have to play really good just to get to 13 or 14 under. There’s not a lot of volatility because of the way this course plays.”
This week, the player with the smallest chance of winning the FedEx Cup is Patton Kizzire because as the 30th-ranked player, he starts the week with the fewest points. He did not see the changes coming but liked the idea of making things easier to understand. He also said making up a 10-shot deficit at the start of the Tour Championship would be easier than winning the tournament while a host of other long-shot scenarios all fall into place.
With a smile, Kizzire said, “If I’m the guy starting with a 10-shot lead, I think everything will be great.”