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Morri: PGA Tour Should Be Ashamed About FedEx Cup Changes

The FedEx Cup will now be worth $15 million and played as a handicap event
My knowledge of pop culture is limited (Seinfeld and Simpsons is as recent as I get) but even I know what it means to ‘jump the shark’.

The term comes from a famous episode of the hit 70’s TV show Happy Days where producers, desperate to reignite flagging interest in the sitcom, came up with a plot line that beggared belief.

They had Fonzie, a leather jacket clad hoodlum (with a good heart, it must be said) from Midwest America, jump over an open topped shark cage on water skis after being challenged by a California surfer.

The term ‘Jump the shark’ has since become a common way to indicate that somebody or something has ‘lost the plot’.

The online dictionary describes ‘jumping the shark’ as “reaching a point when far-fetched events are included merely for the sake of novelty, indicative of a decline in quality.”

Those of you who have got this far will, understandably, be asking yourselves what the point of all this might be, particularly in a golf context.

Well, I’ll tell you. Earlier this week the PGA Tour ‘jumped the shark’ with its announcement of changes to next season’s FedEx Cup.

The ‘season long points race’ has been with us for 11 years but let’s be honest, it really hasn’t caught on.

I'm not generally one to toot my own horn but including this Tweet seems fitting

Almost every year there have been changes to the format to try to pique interest but aside from those with the chance to win the $10 million end of season bonus, it’s been ho-hum.

So the Tour this week made a bold announcement in their effort to have the rest of us care more.

There was a reduction in the number of playoff events from four to three (good move) and some other news about a ‘Wyndham Series’ rewarding players.

But the biggie, the one that really grabbed the attention, was the plans for the year’s Grand Final (where the now $15 million bonus will be decided), the Tour Championship.

To ‘reward’ the best ‘season long’ performer heading into the final event, the Tour has decided the FedEx Cup leader in 2019 will start the Tour Championship at 10-under-par.

To save you going back and reading that again thinking it’s a typographical error I’ll repeat myself. The leader of the FedEx Cup will START the year’s final tournament 10-under-par.

Warming up on the driving range Thursday morning that player will have achieved what previously seemed an impossible feat and be double digits in the red before a competitive ball is struck.

But it’s not just the leader, there will be a sliding scale for the 30 players in the field. Second will start 8-under, third 7-under, fourth 6-under, fifth 5-under, sixth to tenth 4-under and so on. The players 26th to 30thwill start at even par.

Bold, eh? Professional golfers playing a handicap event. For $15 million. Perhaps there will be nett prizes as well?

Even for a ‘competition’ as contrived as the FedEx Cup, this is a new low.

The very essence of professional strokeplay golf is that everybody starts at the same score, plays (usually) 72 holes and whoever has the least shots wins.

It’s really quite simple and has proved effective, interesting and entertaining for more than a hundred years.

But in the interests of making the FedEx Cup ‘easier to understand’ for ‘casual fans’, this is what the Tour has hit upon.

One can only imagine the meetings that led to this decision which was, incidentally, leaked a couple of weeks ago but seemed so preposterous as to not be given any credibility by anybody.

I mean, what self-respecting golf organisation would ever consider manipulating an event to such an extent? It would be demeaning, right?

Apparently not. The PGA Tour is a business and its core function is to help professional golfers get rich by playing golf. I get that.

But when the product they are offering stops being golf – and make no mistake, this concept bears no resemblance to actual golf – then they have jumped the shark.

The PGA Tour should be embarrassed about ever coming up with the idea and any and all criticism they receive is warranted.

Fans, sponsors and – dare I say it, even players – deserve better. The sooner this plan is scrapped and we get back to playing proper golf the better.


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