Saving the Game of Golf: FedEx Cup Holds the Key

Last year Billy Horschel took home around $11.5 million dollars at the Tour Championship, the final event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs and the last PGA Tour event of the season. Now if you don’t fervently follow the PGA Tour you might be wondering, “Who is Billy Horschel?” or “Since when did the PGA Tour have playoffs?”

That’s the problem!

In 2007, the PGA Tour introduced a month-long playoff series that consists of four tournaments: the Barclays, the Deutsche Bank Championship, the BMW Championship, and the Tour Championship. However, in its eight years of existence it hasn’t created the hype that many expected.

The Root of the Problem

Across the board attendance and television viewing of golf tournaments are in decline. In addition, the number of young people who participate in golf is decreasing. If all these trends continue, golf could soon be in big trouble.

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What Does All of this Have to do with the FedEx Cup?

Evidence that the relevance of golf is fading disappears as soon as the majors roll around. Golf has four major championships: the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open, and the PGA Championship. Nationwide excitement ensues around any of these events and social media goes crazy. Add to that the Players Championship, which is referred to as the “fifth major” and is hyped up accordingly, and you have five tournaments every season that generate large amounts of attention. So what’s missing?

Football, basketball, baseball, and hockey all have successful and highly anticipated postseasons. This is where golf is lacking. Golf’s postseason seems to stretch on longer than others and takes place when there are many other things going on in the sports universe, specifically the beginning of college and professional football. Plus, as far as crowning a FedEx Cup champion goes, the playoffs make the rest of the season seem totally insignificant.

Author and GolfDigest.com contributor Shane Ryan (@ShaneRyanHere) said “The only difference (in golf’s playoffs system) is the lack of excitement; the Tour forces its fans to follow a complex mathematical formula and a byzantine list of potential outcomes, which is analogous to hearing a dull lecture on the joys of human reproduction rather than experiencing the thing itself.”

Golf doesn’t have to be boring. Jordan Spieth proved that this season. The golf world saw television ratings soar as a young, popular Spieth attempted to do something that hadn’t been done in over 80 years. While he didn’t succeed in winning a Grand Slam, he succeeded in giving the game of golf a much-needed jolt of energy. However, you can’t just throw a Jordan Spieth at every problem with golf’s lack of interest.

So How Do We Fix it?

Golf leadership must find a way to make the FedEx Cup playoffs more exciting. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Move the playoffs up to August so that it is not overshadowed by football. Nothing goes on in August. The FedEx Cup playoffs could be the primary sporting event to focus on in August with a little bit of marketing.
  1. Change the venue of the Tour Championship. It has been hosted by East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia every year since 2004. Move the Tour Championship around in order to showcase other courses and generate attention in other parts of the country.
  1. Most importantly, make the regular season matter more. Billy Horschel did not have a top-5 finish prior to the playoffs. Yet he walked away as the FedEx Cup champion.

Joel Beall (@JoelMBeall), an assistant editor for GolfDigest.com, said, “The FedEx Cup needs to be more of a “best of the best” competition. In its current configuration, it’s a wild-card affair. The Tour Championship needs to place emphasis on the regular season’s outcomes rather than the previous three weeks.”

The FedEx Cup playoffs have all of the makings to become a tradition in the game of golf. Here’s to hoping that it doesn’t become a tradition of irrelevance.

This blog post was written by Samford University student Ashton Nix. He is a collegiate golfer and Journalism & Mass Communications major. You can learn more about Ashton Nix at https://www.linkedin.com/in/ashtonnix.

References

Ryan, Shane. GolfDigest.com. “How to Fix the Boring, Pointless, Anti-American FedExCup Playoffs.” Retrieved from http://www.golfdigest.com/story/how-to-fix-the-boring-pointless-anti-american-fedexcup-playoffs

Beall, Joel. GolfDigest.com. “What the FedEx Cup can Learn from the Postseasons of the Big 4 Sports.” Retrieved from http://www.golfdigest.com/story/what-the-fedex-cup-can-learn-from-the-postseasons-of-the-big-4-sports

SBRnet. “Golf Attendance: % by Frequency of Attending.” Retrieved from http://www.sbrnet.com.ezproxy.samford.edu/research.aspx?subrid=540

SBRnet. “Golf TV Viewing: % by Frequency of Viewing.” Retrieved from http://www.sbrnet.com.ezproxy.samford.edu/research.aspx?subrid=541

SBRnet. “Golf: Participation by Total Age Group (% of Part.).” Retrieved from http://www.sbrnet.com.ezproxy.samford.edu/research.aspx?subRID=199

Image from

http://usgolftv.com/wp-content/uploads/FedEx-Cup-Trophy_640_0.jpg

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