1. The Tour Championship anchor
The season-ending Tour Championship has been played at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta every year the FedEx Cup has been in existence. It won’t move around anytime soon, but it should.
In addition to the notion that the event can seem a bit flat at Bobby Jones’ home club, there is the very viable argument that moving it around the country does a service to golf fans and players and adds a bit of spice to what is supposed to be a huge culmination to the PGA Tour season.
Of course, money talks in all matters of sponsorship, and Coca-Cola and Southern Company, the main sponsors of the event, are based in Atlanta. Hence, the desire to keep the tournament near corporate headquarters, which is the case through at least 2020.
It is no secret, however, that Coke sells its products outside of Atlanta, and moving the tournament to different venues — at least every other year — could create some excitement at other places.
The Northern Trust rotates venues in the New York area. The BMW Championship moves out of Chicago every other year. It’s time — especially with a new FedEx format looming with a new schedule in 2019 — that the last tournament that awards the biggest prize sees some new scenery.
2. Once upon a time …
Way before anyone was even considering something like the FedEx Cup playoffs, the Tour Championship was devised to try and give the golf season some closure. It was simple: The top 30 on the money list qualified for the season-ending event, which offered up a big purse.
It began in 1987 as the Nabsico Championship. Tom Watson won at Oak Hills Country Club in San Antonio. In subsequent years it was played at Pebble Beach, Harbour Town, Pinehurst and the Olympic Club. When Tiger Woods qualified for the Tour Championship in 1996 after having played just seven tournaments, the event was at Southern Hills.
Starting in 1997, the PGA Tour began a rotation with Champions in Houston and East Lake in Atlanta. That lasted through 2003, and the Tour Championship has been played at East Lake every year since.
There’s nothing wrong with Atlanta or East Lake. But doesn’t the season-ending event that is on its way to a format upgrade deserve more than the sameness that has been in place for all these years?
3. Possible venues
Why not explore some of the other locations that hosted the tournament in the past? Pinehurst. Olympic Club. Champions. Pebble Beach. All would be terrific. With a 30-player field, doesn’t that open the door to a place such as Bandon Dunes in Oregon? What about Sand Hills in Nebraska? Why not seek out other West Coast venues to take advantage of cooler temperatures or avoid thunderstorms (remember, the tournament will be played in late August)? Chambers Bay? Torrey Pines? Cherry Hills? There are numerous possibilities.
4. 15 years ago at East Lake
Back when the Tour Championship was played in November, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson had this memorable moment on the first tee of the opening round in 2002.
A classic Tiger/Phil moment from East Lake in 2002. pic.twitter.com/XnErDClwoE
— Skratch (@Skratch) September 18, 2017
5. Quirks of the system
This week’s Tour Championship is the 11th under the FedEx Cup playoff banner that began in 2007. The failure of last year’s champion, Rory McIlroy, to make the field shouldn’t be a surprise. Only twice in the playoff era has the previous year’s champion — Brandt Snedeker in 2012 and Jordan Spieth in 2015 — played in the Tour Championship. Tiger Woods would have made it in 2008 having played in just six events, but he was injured.
6. Spoils of success
Getting to the Tour Championship means some significant financial perks in addition to the exemptions to the next year’s first three majors for those not already invited. The purse at the Tour Championship is $8.5 million, with $1.575 million to the winner. Then there’s the FedEx Cup bonus, with pays $10 million to the winner and $3 million to second place and makes subsequent payouts all the way down to 150th in the standings.
For finishing last in the Tour Championship, a player receives $140,000 in prize money. For finishing 30th in the FedEx Cup standings, there’s $175,000 in bonus money earmarked for a retirement account.
7. Major mistake
There is considerable debate about whether the Evian Championship should be a major championship in the first place. The LPGA Tour decreed it be one several years ago, meaning the circuit has five majors, a dubious enough decision.
But when the tour decided about halfway through Thursday’s first round to scrap play — wiping scores off the board, both good and bad — and reduce the tournament to 54 holes it made for a bad situation.
It is tough to envision any other major championship being contested at less than 72 holes. It would not happen in men’s golf, nor would it be likely to happen at the other women’s majors. The fact that the LPGA has no event this week makes it even more dubious.
LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Whan has done so many good things in his tenure and undoubtedly had his reasons for coming to this conclusion. Anna Nordqvist won in a playoff that was contested in horrible conditions that also gave pause. The situation proved unfortunate all the way around.
8. Ranking freefall
Bubba Watson has the distinction of making the biggest fall of any player ranked in the top 10 at the end of 2016. Watson, who did not qualify for the final two playoff events, was ranked 10th at the end of 2016 and is now 50th, meaning his ability to play in the World Golf Championship events early in 2018 will be in peril.
9. Speed golf
You have to give Wesley Bryan some credit for getting around Conway Farms on Sunday in what has to be some sort of record. Bryan, playing first by himself, played 18 holes in 1 hour, 29 minutes. And it makes you think that having one tournament a year in which a small field of players would combine time and score would be a fun idea.
• 1 hour, 29 minutes
• 14 pars
• 3 birdies
• 1 bogey
• 69 pic.twitter.com/pKyl16Ayes
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 17, 2017
1 hour 29 min
— Wesley Bryan (@wesleybryangolf) September 17, 2017