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FedEx Cup system confusing, not fair says Woods

Tiger Woods at the 2012 Honda Classic
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Stuart Appleby during the first round of the THE TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia, on November 2, 2006. PGA TOUR - 2006 THE TOUR Championship Presented by Coca-Cola - First RoundPhoto by Stan Badz/PGA TOUR/  - 

The prospect is unlikely, of course, but Tiger Woods was correct in saying Wednesday that a player could win every tournament the entire season – including the first three legs of the playoffs – but then finish second at the Tour Championship and not win the FedEx Cup.

That doesn’t sit so well with Woods.

“I don’t think that’s quite fair,” he said in a pre-tournament news conference at East Lake GC in Atlanta, “but that is our current system.”

When Woods won the FedEx Cup in 2007 and ’09, he did so under a cumulative format that took some of the excitement out of the playoff finale, because the $10 million bonus could already have been wrapped up a week earlier.

Woods said he was told that the decision to change the format was, in part, a reaction to what happened to the NFL’s New England Patriots, who in 2007-08 had a perfect regular-season record and steamrolled through the playoffs, but eventually were defeated in the Super Bowl. Thus, they weren’t the overall champion.

Now, under the current format, points reset heading into the Tour Championship, and anyone in the top 5 who wins at East Lake automatically claims the FedEx Cup, too.

“They’re trying to put more of an emphasis on the Tour Championship and what it would mean,” Woods said, “instead of the cumulative total that you’ve done for the whole year.”

Asked if the players are beginning to embrace the FedEx Cup, now in its sixth year, Woods said, “Guys still don’t quite understand the point system yet … because we’ve changed it several times over the years.” 

That’s at odds with what PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said earlier this week in an interview on Sirius/XM Radio, in which he remarked, “In the early days of the (FedEx) Cup, there was concern about it being too complicated. But actually, people want that. Fans want to see different things going on; they want to be challenged to keep up with the permutations.”

The current system, in which the points are reset heading into East Lake, harms a player such as Rory McIlroy, who is No. 1 in the points standings after back-to-back playoff victories at the Deutsche Bank Championship and BMW Championship. Under the old format, he’d likely already have clinched the FedEx Cup title. Now, any player has a mathematical shot to win golf’s biggest prize.

“I mean, it was what it is,” McIlroy said Wednesday. “I think I’ve got Vijay (Singh, in 2008) to thank for that from a few years ago. But I don’t mind.

“Look, it obviously still makes it exciting going into the last event. It would be nice to have it wrapped up, but it’s just the way it is. I’m not going to complain about it or I’m not going to moan about it. I accept it. I accept that I still have a lot of work to do this week, and that’s what I’m focused on.”