I have gotten a couple of questions about the PGA Tour Championship, and the FedEx Cup Points system, so I’ll do my best to explain it here (and probably fail miserably).
After the BMW Championship, Tiger Woods has a seemingly insurmountable 1,504 point lead over second place Steve Stricker. His lead is big enough that all he would have to do to win the $10 million check was show up for the event. But that would be boring. To inject some actual interest in the final round, the Tour “resets” the points before the Tour Championship. So rather than having 7,196 points, Tiger starts the Tour Championship with 2,500. Steve Stricker, in second place starts with 2,250. Jim Furyk has 2000, Zach Johnson, 1,800; Health Slocum, 1,600; Padraig Harrington, 1,400; Sean O’Hair, 1,000; and so on.
Since the Tour Championship is worth 2.500 points, this means that every one of the thirty players in the field has an outside chance to win the overall FedEx Cup by winning the Tour Championship. However, only the top five can win without significant help, as we will see.
A first place finish at the Tour Championship adds 2,500 points to a player’s reset total. A second place finish adds 1,500; third, 1,000 and so on.
This means that any player from the top five who wins the Tour Championship wins the FedEx Cup.
Example: Suppose that Heath Slocum (fifth place) wins the Tour Championship. He started with 1,600 points and gets another 2,500 for a total of 4,100. Tiger finishes second. He started with 2,500 and gets another 1,500 for a total of 4,000. Slocum wins.
The bottom line: any player in the top five who wins the tournament, wins the FedEx Cup.
Players in sixth place and lower need some help to win the $10 million check. If Padraig Harrington (sixth place) wins the Tour Championship, he ends up with 3,900 points. Tiger, by coming in second would still take home the check because he’d have 4,000. Padraig can win the FedEx Cup only if he wins, and Tiger finishes third or lower.
A similar calculus works for every player outside the top five. Players six through thirty can finish first in the FedEx Cup only if they win, and the top five finish unexpectedly low. For example, the thirtieth player, John Senden, will end up with a total of 2,710 points if he wins the Tour Championship, but Tiger still wins if he doesn’t finish last. If Tiger somehow does finish last, Stricker could still win by finishing seventh or better.
It doesn’t seem like a bad system, and perhaps after three years, the Tour has it right.
But none of this will matter if Tiger simply laps the field as he did at the BMW Championship.