FedEx playoffs no longer defeating the purpose

Updated: November 29, 2006, 8:30 AM ET
By John Hawkins | GolfDigest.com

For all the noise Tom Pernice Jr. made at the Tour Championship about missing superstars and bloated FedEx Cup playoff fields, his colleagues clearly were listening. In a surprise move, Camp Ponte Vedra announced Tuesday that the PGA Tour policy board has approved cuts after each of the first three postseason tournaments -- the original field of 144 will be reduced to 120 players, then 70, then 30 for the season finale.

Commissioner Tim Finchem said two weeks ago there would be no changes to the FedEx format, which prompted a loud response from Pernice, who reminded everyone that Finchem works for the players, and that the policy board would make the final call on all competitive matters in a Nov. 13 teleconference. Having talked to numerous players in Atlanta, I got the impression that a lot of guys were in favor of cuts but would let the inaugural FedEx run its course before any significant changes were made.

"We worry too much about getting playing opportunities for the [guys ranked] 80th to 120th," policy board member Davis Love III admitted that Friday. Still, Love didn't think the board would overturn the no-cut edict it had decided on a week earlier in Tampa. It's fair to say Pernice's protest brought the issue back to the front burner.

It's also fair to think the cuts will bring a healthy dose of credibility to a format roundly criticized for not being a playoff at all. Without a process of elimination from week to week, the FedEx postseason only seemed to cater to the tour's rank-and-file for the very reason Love mentioned. Admitting 144 players into the big dance was bad enough -- a blatant concession to the middle class. To let 60 or 70 guys stick around for three weeks just because they had nowhere to play, so they could pick up paychecks despite having no shot at the grand prize, clearly defeated the purpose.

This also proves the players can influence policy, take the gavel out of Finchem's hands and get their voice heard. BMW, the title sponsor of the playoff event in the Midwest, was among those lobbying for smaller fields as the playoffs progressed, but this was the players' doing, and they got it done.

John Hawkins is a senior writer for Golf World magazine

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