Beginning with the 2018-2019 season, the PGA Tour is dramatically changing the format of the FedEx Cup and the conclusion of its season and playoffs at the Tour Championship in Atlanta.
The radically overhauled Tour Championship will also offer Official World Golf Ranking points, using a unique dual-leaderboard approach approved by the powers behind the ranking system.
Now played at the end of August, the showdown at East Lake will still feature the top 30 players in the FedEx Cup standings after the penultimate playoff event (now two of three instead of three of four). However, the Tour Championship has now morphed into what is fundamentally a handicap event.
The top seed in the FedEx Cup points list entering the Tour Championship will begin the season finale at 10-under total, with the final players earning a berth in the Tour Championship starting at even-par. Players in between will begin the tournament with various starting scores. The 72-hole tournament will unfold, with the scores at East Lake being added to the starting positions for each player. Whichever player has the lowest combined on-course course plus handicap will win the FedEx Cup and its new $15 first-place prize.
Since the format change was announced, there’s been concern in golf circles about the Official World Golf Ranking awarding points to the declared winner of the tournament using the handicap format. It didn’t make sense, but not awarding points to a field of that caliber also would have a negative impact on a player despite earning their way into an elite tournament.
With that in mind, the Associated Press reports the PGA Tour took the step of submitting a plan to the Official World Golf Ranking that would award points to the field based solely on the on-course results of the 72-hole tournament. With this plan approved, the OWGR will offer ranking points based on the tournament’s field strength and how those 30 players finish in a separate leaderboard that doesn’t take into account the FedEx Cup points-to-strokes system.
While the PGA Tour wanted to get rid of the idea of having a tournament within a tournament to decide the FedEx Cup, the OWGR wouldn’t allow them to award points based on that winner-take-all concept. So now we’re back to having two tournaments, though one doesn’t really impact the other. And almost certainly, a player would prefer to win the $15 million from taking the staggered-start Tour Championship than the first-place points from the pure-as-snow Tour Championship.