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PGA Tour should introduce match play into FedEx Cup for TV ratings

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

The FedEx Cup wasn't quite the disaster the golf pundits predicted it would be, but the PGA Tour's playoffs could still be improved. Tim McDonald proposes a match play system to boost golf's TV ratings.

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods' dominance took much of the drama away from the FedEx Cup.
Tiger Woods

The Fed Ex Cup was a partial success, but here's how the PGA Tour can make it a television ratings killer.

When the talking heads on TV think something is too complicated or boring to explain to viewers, you know something is wrong.

That pretty much sums up the Fed Ex Cup points system. CBS did a good job of mostly showing graphics during the Tour Championship at East Lake, saving their announcers from getting all tongue-tied trying to explain the whole deal during the final tourney.

I'm sure they had a Fed Ex geek in the trailer, going through all the different scenarios, and I'm sure they told him to shut the hell up a bunch of times.

Not that the Cup was an abysmal failure. The PGA Tour largely succeeded in its attempt to keep people talking about golf through September. So what if most of that talk was: "Anybody know what the hell is going on?"

Two players had the right attitude. Tiger Woods said winning takes care of everything and Boo Weekley said: "Somebody tell me if I win it."

And it did give us four straight weeks of scintillating golf.

It also gave the Tour some great TV ratings, though that is almost certainly because of Woods. In week three, the ratings were higher than anything the tour has ever thrown against the NFL - in this case, Chargers-Bears. The overnight ratings for the Sunday finale were 200 percent higher than last year, when Woods didn't play.

You have to give PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem credit for both trying and being receptive to criticism and open to change.

The first thing he should do is simplify the points system so that even rubes like me can understand it. Actually, I forced myself to read through all the fine print several months ago, and had an acute, crystal-clear understanding of it. But, I forgot it a few days later, like in college when I had to read "Ulysses."

I figured the talking heads would explain it to me again when it came time for dessert. Instead, all I got were graphics, and besides, by that point everybody knew Woods was going to win it.

Americans like to know the score. They like scores like 13-10 or 23-14. They don't like scores like 30,574, which is what Tiger Woods racked up in 13 tournaments. Who can remember a score like that? How do you get that into a headline?

How do you simplify a points system when you have hundreds of players? How the hell do I know? I'm not on the payroll.

Finchem has no shortage of people telling him what to change, and for the most part they all make sense.

Make everybody play all four playoff tournaments, or at least penalize the ones who play hooky. Knock off all the pro-ams and corporate outings.

Make the playoff fields smaller. Give the winners more cash, less annuity. Re-set the points to award the hottest players at the end of the year, so those outside the top 30 have more of a chance of making it to the Tour Championship.

Fine, fine, do it. But, the biggest change he should make involves the last tournament, the Tour Championship.

I was irritated when I found out only five players had a chance to win the $10 million prize before the Tour Championship even started. Then, when it came to light later that Woods could have sat out in the parking lot twiddling his putter and still have won it, it made me so mad I started thinking in European.

Before that, I had suggested making the Tour Championship winner-take-all. That way, someone - anyone - would have a better chance of challenging Woods. No damn thousands of points to ponder, and it's the way we Americans do things around here.

But then I started actually thinking, which, for me, is usually dangerous and sometimes painful.

Well, I guess there's no other way than to actually come out and say it:

Match play.

Suppose you start with smaller fields, and by the fourth week, you're down to 16 players. You seed them, like in tennis or the NCAA basketball tournament. Top seed plays the bottom seed first day, and so on.

By Sunday, you're down to two. If the seeds hold true, you could get Woods vs. Phil Mickelson, though, true enough, this year you might have had Woods vs. Steve Stricker.

In any case, you're going to have two of the best players in the world, or at least the two hottest at that moment, going head-to-head, on Sunday, for the richest prize in golf.

Imagine the pressure. Imagine the agony. Imagine the ecstasy.

Imagine the biggest television ratings in golf history.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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