When asked what the PGA Tour hopes to accomplish by instituting a new playoff format for 2007, Nick Faldo’s tell-it-like-it-is style is evident. “It’s all [TV] ratings, isn’t it?” the six-time major tournament champion and current golf TV analyst says. “And obviously they’re competing against football at the end of the season.”
Taking a cue from NASCAR’s playoff system, the PGA will try to end its season with a cheer instead of a polite whisper. In the new format, players will accumulate points from January to August to qualify for a four-tournament playoff starting in late August and ending with THE TOUR Championship in September, where the playoff winner will be crowned FedExCup champion and win $10 million.
Only $10 million? For players like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, will $10 million be enough to make them interested? “When you start having net incomes of what these guys have got, it’s not going to change their lifestyle, even though it’s such a colossal amount,” Faldo points out. “It’s down to rivalry, and I think that’s the most important thing they’ve got to create. If they can get the actual stars, the characters who actually want to beat each other, that’s what it really needs. We’ve got to have a good, clean, honest half-a-dozen guys who really stand up saying, ‘I’m going to beat you and I want to win this.'”
The PGA also begins a new TV deal, and Faldo’s services were in high demand. He’ll be a lead analyst for GOLF CHANNEL as it starts a 15-year PGA pact with four-round coverage of the Mercedes-Benz Championship Jan. 4-7. The cable-exclusive deal means viewers won’t have to hunt for coverage of early rounds. “Before we had about four other networks who had it, and now, you just click onto GOLF CHANNEL and you’ve got Thursday and Friday golf,” Faldo says. “I think that will actually be quite powerful.”
Faldo will also join CBS as lead analyst on some of the biggest events, including The Masters Tournament, where he is a three-time champion. “My winning days there are over, so I was quite happy to head to the booth and give my analytical view of what’s going on,” Faldo says. “I kind of vowed to myself that I’d always come back to Augusta, even if I wasn’t playing, just to enjoy the atmosphere. But the fact that I’m actually there with a really very productive job, I’m really looking forward to it.”