FedEx Cup fills void for golfers and fans

One of the reasons the NCAA basketball tournament is so popular is because of its one-and-done format. You win, you advance; you lose, you go home. And even though golf is an individual sport, the FedEx Cup is giving links professionals and fans a similar experience.

The FedEx Cup is a four-tournament playoff that takes place over four consecutive weeks. It starts today with the top 125 golfers participating in The Barclays. Golf Channel will handle the live coverage from New Jersey’s Plainfield Country Club today and Friday (3pm ET) before CBS takes over Saturday (3pm ET) and Sunday (2pm ET).

The top 100 scorers from this week will advance to next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship, then the field will be reduced by another 30 for the BMW Championship. That will leave only 30 golfers competing in the final event for the FedEx Cup and $10 million first prize. Jim Furyk, who won last year’s title, told reporters that tournament is getting better each year.

“I think it’s matured a lot,” he said. “I think the guys have gotten increasingly, as the years have gone on, excited about starting the playoffs.”

That is certainly understanding with such a huge bounty on the line, but the playoffs have also given fans more golf to watch. With all four majors now over (last week’s PGA Championship was the final of the year), there is no longer a huge void on television. In the past there would be a lull until either the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup aired in November (the two international competitions alternate every year). Now there is another month to watch until the Presidents Cup takes place in Melbourne, Australia.

Predicting golf tournaments over the last several years has been nearly impossible due to the decline of Tiger Woods and the parity with the rest of the field. The last 15 majors have been won by different golfers, and 11 of those were first-time winners in those events.

But the playoffs are different, because the competitors are ranked from #1 to #125. This means those at the top (such as Nick Watney, Steve Stricker (pictured), Webb Simpson and Luke Donald) are safe for at least another week, while those in the bottom 25 have a lot of ground to make up to advance (this includes Padraig Harrington, Ernie Els and Ian Poulter).

Playing consistent golf over four days is tough enough, but doing so for four straight weeks in darn near impossible. And with $10 million bucks on the line, it’s what makes the Playoffs so entertaining to watch.