It was 2007 when the PGA TOUR announced the FedExCup Playoff series and the season-long points competition that was meant to identify a season champion. The initiative also was intended to bring a clean end to the season at the TOUR Championship. However, that proved difficult when there were still tournaments that counted towards the money list after the TOUR Championship.
Well, it took a few years, but the TOUR has finally achieved what it sought. This year’s TOUR Championship, won by Henrik Stenson, who also captured the FedExCup title, was the last official event of the 2013 season.
A few weeks later, right after The Presidents Cup here at Muirfield Village Golf Club, the TOUR kicked off a new season at the Fry’s.Com Open. That’s right, for the first time in U.S. golf history, the top professional circuit will have a split-calendar (some call it a wrap-around) season. Six official events, including two in Asia, kick off the schedule, followed by a short holiday recess. All six are worth full FedExCup points for the first time. The season picks up again at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions the first week of January.
The new season does not affect the dates for the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance, which will be held May 26 – June 1, 2014, but it could be a boon for the TOUR for several reasons, commissioner Tim Finchem said at The Presidents Cup.
“Remember back when we started the FedExCup there was a lot of discussion that the Fall events would get killed. Everybody forgot that Tour players look at their schedules and they need to play and they want to play,” Finchem said. “That kept the Fall events in relatively good order. Now the Fall events are stronger, they mean more, and I think it's a good opportunity for players to get going.
“We have a pretty good window of promotion during the holidays and we're usually promoting what happened some weeks ago. Now it's going to be different. Now we're going to be promoting ... we've got a list (FedExCup standings), we've got a leader, we've got things that have happened. We've had some good fields, we've had some good tournaments, we've had a World Golf Championship that counts. It's all current in terms of the FedExCup, so the promotional value we have during the holidays can be put to much better use than we've had in the past. Which I think is going to give us more momentum when we get to Hawaii.”
Another benefit is giving young players a chance to compete earlier with many of the top-ranked stars taking time off or playing in overseas events in Europe or Australia.
“The lower tier player ... let's just take rookies. The rookies struggle to get into events early on,” Finchem said. “He gets into events late (on the West Coast). But now he can get going. We're flipping the access around so he gets more tournaments under his belt. It's probably going to play to the advantage of the rookie, competitively.”
Jimmy Walker currently leads the FedExCup points list after winning his first official PGA TOUR event at the Fry’s.Com Open. Other early winners include Webb Simpson and Dustin Johnson, just two of three men currently in the top-10 in the most recent FedExCup standings who finished in the top 30 last year. The other is Charles Howell III.