Conversation: Kuchar and The FedEx Cup

November 24, 2010

Sent at 2:10 PM on Tuesday
JK: Did you see my Kuchar post on the PF?

LG: I did. Well done. Not sure I agree 100%, but you make a compelling argument

JK: I am a little biased =)

LG: I’m not sure he’s “easily” player of the year. I think Jim Furyk won that particular award. 3 wins is a big deal

JK: So is 11 top ten finishes

LG: agreed. I think there’s something to be said for just the 72nd hole at the Tour Championship. $10 Million par.

JK: I know. But the 70th and 71st, Furyk tried to choke it away

LG: There are no pictures on a score card. The number is all that matters—and that number is 10 million.

JK: I’ll give it to ya. Kuchar’s on the top of the money list; above Furyk, Els, Stricker, DJ, and Phil. That’s pretty amazing company

LG: Defintiely man

JK: And the casual golf fan will not think of him in that company

LG: He’s easily the “where the heck did he come from” player of the year

JK: He definitely played above his level

LG: The Rocco mediate award

JK: And, he would’ve won the FedEx Cup if it had been played the same way as last year

LG: Yeah, definitely

JK: But they reset the points, so we wouldn’t even be talking about Furyk if Kuchar hadn’t gotten screwed

LG: It wouldn’t be very exciting if they didn’t, to be honest. Playoffs always work that way

JK: Then they need to find a better way to do it. But don’t penalize the guy for being great in the first 9 events and sucking the last one

LG: That’s how playoffs always work!

JK: No it’s not. The sprint cup isn’t done like that, and no other sport is so individually driven.

LG: Baseball? NCAA basketball? Pro ball? Football? So what? Why does “individually driven” matter?

JK: If that’s the case, why do we have this FedEx Cup playoff thing? Why not just make the Tour Championship the final event with the winner taking home the FedEx Cup as well, if it works that way anyway?

LG: The top 5 can win the whole thing if they win. I’ll admit, the system’s not perfect, but if you put significantly more weight to the beginning, then it’ll never be exciting

JK: If that’s true, then how does NASCAR keep the Sprint Cup exciting every year? The fact is, people who like NASCAR like The Chase

LG: I mean, that’s the point of NASCAR though, right? The whole year matters? It’s the playoffs for the FedEx Cup, not the whole year for the FedEx Cup.

JK: Golf could do it like NASCAR, where people get points for birdies and eagles and negative points for bogies instead of for their final position. Or, for each day’s scores—like, shooting a 64 gets you a whole lot more points than a 67

LG: That’d only make it more exciting for golfers and even harder to understand for the average guy. I mean, there’s probably a better system, but I don’t think the whole year should matter

JK: Point spreads in racing are a lot closer each year than in golf, though

LG: Exactly

JK: Because of how they award points. If you lead a lap, you get a point; there are like 300 laps in a race; but if you win the thing, you only get like 10 or 15 points. Something where they count points for other stuff than end placement would be helpful. Wins are cool, top 10s are great, but it would be more exciting if it were based on things that were actually exciting, like making eagles. The other thing is, no one ever explains how the points work in golf, so the average viewer has no clue how they get to 20,000 points or whatever it is. In the NFL, the announcers explain every little nuance of every rule so that every person watching understands exactly what’s going on

LG: Thats true. Your system might encourage bad play, though, with golfers just going for it on every single hole, if it’s a stableford format like you’re talking about

JK: It would be more like a stableford. I’m not saying that winning wouldn’t matter at all, but don’t make it the end all be all. If people win like ZJ did at the masters, no one is going to watch golf. You have to reward the things people want to see: going for it in two, big drives to hit par 4s in 1, ridiculously long putts, etc.

LG: I suppose. But that’s not really how to determine a winner of something like the FedEx Cup

JK: Then you lose the fans

LG: They could just have a stableford tournament for the pros every year—or a skills challenge—to determine who won the FedEx Cup

JK: They used to have a stableford tournament, but it was a disaster

LG: I wonder why it failed

JK: No one knew what the heck was going on. All I’m saying is that you have to incentivize the things that the public wants to see. The pros are going to conform their games to whatever (1) wins, and (2) gets them the most exposure for sponsorships. The game needs to incentivize exposure more than winning, because, in the end, the game exists because people watch it. And the more people watch it, the bigger it will be, so incentivize things that people want to see.

LG: Yeah, that’s true. But it’s kind of a false incentive if they’re not trying to shoot low scores, or if playing the game as it’s meant to be played isn’t the incentive

JK: It’s still AN incentive, because it still counts for something

LG: Sure, but what’s the point if the underlying thing is boring? If no one wants to play golf, maybe it is boring?

JK: What I’m saying is, don’t have Jim Furyk laying up on the 71st hole (par 4) of the Tour Championship because he doesn’t want to choke away The Cup. You and I both know the game isn’t boring. What’s boring is that people don’t understand it. Start them on the things that they want to see, and they’ll learn to love it. It’s the same way with the NFL—and, why the NFL is doing so well. People who first watch the game (football) don’t understand pass blocking schemes vs. run blocking schemes, or a 3-4 vs. 4-3, or why a particular flag is called. They watch it because they want to see the action, the athleticism, and the speed of the game—and, some big hits. Some people will never progress past that. Others will learn to love the strategy, the style, and the different schemes that teams play. Golf needs to be the same way. That’s why DJ and Bubba get so much attention. They do what the casual fan wants to see: hit it insane distances. Some people never progress past wanting to see someone go for everything and, sometimes, make it. Other people learn that the game has a lot of style and strategy on top of bombing the ball.

LG: I suppose that’s true. I don’t know. It doesn’t seem like you have to incentivize the things that draw people to football. They’re part of the game.

JK: Golf doesn’t have that advantage.

LG: Therein lies the problem

JK: So, why not do something about it?

LG: But I think if you incentivize those things in golf, you get away from the game.

JK: I doubt it.

LG: In other words, getting people to go for it in two every single time gets away from the point that laying up is a good idea, in some cases

JK: There are lots of ways to make a birdie, and as long as they still count for something, players will still play for them. But it’s a lot better to see a guy who might be 20 points down be able to make up half of that by making an eagle. He might think that $10MM is worth it in this case and go for a big shot where he otherwise wouldn’t. That doesn’t get you away from the game; that’s part of the game: deciding what your risk and reward are.

LG: Well, that really destroys the point of playing well for a long time if you can change your fate over 2-3 holes, unless it comes down to that over a long time.

JK: It would be more exciting if you could make big moves. That’s what’s exciting in golf, and it’s hard to do as the game is currently played. That’s why Saturday at Augusta is awesome. I think NASCAR has it right, and golf could do well to follow that model

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