The turning of the leaves still marks the tail end of the pro golf slate, but it also now signals the start of the next one as the PGA joins the NHL and NBA in freeing itself of single calendar year shackles. On Oct. 10 the first round of the Frys.com Open, the 2013-2014 season opener teed off in San Martin, California. The decibel level of the golf claps that greeted this event—previously as dull as a tap in putt—were palpably louder than last year when smooth swinging Swede, Jonas Blixt (a hockey to golf convert who is now best known for pranking Rickie Fowler at The Barclays by matching his prison yard orange outfit) quietly topped the leader board to earn his maiden tour victory.
When it comes to re-inventing the PGA season, the first major turn of the tee came in 2007 with the inaugural FedEx Cup Championship. Adopting a point system that borrowed liberally from NASCAR (the racing circuit retooled in 2004 to ratchet up excitement during a lull in seasonal interest), pro golf’s top circuit finally gained a compelling postseason. Three events pare the top 125 ranked golfers down to 30 before they arrive at Atlanta's East Lake for the Tour Championship where they compete for the sterling silver Tiffany & Co. chalice and an eight figure purse: $9M up front plus $1M stashed in retirement savings.
Post FedEx Cup Tourneys Gain Sizzle
Since the inception of the FedEx Cup, post championship clinching tour stops were mere afterthoughts. Events relegated to the Fall Series felt second-class, functioning mainly as a final reprieve for mid to low tier players vying to retain their Tour cards.
Meanwhile the top names took a siesta or lined their pockets in sun kissed locales around the globe, getting a head start on silly season—those contrived, low-pressure exhibitions where a high dollar appearance fee alone is well worth the plane ticket. Or, like everyone else, they watched football.
With the introduction of the new schedule, fall golf has been given teeth – six events lead off the PGA’s debut wraparound calendar, and they are endowed with full FedEx Cup points, critical for players not only planning on maintaining their playing privileges but also having a run at that postseason lucre. Fall golf is no longer an afterthought. These events matter.
The PGA TOUR has effectively cut the fat at the end of the season, turning pork shoulder into prime rib. Now we have a definitive conclusion, one that ends on a high note with the Tour Championship and then starts up anew with a brand new slate in October.
“I think individually every field will pick up strength,” pipes Brian Katrek, host of Teed Off on SiriusXM PGA TOUR radio. “Now every field is not going to pick up Tiger, but it was easier in the past for a guy to say ‘okay I don’t have to play these events and get two months off because they don’t count anyway’.”