- Senior golf writer for ESPN.com
- Covered golf for more than 20 years
- Earned Evans Scholarship to attend Indiana University
JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Jon Rahm has competed in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs enough times to know how the system works.
And he doesn’t like it.
“I don’t think it’s fair,” Rahm said Friday after a 4-under-par 67 gave him a 1-shot lead through 36 holes at The Northern Trust, the first of three playoff events that concludes in two weeks at the Tour Championship.
Ranked No. 1 in the world, Rahm is fifth in FedEx Cup points and would go to the top spot if he wins the tournament. Another victory next week at the BMW Championship would make him an overwhelming FedEx Cup points leader.
But it would give him only a small advantage the following week in Atlanta, when the top 30 players are reset according to their points position. The top player starts at 10-under, while the next player is 8-under, with various breakdowns down to the bottom five players starting at even par.
The system, in its third year, mirrors what would have been a points distribution and allows for there to be one winner of the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup. Previously the Tour Championship had a winner with the possibility for a separate FedEx Cup winner.
“I don’t like that at all,” said Rahm, who has played 36 holes without a bogey at Liberty National. “No. I think you have the playoffs itself, and if you win the first two and if you don’t play good in the last one … you can end up with a really bad finish.
“I don’t like it. I understand the system. And the way I was told by one of the PGA Tour officials, [if] I’m a Patriots fans and the Patriots win everything to get to the Super Bowl and they don’t win the Super Bowl, you don’t win the Lombardi Trophy, right?
“My answer was, they still finished second. They have to understand that golf is different.”
Rahm, who is from Spain and attended Arizona State, has a good understanding of football — or American sports in general. The team with the best record gets no big advantage over its opponent in the playoffs, aside from perhaps home field.
To Rahm’s point, a golfer could win every tournament all year and would still have just a 2-stroke advantage at the Tour Championship.
The tour has sought to balance having some volatility during its playoff events while also rewarding players for a strong season. Collin Morikawa, for example, missed the cut at The Northern Trust. Ranked No. 1 in FedEx points, the Open Championship winner is projected to drop to No. 6.
But he will easily qualify for both the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship, regardless of his results. In a true playoff, he might be done, but the tour wants those who have strong years to be in Atlanta.
“I understand it’s for TV purposes and excitement and just making it more of a winner-take-all and they give you a 2-shot advantage, but over four days that can be gone in two holes,” Rahm said. “I don’t know what system is best. I do like going to East Lake with this new one in the sense of knowing where you stand and what you have to do. In years prior, there were so many different combinations of what could happen. It was hard to get your head focused on one thing.
“But I don’t think it’s a fair system in that sense now, but it’s the one we have and it’s what we’ve got to deal with.”
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