Making Sense of the PGA Tour Playoffs and Its Year-Round Schedule

Whether it’s beer league softball, the Yankees or Cowboys — most leagues have a glorious opening day and end with a Super Bowl-like finale. The PGA Tour quietly starts in September and humbly ends in August. It’s special moments are scattered throughout the year. Most fans would argue the schedule peaks mid-season in early April at Augusta National. Others might lobby for The Open Championship. In 2007, to make the season’s end more compelling the PGA Tour added a multi-million dollar finish line. $15 million bucks goes to the winner of an elimination style, three-tournament (previously four) playoff called the FedEx Cup Playoffs with the champion winning the FedEx Cup. Indeed the Playoffs is a proper bookend to the season however, Shane Lowry wouldn’t trade his Claret Jug for a FedEx Cup.

The season-end carrot is working and every player on Tour wants to win the FedEx Cup. For only the second time in the 2018-19 season, Tiger Woods is playing tournaments in consecutive weeks. He’s currently No. 28 out of 125 in the FedEx Cup rankings which qualifies for this weekend’s Northern Trust (top 125 players) and next week’s BMW Championship (top 70 players). After the BMW Championship, only the top 30 players will play in the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, the final event of the 2018-19 season. At the conclusion of the BMW Championship and based on their season-long body of work — a champion is decided.

Looking ahead to the 2019-20 season — the PGA Tour announced an expanded schedule of 49 tournaments, featuring early- and late-season adjustments to accommodate the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. Important to note, there are five weekends with two PGA Tour events happening concurrently. In 2020 for example, The Open Championship and Barbasol Championship will happen July 16-19.

The season ends in late August, starts again in early September, there are breaks for Thanksgiving and most of December, excluding the President’s Cup happening December 9-15 in Australia. Like the Ryder Cup, the President’s Cup happens every other year. And this season experiences a rare Summer Olympic Games adjustment, which happens every four years.

The FedEx Cup and its $15 million dollar paycheck has inserted a sense of closure to the PGA Tour season. It won’t ever be a green jacket or a U.S. Open Championship Trophy, nor will it have the impact of “One Shining Moment” at the end of the Final Four and that’s okay. The PGA Tour has enhanced the ending — perhaps we’ll see an emphasis on the genesis this year at The Greenbrier, September 12-15. In many ways the PGA Tour is nothing like the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL or Champions League — that’s a good thing.