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Understanding the PGA Tour and NASCAR playoffs

Updated on April 17, 2011

Sprint Cup


Playoffs in NASCAR and PGA Tour

While on my drive home from work the other night, the radio hosts of the local sports talk show were discussing the merit of why the PGA Tour and NASCAR have a playoff system. It sounded like an interesting topic to discuss in my latest hub. So, why is there a playoff system in these two sporting events? For one, money and two, boost in TV ratings.

Let me start with the PGA Tour and its FedEx Cup. The FedEx Cup was announced in 2005 and was implemented in 2007. The regular season consists of tournaments from the begining of January through late August. Tour players can earn points for entering any event. Some tournaments carry higher point totals for winning than others. That depends upon the level of competition. The goal for PGA Tour player is to finish in the Top 125 to qualify for the FedEx Cup.

The FedEx Cup is comprised of four events. The Barclays is the first event of the FedEx Cup. After the Barclays, the next tournament is the Deutsche Bank Championship. At the Deutsche Bank Championship, the field drops to the Top 100. A note on the Barclays and Deutsche Bank Championship, only the top 70 players based on score make the cut to play in the final rounds.

The third tournament in the FedEx Cup is the BMW Championship. The Top 70 players are entered in the tournament. There is no cut in the BMW and Tour Championship. The Tour Championship has the Top 30 tour players competing.

The monetary rewards are pretty impressive for the FedEx Cup. The winner of the FedEx Cup receives $10 million and a five year exemption on the PGA Tour. The runner up of the FedEx Cup receives $3 million in earnings. Even the player who finishes in the 125th spot receives $32,000. That is more than what some people make in a given year.

In 2004, NASCAR started the Chase for the Championship. The first twenty-six races are considered the regular season with the Top 12 drivers by season point totals race in the last ten races for the Chase for the Championship.

The Chase for the Championship in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series is driven by money and TV ratings as well. The last end of the NASCAR schedule tends to stagnate and thus losing some viewership. Often times, the championship is pretty well settled during the Chase. The "playoff" idea was created to have the Top 12 drivers give it their best to win the Sprint Cup.

The biggest hurdle both the FedEx Cup and NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship is competing against the most popular sport in America, football. In late August, college and professional football begin across the land both the FedEx and Sprint Cup playoffs start during this same time period. The rating winner is still football.

Although a good idea, the two playoff series just cannot compete. You do see the best PGA Tour players competing the FedEx like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Likewise in NASCAR, you see Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart fighting for the Sprint Cup title. These are two sports that are attempting to create a playoff but it is not working. Playoffs work in the other sports because they are naturally built into the season. It brings them there highest ratings of the year especially if it is a marquee franchise. NASCAR ratings have been declining in the last couple of years. PGA Tour ratings pretty much go by the Tiger Woods effect. If Tiger is playing in a tourney and competing, ratings are good. If Tiger is not competing, ratings are less than stellar.

In the end, the PGA Tour and NASCAR should abandon the playoff format. What works for other sports does not work the PGA and NASCAR. It does not matter how much money you throw at it, people have their minds made as what they are going to watch on Saturday or Sunday afternoon. A nice try but maybe the PGA and NASCAR should look at other ways to improve upon a good product. The playoff route is not the way to go.



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