Rozner: Medinah in focus as FedEx Cup blurs winning lines

  • Bryson DeChambeau was already at Medinah pounding balls on the range Monday morning as he prepares for the BMW Championship. A new format for the FedEx Cup playoffs has even the Mad Scientist wondering how it will shake out.

      Bryson DeChambeau was already at Medinah pounding balls on the range Monday morning as he prepares for the BMW Championship. A new format for the FedEx Cup playoffs has even the Mad Scientist wondering how it will shake out. Barry Rozner | Staff Photographer

  • Bryson DeChambeau hits from outside the first fairway in The Northern Trust tournament Sunday at Liberty National Golf Course in Jersey City, N.J.

    Bryson DeChambeau hits from outside the first fairway in The Northern Trust tournament Sunday at Liberty National Golf Course in Jersey City, N.J. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 8/12/2019 6:01 PM

The confusion has been replaced with exclusion.

That's how it will feel for many of the 30 players who survive the BMW Championship at Medinah this week and reach Atlanta for the final event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The scoring system has been changed dramatically and the playoffs have been reduced from four events to three, with the prize increased by $5 million to $15 million.

No longer will Steve Stands pose before a leaderboard explaining how each putt changes the odds in the race for the biggest dollar reward of the year, as was the case again last year when Tiger Woods won the Tour Championship and came within a chip of defeating Justin Rose for the FedEx Cup.

When they finish at Medinah late Sunday afternoon, the FedEx leader will lose a season's worth of points in a reseeding process that will place him atop the final event's leaderboard at 10-under par.

Yes, he will tee off Thursday in Atlanta at 10-under.

The tournament will then proceed with a strokes-based scoring system determined by a player's spot on the points list after the BMW.

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The leader is 10-under to start the season finale. No. 2 will be at 8-under, No. 3 at 7-under, No. 4 at 6-under and No. 5 at 5-under. It continues in similar fashion down the list, where players ranked 26 to 30 will begin in Atlanta at even-par, or 10 shots behind the top guy.

The ugly part is that this won't be the classic Tour Championship and a season-ending victory for the winner, but the PGA Tour believes the benefit is less confusion and a single champion for the weekend.

What there won't be is a winner of the tournament and a different winner of the FedEx Cup, which has occurred four times in the first 12 years of the playoffs, including the last two seasons.

"I think it makes it more exciting," said Bryson DeChambeau, who arrived on the Medinah range Monday morning sitting in 20th place in the standings after a T-24 finish and a pace-of-play controversy in New Jersey. "The guy leading can go out and double the first and it's a whole new tournament.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It's different and it's a little weird for all of us. The idea is to create more excitement and we'll see if that's how it plays out."

As for leader Brooks Koepka, he disagrees with anyone who says the leader going to Atlanta has a big advantage.

"A lot of guys like to play from behind and 6 or 8 or 10 shots is nothing over four days," Koepka said. "I think 30 guys have a chance. You don't know what's going to happen. If I'm leading and I have four bad days, that lead is gone."

Tiger Woods, who won the first Cup in 2007 and again in 2009 after missing much of 2008 with injuries, says the players will have to figure out how to manage the new system.

It usually doesn't take them long.

"We've all been 10 back after one day with 54 holes to go, or 36 to go, but starting out 10 back -- for the guys there -- it really puts a premium on placement (leaving Medinah)," Woods said at Liberty last week before withdrawing from The Northern Trust with an oblique strain. "You don't want to give any top player too far of a lead and too big of a head start, especially the way (Koepka) has been playing the big events."

Woods did not appear to dislike the changes, though a creature of habit this would certainly mean some adjustments in the BMW and at the Tour Championship.

"Since we started the FedEx Cup, it's been different a lot, the way points are structured and weighted," Woods said. "Vijay (Singh) didn't even have to tee it up at East Lake (in 2008) and he had it locked up."

So changes were made to the points system just two years into the playoff format, and have continued along the way.

The PGA Tour is striving for clarity, fairness and drama, something the FedEx has struggled to achieve. Getting all three might not be possible, but perhaps they are heading in the right direction.

"This latest iteration is the best one yet," said Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee. "Last year Rose won the FedEx Cup, but he didn't win a single playoff event.

"You've had players like DeChambeau, who won two times last year in the Playoffs, but didn't win the Cup.

"Camilo Villegas won a couple of times (in 2008 in the Playoffs) and didn't win. (Rory) McIlroy won a couple times in 2012 and didn't win. Jason Day won a couple times in 2015 and didn't win.

"Without Steve Sands at the white board to explain what was going on, our audience was a little bit in the dark. And to be honest, having sat there and tried to make sense of it, I was a little bit in the dark.

"This will be straightforward. It will be clean."

For those chasing Koepka from the bottom of the pack, it would seem crucial to have a strong finish at Medinah.

No one wants to head to Atlanta staring up at Koepka -- and a 10-shot deficit.

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