The bonus pool for the PGA Tour postseason doubles next year to $70 million in a revamped system that gives a head start to top players at the Tour Championship and pays $15 million to the FedEx Cup champion.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said Tuesday the changes were designed to make the FedEx Cup finale easier for fans to understand and to avoid the potential for separate winners of the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup.
“You take these changes and you combine them with the new and improved schedule, and we think this is a significant step forward,” Monahan said.
The changes include a more compact schedule next season that ends Aug. 25, a week before begins. The top 10 players in the FedEx Cup during the regular season are part of a separate $10 million bonus program that pays $2 million to the No. 1 player. The FedEx Cup playoffs are reduced from four events to three, with the winner of the Tour Championship being the FedEx Cup champion.
The Associated Press reported on the format changes for the Tour Championship three weeks ago, and players have been mulling over them.
One of the concerns is essentially handicapping the field for the FedEx Cup finale at East Lake. Instead of everyone starting the first round on the same score, the No. 1 seed starts at 10-under par, with the No. 2 player at 8 under, then 7 under, 6 under and 5 under. The next group of five players are at 4 under, all the way down until the final five players in the 30-man field are at even par.
The winner is determined by his score to par, not his 72-hole score.
“We now have a single leaderboard,” said Andy Pazder, the tour’s chief of operations. “As play moves on through the week, we’re just looking at a scoreboard. So every viewer, every spectator and every player on the golf course will know precisely where they stand at any moment.”
Under the current system that ends this week, points are reset going into the Tour Championship so that all 30 players have a mathematical chance to win the FedEx Cup, and the top five only have to win the tournament to capture the $10 million bonus.
A year ago, Xander Schauffele won the Tour Championship and Justin Thomas, the runner-up, won the FedEx Cup. It was the second time there were two winners on Sunday. The other was in 2009, when Phil Mickelson won the tournament and Tiger Woods won the FedEx Cup.
Bill Haas at No. 25 had the lowest seed of any FedEx Cup winner when he won in 2011.
Pazder said the tour applied the new model to the previous 11 years and the same player won every FedEx Cup except for 2011.
The tour said there would not be a separate purse for the Tour Championship.
The other big change was the Wyndham Rewards Top 10 program, which pays out $10 million to the top 10 players in the regular season. Monahan said that might encourage players to enter the final regular-season event, the Wyndham Championship, to try to secure the No. 1 seed or at least improve positions going into the playoffs. This year, Dustin Johnson had the most points in the regular season by 83 points over Thomas.
As for the playoffs, they start with a 125-man field at The Northern Trust, and the top 70 advance to the BMW Championship before the field is trimmed to 30 players for the Tour Championship.
The bottom line is that PGA Tour members are playing for even more money.
The FedEx Cup began in 2007 with a $35 million bonus pool and four playoff events with $7 million purses. FedEx last year agreed to a 10-year extension, and the bonus pool for the postseason now is $60 million (along with $10 million in bonus money for the regular season).
Monahan said the winner of the FedEx Cup next year would make upward of $27 million, and he expected comprehensive player earnings to increase 12 percent, or more than $500 million. The top 10 are expected to average just over $12 million, and the top 50 players will earn more than $5 million in earnings and bonuses.
Still to be determined is how the Official World Golf Ranking will distribute points when the winner might not have the lowest score for the week.