Golf Tidbits: Which playoff system works best?

Philadelphia, PA ( - With the European Tour's Race to Dubai wrapping up this weekend, I wondered which tour has the best Race To or playoff system?

The Race to Dubai was the European Tour's response to the PGA Tour creating FedExCup Playoffs. We'll add the Champions Tour's Charles Schwab Cup Race to the mix and see whose system works best.

For simplicity sake, the European Tour's Race is the easiest to figure as players earn a point for each dollar earned. The only change to a players' total comes during the Finals Series.

If a tour member competes in the first three tournaments of the Final Series -- BMW Masters, WGC - HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open -- that player will get a 20 percent bonus added to his points earned in those three events.

By my count, 23 players earned that bonus this year.

The Champions Tour points system is also relatively easy with players who finish in the top 10 earning one point for every $1,000 earned. Again, only the top 10 get points, so it is harder to get points.

The only change to those numbers come in the tour's five majors, where points are doubled. But still, only the top 10 earn points.

Finally, winners of regular PGA Tour events get 500 points, 550 for a World Golf Championship win, 600 for winning a major or the Players Championship, but just 300 points for winning an event played opposite a major or a WGC.

Confused yet?

Every player that makes the cut in a PGA Tour event earns points on a sliding scale from 500, or the other top marks, down to one point.

The European Tour is similar to the PGA Tour in that every player who makes the cut gets points, but only the top 10 get points on the Champions Tour.

Advantage for simplicity - Champions Tour.

The one thing the PGA Tour does that neither of the other two tours do is to reset the players points in the playoffs. The 30 players who qualify for the season-ending Tour Championship have their points reset so that all 30 feasibly have a chance at the winning the FedExCup.

At the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship on the Champions Tour, two players had a chance at winning this year's Charles Schwab Cup race. As for the European Tour, the way this year's points broke down, only the top nine on the Race to Dubai points list can win the big bonus this week.

Advantage for keeping more players in the race - PGA Tour.

Where the PGA Tour blows away the other two tours is in the payout. The winner of the FedExCup gets a $10 million bonus, where the other two winners earn $1 million.

Not only that, but just the top 10 on the points list earn bonus money on the Champions and European Tours. All 125 players who qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs earn bonus money.

Advantage - Do I have to ask?

For the Champions and European tours, keeping the payout to the top 10 makes it a case of the rich getting richer. The PGA Tour spreads the wealth to the bottom of the playoff qualifiers.

The $70,000 bonus to whoever finishes 125th on the FedExCup points list might not seem like a lot of money to some, but for the tour player who is scraping by, it could mean a few more months of chasing their dream of being a professional golfer (see my first Tidbit for a comparison).

If you were to create a hybrid system, the first step would be to spread the payments out to more European and Champions Tour players. As for the PGA, I'd shrink the amount of players getting the bonus, and increase the payment for those toward the bottom of the bonus pool.

The second step would be to change the rules for who gets points. The Champions Tour makes it toughest to earn points. The European and PGA tours should trim the amount of players earning points on the weekly basis, but increase the amount for those that do earn points.

Overall, the tours can simplify several areas of their Race or Playoff systems to make it more fan and player friendly.


Talk about getting a leg up on the competition. Brian Gay is teeing it up in Mexico this week and is playing his fourth straight PGA Tour event in four different countries.

Gay is far from the only player who was eligible for all four events, but he is the only man playing the CIMB Classic (Malaysia) the WGC - HSBC Champions (China), The McGladrey Classic (Georgia) and the OHL Classic at Mayakoba (Mexico) in the same year.

Four countries, four weeks. Seems simple, right?

"I just figure I'm going to grind it out for four weeks and then I'll have six weeks off before Hawaii, see if I can get something going," said Gay, who has earned over $298,000 in the first three events.

That puts him 25th on the money list.

Gay has his tour card through the end of 2014 thanks to his win at the 2012 Humana Challenge. With the money he has won this year, he is halfway to keep his tour card for 2015.

If Gay makes the cut this week and earns another big chunk of change, the journey surely was worth it.

If he misses the cut, he still picked up over 23,000 frequent flier miles, so he has that going for him.


* There is an excellent story on Nicole Hage in Golf Week. The former LPGA Tour player earned just over $74,000 in SIX years on tour. She explained how selling herself to sponsors helped to keep her out of debt. You think earning some bonus money may have helped her stick around another year or two? That shows the difference between the tours as well.

* This week is the final official event of the 2013 golf season for the European Tour's DP World Tour Championship, Dubai. Don't fret, they start their 2013-14 schedule next week.