Professional athletes have long been known to give boring answers to the media, and professional golfers are no different. That is unless you ask PGA Tour players how they feel about the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
Then they’ll really break it down for you.
Such was the case for last year’s defending champion Patrick Cantlay and U.S. Open champions Jon Rahm (2021) and Matt Fitzpatrick (2022) ahead of this week’s 2022 BMW Championship, the second leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs held this year at Wilmington Country Club in Delaware.
All three players spoke to the media on Tuesday, and each was asked how they feel about the season-long race for the cup. The trio gave constructive criticism while critiquing the format, even noting they don’t have the answers to fix the issues. Here’s what they had to say.
Patrick Cantlay, 2021 FedEx Cup winner
Q. What do you think makes a perfect post season for the PGA Tour? What do you envision of what this could look like?
“Well, (the playoff format has) changed so many times I’m not sure anyone has got the perfect formula yet. I’m not sure. It’s hard to do Playoffs in golf. I think we’ve seen that.
“I’m not really sure. I think there’s got to be smarter people than me that have more experience putting this on than — it seems to get tweaked every year, and I’m not necessarily sure why. We went to the everyone starts at a different score to par a couple years ago. That still feels strange to me. It is a little clearer to watch on TV because you only have the one tournament going on, but you lose — the fact that it’s the Tour Championship is kind of gone, which I think is a shame really.
“I actually liked it when it was the points and you kind of knew if you were in the top 5 and you won that you had control of your own destiny, and if not it was up to whatever Steve Sands said (laughter). I kind of liked it. If you were following it, you definitely knew what was going on. We would have never had Tiger winning the Tour Championship if it weren’t for that two-event style championship down the stretch. Tiger would have just finished eighth in the FedEx Cup. That would have been weird, considering the scene we saw around that green.
“Like I said, Playoffs is obviously a challenge in golf, and I’m not sure anyone has figured it out, the perfect formula yet.
Patrick Cantlay celebrates with a “Patty Ice” Atlanta Falcons jersey after winning the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Q. Only 70 qualify for the playoffs starting next year. Do you like that? And how do you think that will alter the way players look at the schedule?
“I think definitely with all the changes come January, you’ll see guys play a lot more in a condensed period of time, especially because — another one of my gripes with the FedEx Cup is it’s an accumulation game. So literally the more events you play the better opportunity you’ll have for being in the top because there’s no penalty for missing any cuts.
“I think you’ll see guys, especially if they start to come down the end of the stretch of the summer where they’re anywhere from maybe 55 to 100 or 125, and they just start playing every single event to try and get into the Playoffs, and we’re already going to see guys play more during that period of time because no FedEx Cup points in the fall. I think that’s not this year but the next year.
“Yeah, I think you’re just going to see guys play a ton more between January and August.”
Q. I thought you were really gracious last year when you didn’t win the FedExCup … You seemed to really accept the system.
“I have made my position clear on that in the past. I don’t think it’s the best system. You don’t get to the Super Bowl and the team with the better record starts with a two-touchdown advantage. I think it’s absolutely ludicrous, but it’s the best choice we have right now. Or Djokovic didn’t have a one-set advantage over Kyrgios at Wimbledon. I understand that’s how the Playoffs are made and I understand it’s easier for the viewers and us to know what’s going on.
“Because I’ve spoken to past champions, and sometimes they would be on 16 and they didn’t know, oh, if I make one birdie, I win the FedEx Cup; and if not, this can happen. It was a bit confusing. So I understand that aspect of it.
“But you know, it’s a bit odd that you just are given — I’ve said it a couple times before, but I think it’s good for what we have right now, I don’t know what the solution is.
“I think — listen, I’ve been told different things. One of the main things is the Patriots make it to the Super Bowl, they don’t win the Super Bowl. My response is always they finish second. I think it’s ludicrous that you can win every event of the year to that point, you have a bad week and you can finish 30th. I don’t think that’s fair, but it is what it is.”
Jon Rahm grabs the ball after a shot on the tenth hole during the first round of the Mexico Open at Vidanta on April 28, 2022, in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
Q. How does your thought process change, if at all, when you’re in the Playoffs, knowing each week might be your last if you don’t qualify for the following week?
“Fortunately this year, I’ve been guaranteed in from the start. That was quite nice compared to last year, yeah, and the year before. But I think it’s a tough one. I just, for me, the Playoffs, you can play pretty decent, and you can miss out on this week or you can miss out on next week, and you’ve probably been a little bit hard done to by how you’ve played rest of the season.
“I’m like a little bit uneasy with that. I think like if you’ve played well all year, you deserve to be, you know, kind of at the top or where you deserve to be. I think the Playoffs can kind of throw that out a little bit, which is a little odd to me.”
Matt Fitzpatrick (Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports)
Q. Is there any part that’s hard to accept that if Sepp Straka won last week, he would have gone to I think second place from starting around 41 or 42. Can you accept that?
“Yeah, it’s funny, my coach literally texted me that exact scenario. He said he can’t believe that he’s ahead of me. Yeah, I can accept it because I’ve had a great season and yeah, my reply was that I won the U.S. Open, so I’m fine. I’m happy. Like that’s fine.
“But yeah, it is difficult. In my personal opinion, I think I was laughing last year at the scenario that Collin had such a fantastic season, and he finished outside the top 20 or something on the FedEx, and to me that’s like unfair.
“And then likewise this year, Scottie has won four times, Cam has won three times, and those seven events aren’t, like, small events. They are some of the best events in the world, and they are behind Will now. Not taking it away from Will, but I think it’s a bit too much. In my opinion, those two should be kind of running away with it and it’s kind of a two-horse race, and now there’s more people in the mix, which I get that’s the whole point, the Playoffs, it’s exciting.
“But as a player, when you’ve worked hard all season to then not be rewarded for the whole season performance, yeah, it is a tough one.”
Q. I think it was Cantlay, obviously not last year, I think it was the year before, he went into the Tour Championship probably two or three in the ranking, threw an absolute stinker over four days and walked out of there 26th place. Is that fair, do you think, based on the way they reset and it’s one big tournament at the end; that if you just have your worst week of the year it’s costing you a lot of money?
“No, I don’t think it’s fair. I don’t think it’s fair. But life isn’t fair.
“No, I think, I get why it’s done, make it more exciting and throw people in the mix a little bit more. But in terms of people who deserve what their performances showed all year long, like you say, there’s two or three examples now that haven’t been rewarded for their play the whole season.”