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PGA Tour to implement end-of-season playoff

The PGA Tour rolled out the points structure Wednesday for its
new FedEx Cup competition, a chase for $10 million that will
emphasize the last four tournaments of the year no matter what
Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or anyone else has done in the majors.

The FedEx Cup starts next year and is designed to give golf its
own version of a playoff system.

This looks more like a free-for-all over the final month of the
season.

Points will be earned from the season-opening Mercedes
Championships in January through the Carolina Classic at
Greensboro, and the top 144 players will be eligible for the
playoffs -- the Barclays Classic, Deutsche Bank Championship, BMW
Championship and the Tour Championship at East Lake.

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said players will be
mathematically eliminated after each playoff event, although those
players can continue to tee it up in the $7 million events. The
field will be reduced to 30 players, as always, for the Tour
Championship, and the player with the most points earns $10
million.

Still to be decided is whether the payoff will be in cash or
paid into a deferred compensation account.

"The FedEx Cup and new playoff system on the PGA Tour truly
usher in an exciting new era in golf, and establish a new
measurement of success on the PGA Tour," Finchem said.

The system has been compared with NASCAR's new "Chase for the
Championship," in which the title is determined by the final 10
races of the stock-car circuit.

Finchem used a baseball analogy during a press conference in New
York.

Woods and Vijay Singh are the only players in the last 50 years
to have won nine times in a season; Woods won three majors during
his record-breaking 2000 season. Under the new points system, he
would have only a slim margin over the rest of the field going into
the PGA Tour playoffs.

"In a couple of cases, I've had a follow-up question, 'Do you
think that's fair?"' Finchem said. "And my response is if the New
York Yankees win 115 games and win the American League East, they
start over. And every player with whom I've had that conversation's
response to that is, 'I get it, I get it, it's great. Let's tee it
up.' Which is what you would expect from players at that level."

Points will be distributed to the top 70 and ties, similar to
how money is doled out at tournaments. PGA Tour events will be
worth a total of 25,000 points, with 27,500 points available at the
four majors and The Players Championship, and 26,250 points at the
World Golf Championships. Tournaments held the same week as majors
of WGC events will be worth 12,500 points.

A player who wins a PGA Tour event will get 4,500 points,
compared with 675 points for 10th place.

The regular season ends a week after the PGA Championship, at
the Carolina Classic, and the points are reset.

The leader will start the playoffs with a slim advantage --
100,000 points, compared with 99,000 points for the player in
second player. The drop-off is 500 points for every place through
No. 5, 250 points through No. 10, 150 points through No. 30, and
75-point reductions for every place through No. 144.

For the final four events in the playoffs, the winner gets 9,000
points; it is slightly higher at the Tour Championship.

Finchem said it was mathematically possible for someone to
clinch the FedEx Cup before the Tour Championship, but unlikely.

The playoffs are designed to give golf a definitive end to its
season, when it can crown the FedEx Cup champion. It also should
mean that the top players will be competing every week, which is
rare on the PGA Tour beyond the majors.

But whether the public buys it into remains to be seen.

Success in golf has been determined by the four majors for the
last 50 years, and that is not likely to change. The tour sent out
a release that included quotes from Woods, Mickelson and Ernie Els,
among others.

"It has the top players playing against each other, which is
much more exciting product for the fans," Mickelson said.

Mickelson did not play in the Tour Championship last year, and
he usually shuts down his schedule after the majors. He is likely
to play all the FedEx Cup playoff events next year, as is Woods and
the other top players.

Still, the PGA Tour usually only gives away money -- not points --
so this might require an adjustment.

"We're still kind of in the learning process," J.J. Henry said
from the Buick Championship. "Who knows, really? I'm sure there's
going to be little things we're going to have to do here and there
to tweak it as we go along, but I think it will be great."

One thing sure to get few complaints is the money.

Along with the $7 million pursue from the final four events, the
playoffs have a $35 million bonus pool that pays $10 million to the
winner, $3 million to the runner-up, $2 million for third, $1.5
million for fourth and $1 million for fifth place. The rest of the
$18 million will be paid out to the 144th spot.