FedEx Cup playoffs should finish before football begins

The FedEx Cup will be awarded on September 27, three weeks into the football season. Ending the golf season before football begins could have a major impact on golf's playoffs. Chris Condon/PGA TOUR

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- You have a fantasy football team. Make that two. OK, more than two, but we'll leave it at that. No need to reveal all your secrets.

I'll bet you're also in that weekly office pool again. Oh, and the survivor pool, of course. Squares pool, too. And sure, nobody can blame you for picking a few DFS teams after those incessant commercials finally talked you into it.

After all, it's football season. Like any red-blooded American, your life is only complete with the requisite leagues and teams and pools. So, have at it.

All of which leads me to one semi-related question: What do you think of the current state of these FedEx Cup playoffs?

Yep, that's right -- they're still going on.

Eleven months after the race for the $10 million first prize began, there remain two scheduled events until a champion is crowned -- this week's BMW Championship and next week's Tour Championship. This isn't some quirk of this specific calendar. It's just how the season is set up. Begin in October, end in September, begin again in October. Consider it golf's version of Groundhog Day, without the everyman hilarity of Bill Murray.

Check that: Murray is included, too, competing in this Wednesday's pro-am. So it's exactly like Groundhog Day.

Don't get me wrong. This isn't one of those "Death to the FedEx Cup" columns. Do an Internet search and you'll find plenty of scorching-hot takes on how this system isn't as important as any major (that was never its intention), is too volatile (that's the nature of any playoffs) and its competitors don't care (simply untrue). That's not the takeaway here.

Save for a few needed tweaks, I really like the FedEx Cup. It provides a conclusion to golf's interminable season that didn't previously exist. The first two playoff events have been terrific theater with Jason Day and Rickie Fowler -- two of the game's emerging young superstars -- winning the titles.

People who complain about the concept often conveniently forget facts like this: Back in 2006, the final year before the FedEx Cup, the Tour Championship was held in November and the game's two biggest stars, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, didn't play because, well, they didn't feel like it.

Hey, you can't blame 'em. That's football season.

Which leads back to my original point -- and the one major tweak still necessary to fix the playoffs: They need to end before football season starts.

Right now, the four-event series too often resembles an inverted pyramid, with the opener garnering the most mass attention pre-football, followed by the next three in chronological order, though not order of importance.

It all dates back to a rare miscalculation from PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who theorized nearly a decade ago that the playoffs would coexist in football's domain without any real issues.

"This is not just an event that's scheduled out there as an island into football," he said at the time. "This is a series of events that starts before football, runs two weeks pre-NFL, runs two weeks into NFL, is all tied together. ... I think it's like a growing tide during the course of the year; it will carry us in and have really solid ratings. We'll get nicked if it's a huge football game, but ... I feel very bullish about it."

The real head-scratcher is there is a fairly simple solution to this problem.

Think about it: With minimal tweaking, the playoffs could finish on Labor Day, perhaps on the West Coast, offering so many fans a primetime finale not just to the season, but the summer. If the hushed hum of golf telecasts resonates as one of the season's traditional sounds, then the last one should signify a conclusion to this time period, a gentle whisper that it's time to go back to school, back to work and, yes, back to the fantasy football draft room.

Instead, like a Labor Day party guest who lingers a few weeks too long, the playoffs are still here. They're no longer the life of the party, either; they're just curled up in the fetal position in a corner of the room, hoping someone will notice them.

In the PGA Tour's defense, there is a rationale behind the schedule. I spoke casually with a high-ranking official recently who reminded me the organization's first priority in its mission statement is the membership, not the fans. That doesn't mean you, dear spectator, don't matter. It just means your wishes are trumped by a defiant need to offer more playing opportunities to anyone with a name stitched into his golf bag.

Therein lies a bit of a Catch-22 as well. The format is trying to serve two masters -- the players and the fans -- but their ideal scenarios aren't one and the same.

Or maybe I'm just in the minority on this one.

"I think it's good how it is," Jordan Spieth said Tuesday. "It's fun to watch football games on the road with our friends out here, too. Every once in a while you get good timing and you can even go to an away game for teams that you don't normally get to see, whether it's football, baseball, basketball, getting to go to Fenway Park. If the season stops earlier, we don't get that opportunity. Or I guess it just depends. But no, I think it's just fine how it is."

In my defense, Spieth said these words after spending the weekend attending football games featuring the University of Texas and the Dallas Cowboys.

Either our golf season is getting in the way of their football season or their football season is getting in the way of our golf season. The sports landscape is big enough for the two of them, but there's no need to fuse 'em together.

The FedEx Cup playoffs should end when the summer ends. Then golf can clear the stage for the next act. It would really only be a minor tweak in the grand scheme of things, but it could provide a major impact in the long run.