We will never line up to give you the hard sell on the PGA Tour’s postseason. Some years and events have been more exciting than others. We know it can all be tedious, from the marketing to the constantly changing format. But the point is, we know that. So with all those usual disclaimers, we attempted to cobble together some real reasons we might be watching with interest this year.
Brendan Porath: Whether it was in Boston, Memphis, or at a host of rotating courses in the New York area, I’ve never found the first event of the FedEx Cup to contain anything remotely close to high stakes or interesting drama. It was a snoozefest, with peripheral names fighting to play another week but facing minimal consequences if they failed. Add TPC Initech as the host for this? Meh. Now? This week brings some of the highest stakes, with performance in Memphis pushing you into top-50 status that now triggers the golden goose of Signature Event eligibility for 2024. It’s a meaner cutoff—one that could include Ryder Cup hopeful Cam Young or Hideki Matsuyama, to name just a couple—and the concurrent stakes are enormous. I think… I’m actually most excited for the St. Jude!
Andy Johnson: I am excited to see three distinct tests of golf. I want to be clear: I do not love TPC Southwind or East Lake, but along with the majestic Olympia Fields North Course they each present a unique challenge.
TPC Southwind mitigates the effects and advantages of distance thanks to water and bunkering. This creates a supreme iron test, with a refreshingly high number of mid irons on display.
We last saw Olympia Fields in 2020, and it was sensational. A combination of strong design and a lack of rain in Chicago that allowed the agronomy team to create a firm and fast test meant we saw a course that required supreme control to play well. The North Course is a stout, former U.S. Open host that rewards a combination of power and stellar iron play. The perfect setup also yielded one of the most memorable finishes in recent years, a playoff finish featuring Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson.
This will be a Rees Jones farewell at East Lake, with Andrew Green’s renovation set to start right after the tournament finishes. Despite a lack of memorable holes, East Lake does reward accuracy (according to Data Golf’s course fit tool), a rare and refreshing attribute for a stop on the PGA Tour schedule.
So between these three courses, we have a course that will test iron play, a stout U.S. Open-style test and a course that rewards driving accuracy. That’s a nice variety, even if two of the three are unmemorable and underwhelming overall.
Shane Bacon: Almost every golf fan in the world that doesn’t have a @livgolfrules8742 Twitter handle wants Rory McIlory to win another major championship. Since that won’t happen in 2023, I’m forcing myself to be interested in Rory as a playoff player. Nobody knows what the playoffs will look like when this realignment finally gets hammered out, but if the FedEx Cup does continue on, Rory having four or five on his resume would be very, very tough for anyone to match. In a few decades, we could end up looking back on these playoff wins as a measuring stick for this generation.
Chris Almeida: In tennis, the ATP and WTA Finals are not forgettable tournaments. They aren’t the majors, sure, but they’re the next best thing. Both tournaments feature the eight best singles players (and doubles teams) on tour and provide a week of high-level matches that are played for a massive stack of cash. My all-time most rewatchable tennis match is the slugfest of a final between Pete Sampras and Boris Becker at the 1996 ATP Finals.
Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, and Steffi Graf all racked up titles at the year-end tournaments. Partisans readily cite those wins alongside major titles when making tedious arguments about legacy. Rafael Nadal probably doesn’t lose much sleep when thinking back on his career, but perhaps he stays awake just a wink longer when he remembers that the ATP Finals is the one big tournament he’s never won.
This is all to say forget, for a second, about everything wrong with the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Forget about the iffy host venues (or, on the other hand, appreciate the inclusion of one great venue in Olympia Fields) and the Tour Championship’s janky scoring system. Instead, think of this: at least we’re getting a chance to see the best players compete a few more times after the major season has left us. In another sport, the end to the season is viewed as a gift. In golf, because we are able to dream of better formats and courses, the playoffs feel like a disappointment. But you don’t have to absolve Tour executives of their sins to feel that a competition featuring (almost?) all of the world’s best is a worthwhile endeavor. Just look over at tennis.
I’m excited to see players like Collin Morikawa try and make a statement after a disappointing year and to see if Rory or Jon Rahm or Scottie Scheffler can make a strong claim that they were the best player in 2023.
And after things wrap up at East Lake, I can get back to stewing about the Tour Championship not being a match play event.
This piece originally appeared in The Fried Egg newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.