The FedEx Cup Playoffs should be played on better golf courses. That shouldn’t be a main takeaway after 43-year-old Lucas Glover knocked off Patrick Cantlay in a playoff to win the FedEx St. Jude Championship for his second consecutive win, but here we are.
TPC Southwind is not the best course on the PGA Tour, but to be fair, it isn’t close to being the worst. I appreciate that the golf course prevents players from blasting driver with reckless abandon, and Southwind also demands some touch around the greens. It is a fine test of professional golf and a mildly interesting course, but it isn’t anything more than that. And that’s the problem: shouldn’t the playoffs elevate the product to another level, in every respect?
This year’s playoff slate features TPC Southwind, Olympia Fields, and East Lake. TPC Southwind and East Lake are firmly in the playoff rotation into the foreseeable future. They each hosted playoff events last year, and they’re hosting again in 2024. How excited are you to watch more golf at those two courses for years to come?
East Lake and Southwind are inland golf courses in a similar region of America with some rough, some trees, and some ponds. If we consider the entire globe of options, it’s hard to argue that these are two of the best venues in the world if the goal is to showcase elite professional golf. As Andy mentioned on the Shotgun Start last week, a West Coast playoff event in prime time would be pretty sweet! Better options are out there.
Of course, the first playoff event doesn’t take place in Memphis because the tour thinks TPC Southwind presents the most demanding and excellent version of elite championship golf. The tournament takes place in Memphis because the tour’s biggest sponsor is headquartered in Memphis. It is, unfortunately, yet another example of the PGA Tour’s inability to put product first. Instead of prioritizing the best possible venues and trusting the product to sell itself, the PGA constantly caters to the needs of sponsors. It’s the same philosophy that results in a Comcast Business Tour Top 10 graphic shown during the Wyndham Championship that features ten players not participating in the tournament. The Tour’s strategy is a great example of what not to do. Trying to make a ton of tweaks around the edges instead of focusing on the core product tends to create many more problems than it solves.
Assuming the PIF deal goes through, the PGA Tour will receive a capital infusion worth billions. Hopefully the our begins prioritizing the product and becomes less dependent on sponsor demands. Playoff events in sticky Memphis heat on a mediocre golf course are not the end of the world, but like many other parts of the PGA Tour schedule, some imagination and vision would drastically improve the product.
And congrats to Lucas. Seriously impressive stuff from him the last couple weeks. Let the Ryder Cup talk commence.
This piece originally appeared in The Fried Egg newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.