‘Absolutely criminal’: The FedEx Cup format’s fatal flaw, according to Patrick Cantlay

Patrick Cantlay at 2021 Tour Championship

Patrick Cantlay had a lot of opinions to share on Wednesday before the 2021 Tour Championship.

Chris Condon/PGA TOUR

Patrick Cantlay had a lot on his mind on Wednesday, and he let it all out during his pre-tournament press conference at the 2021 Tour Championship.

Cantlay, who defeated Bryson DeChambeau in an epic playoff on Sunday to win the BMW Championship and claim the No. 1 position in the FedEx Cup standings, sounded off on who’s to blame for Bryson’s hecklers, social media, and the PGA Tour’s new PIP ranking, all of which you can read about right here.

The revealing comments were something of a surprise coming from a player the average golf fan doesn’t get to hear from all that often. And he wasn’t done there. Cantlay also offered up his strong opinion about the current format of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

Patrick Cantlay outdueled Bryson DeChambeau at the BMW Championship.
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In short, your current FedEx Cup leader is not a fan of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

“I think, frankly, it’s not a good format,” Cantlay began when prompted by reporters. “I think it’s obvious why they went to the format because the previous format was confusing. I think this format is less confusing. But I don’t think it’s a good format.”

Cantlay’s primary beef with the playoffs involves the Tour Championship, and the fact that when the format was shaken up after 2018, there was no longer a true winner of the season finale. Instead, players are given starting scores based on their FedEx Cup ranking (Cantlay starts this year’s event at 10 under), and whoever ends up with the lowest score-to-par wins the tournament and the FedEx Cup.

“I dislike the fact that we no longer have a Tour Champion. So I dislike the fact that no one knows, when they look at the leaderboard, who shot the lowest round this week,” Cantlay explained.

He used the example of the 2020 Tour Championship to make his point. Last year, Xander Schauffele shot the lowest score over four days at East Lake, 265. Dustin Johnson shot a 269. But DJ started at 10 under, and Xander at three under, so Johnson claimed the win, and Schauffele dropped to third.

“I think the fact that Xander didn’t get a tournament win for beating the field by two or three shots is absolutely criminal, not just because he’s my friend, but I think that if that happened to anybody that would be criminal,” Cantlay said, “And there has to be a better solution.”

Cantlay just might be on to something. For another good example of the unintended consequences of the new format, you just have to look at the 2018 Tour Championship, the final one played under the old format. Back then, Tiger Woods shocked the world by claiming his first PGA Tour win in over five years. But because Tiger didn’t rack up enough points during the regular season (he was 20th to start the Tour Championship), the FedEx Cup trophy went to Justin Rose.

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Had the tournament been played under the new format, Tiger wouldn’t have completed his comeback or captured his 80th Tour victory.

However, a grand solution to the FedEx Cup Playoff format is not easy to come by, as Cantlay admitted on Wednesday.

“I am not a mastermind on golf formats and there are lots of moving parts, so I’m not saying that I have the answer,” he said. “There are lots of smart people and I guarantee you there must be an option for a better format out there than the current one we are playing in.”

He continued, “With that said, I am going to do the best possible job I can at winning in this format because that’s all I can do. And in no way will that take, impact my ability to perform in this format. I think if you play the best golf this week, you’re going to be in a great spot by the end of the week.”

Indeed, if Cantlay is able to play his best this week, he’ll win both the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup, along with the $15 million winner’s prize.

Kevin Cunningham

Golf.com Editor

As managing producer for GOLF.com, Cunningham edits, writes and publishes stories on GOLF.com, and manages the brand’s e-newsletters, which reach more than 1.4 million subscribers each month. A former two-time intern, he also helps keep GOLF.com humming outside the news-breaking stories and service content provided by our reporters and writers, and works with the tech team in the development of new products and innovative ways to deliver an engaging site to our audience.