The only other reigning major champion in this week’s field, the world No. 1, Brooks Koepka, offered a different perspective. “You look at the Patriots,” he said, referring to the N.F.L. team. “They can go undefeated and lose the first week of the playoffs and they’re out.”
The analogy seemed like a stretch. If the majors are golf’s version of the Super Bowl — that is, the legacy-creating, career-making events — wouldn’t that make the tour playoffs more like the Pro Bowl?
“You could argue that,” Koepka said. But on the tour, he continued, the spotlight extends beyond the majors to events including the Players Championship and the World Golf Championships. “The playoffs, they need to be different,” Koepka said. “I think they need to have more weight, put more emphasis on it.”
The value of the playoffs as they are currently constructed, Koepka said, is that someone who previously struggled could get hot at the end of the season, advance to the Tour Championship and have his life changed overnight.
Someone, for example, like Ancer, 28, who entered this season with less than $2 million in career earnings and parlayed his second-place finish in the first playoff event into a berth at East Lake.
Ancer collecting the $15 million windfall would be a feel-good story. But what if the winner is Thomas, whose career tour earnings top $30 million? Or McIlroy, whose career tour earnings are approaching $50 million?
By creating an end-of-the-year money grab to keep the players interested, the Tour helps solve problems for the game’s financial stakeholders — players and sponsors — but may be creating less of an emotional investment for its fans.