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Jon Rahm critiques starting-strokes model at Tour Championship

Rahm explains his issues with playoff format
Jon Rahm explains why he's looking for change in the FedExCup Playoff format.

ATLANTA – This week marks the fifth Tour Championship using “starting strokes,” the circuit’s convoluted attempt to balance the need to reward season- and playoff-long performance with the simplicity of winner-take-all.

Some are still not sold on the idea.

Players at the season finale begin the week based on their position on the FedExCup points list, with No. 1 Scottie Scheffler starting at 10 under, No. 2 Viktor Hovland at 8 under and descending to Nos. 26 through 30 at even par.

The consensus among players is that the system is easier to understand for the average fan, but that’s not to say it’s perfect.

“You can come in ranked No. 1 in the FedExCup. You can win every single tournament up until this one. You have a bad week, you finish 30th, and now you’ll forever be known as 30th in the FedExCup this season. I don’t think that’s very fair,” said Jon Rahm, who started the postseason No. 1 in points but has slipped to fourth.

Rahm also pointed out that the spread between Nos. 1 and 30 is probably not an accurate representation of each player’s performance. “When you’re in fifth place, you are, what, 5 under, so you’re five shots from the lead. But you’re also five shots from 30th place. So that to me just doesn’t make much sense,” he said.

“Starting strokes” has also created an issue with the world ranking, which awards points based on the actual score that week. In 2020, Xander Schauffele finished runner-up to Dustin Johnson but was awarded winning world-ranking points. And in 2021, Rahm and Kevin Na finished tied for the lead but lost to Patrick Cantlay in “starting strokes.”

“You can come in on the 18th hole with a five-shot lead, right. You play it easy, let’s say you make a bogey, and you risk losing world ranking points, but you’re winning the FedExCup,” Rahm explained. “It’s a little odd that you get awarded world-rankings points for a tournament you may not win, or you may not celebrate at the end. In my case, I like the previous format a little bit better than this one.”