ATLANTA • Rory McIlroy is not convinced by the new staggered start which is being used at this week's season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta and has questioned whether it could affect the tournament's prestige.
The PGA Tour has initiated the scoring system, based on accumulated points, so that top seed Justin Thomas started the event yesterday at 10-under, with the second seed at eight-under, and so on, down to even-par for the 26th to 30th ranked players in the elite field.
This has been done so that the winner of the season-long FedEx Cup points race and the Tour Championship winner are likely to be the same person to reward good performances in the regular season.
Last year, with no staggered start, Tiger Woods won the Tour Championship but Justin Rose won the FedEx Cup. The Englishman collected the US$10 million (S$13.9 million) bonus almost anonymously as Woods justifiably earned the headlines for ending his five-year victory drought. Woods did not qualify to defend his title this week.
"You can shoot the best score of the week and not win the golf tournament," McIlroy, who started at five-under, said at East Lake on Wednesday. "If that happens to someone, it's going to be hard for them to wrap their head around."
The four-time Major champion added: "If the FedEx Cup really wants to have this legacy in the game, is people starting the tournament on different numbers the best way to do it?"
He is also unconvinced that the tournament's relentless focus on the first prize of US$15 million - the game's biggest payout ever - is helping the event's prestige.
"I don't think the money needs to be front and centre, because I don't think that's what the fans care about," the Northern Irishman said.
"Players might care about it, and we want to be rewarded for what we do, but at the same time, competitively, it's not about that. It's about trying to win golf tournaments.
"Who knows what the winner wins at the Masters? I don't know because that's not what it's about."
For the record, Woods received US$2.07 million for his famous victory at Augusta National in April.