Sports Biz with Darren Rovell

Woods, Mickelson: Why They Don't Play Every FedEx Cup

Phil Mickelson

FedEx. We have a problem? Tiger Woods, who led the field heading into the Barclay's, the first FedEx Cup tournament, didn't play in it. Now, Phil Mickelson, who just won the second FedEx Cup tournament (the Deutsche Bank Championship) and is now in first place, isn't playing the BMW, the third tournament on the list. 

Tiger probably wanted to hang out with his new daughter and Phil said he wanted to take the week off to hang out with his family. So the natural question for us to ask here is: Why don't the world's top players want to win this playoff? The answer: The annuity.

You see, Federal Express wanted to make a real big bang with this whole playoff thing, so they announced to the world they were giving away $10 million to the winner of the four tournaments--the "largest single bonus payout in all of sports." Then, we slowly found out that the winner wouldn't receive a $10 million check. They'd receive the $10 million upon their "retirement."

I've read that players under 45 would not be able to access any FedEx Cup bonuses until 45, but only if they play in fewer than 15 PGA Tour events in a season. Otherwise, they'd have to wait until they are 60. Sorry if I didn't get this exactly right, the fan guide online doesn't include any reference to the annuity.

But let's get to the math, since my eighth grade math teacher Mr. Thiergard would want me to show the work.

Tiger Woods' bank account will probably be north of $1.5 billion by the age of 60. Well, for calculation purposes let's just say it's $1.5 billion. That $10 million prize would then be worth .6 percent of his holdings at that age. What is a .6 percent bonus like? Let's say you make $50,000. A .6 percent bonus is $300.

Earlier this month, Woods even put it more bluntly. "I may be dead by the time my retirement fund comes around for me to be able to utilize it," Woods said.

How about Mickelson? Let's say by the age of 65, he conservatively has $550 million. That $10 million annuity is 1.8 percent of his salary. Let's go back to your $50,000 salary. Phil's equivalent bonus to your salary is $900. Big whoop.

Woods and Mickelson not playing in some of the events is the worst case scenario. You want to know what's close to as bad? If guys like Brandt Snedeker or Boo Weekley won it all. Why is that such a nightmare? Because they have the smallest career earnings among the top 20 in the FedEx Cup points. Snedeker has made $2,667,265 and Weekley has pulled in $2,350,773. Imagine they won that type of money? Snedeker couldn't collect fully for 33 years and Weekley would have to wait a quarter of a century. Just brutal. And imagine their caddies, how would they get their 10 percent? I guess that would have to come in an annuity as well.

What should FedEx have done? They should have given away the amount of money they could have given away legitimately. You know what? A $4 million bonus payout for the four tournaments would have been really impressive if it was paid out immediately. With that, I think Tiger (whose earnings on the year are $8.4 million) and Mickelson (whose earnings on the year are $5.6 million). Then we're talking some better percentages.

Questions?  Comments?

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