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PGA Tour Playoff Primer

In 2007, the PGA Tour revamped its schedule to add a four-tournament postseason format. FedEx dumped a ton of money in to sponsor it, and golf had what most other sports culminate their seasons with – a playoff.

The FedEx Cup race doesn’t have the luster of golf’s major championships, and it always risks being lost in the shuffle of the beginning of football season and baseball’s pennant races. But it’s still a big deal. Here’s a look at what to watch for this year.

 

The Rules

Credit: Bridgestone Golf

The top 125 players in the season-long point standings advance into the first week of the playoffs. Points continue to be added to those totals but on a more weighted scale during the four-week playoff run.

There’s a literal pot of gold at the end of that month of play, as an additional $35 million in bonus money will be awarded. The player atop the standings at the end of the run earns a $10 million annuity, the biggest single prize in golf.

In the 10 years of the FedEx Cup, only one player has won it twice. As you might guess, his name is Tiger Woods, capturing the title in 2007 and 2009. It’s also been won by the likes of Vijay Singh, Jordan Spieth and last year’s champion, Rory McIlroy.

 

The Schedule

Playoff action begins this week with The Northern Trust, played in New York. From here, the top 100 in the standings will continue on to The Dell Technologies Championship on Sept. 4-7.

Seventy players advance from that tournament to the BMW Championship, with the top 30 making it to the final event, The Tour Championship, where truckloads of money, including that coveted $10 million annuity, will be awarded.

 

The Contenders

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth will be major players in this year’s FedEx Cup playoffs. (Credit: Zimbio)

Fresh off his PGA Championship win and a four-time champion this year, Justin Thomas has tons of momentum but stands only 2nd in the point standings. Hideki Matsuyama leads the way over Thomas after a season that’s seen him win three times and contend on multiple other occasions.

British Open champion Jordan Spieth starts third, with Dustin Johnson fourth and Rickie Fowler fifth.

And while it’s been a relatively quiet year for Henrik Stenson, the former FedEx Cup champion goes into the playoffs with great momentum, having won last week’s Wyndham Championship. He is No. 23 in the standings and very much in contention to make a run.

 

Who could come from nowhere?

Credit: PGA

Every year, a player or two from down the list plays well in the first week or two and pushes through the line. Take 2014, when Billy Horschel entered the playoffs in the No. 69 spot but did enough to reach week three, then won both the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship and wound up winning the FedEx Cup.

Who could do something like that this year? Keep an eye on a guy like Byeong-Hun An, ranked just 96th coming into the playoffs, partly due to playing a schedule both on the PGA Tour and the European Tour.

And while it’s hard to consider Jason Day or Phil Mickelson longshots, they’re just 49th and 51st respectively after the regular season, unusual territory for as lofty as their careers have gone. And perhaps more shocking is the drop this year of two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson, just No. 113 after the regular season.

But just like an NFL team who squeaks in as a wild card, a great month of play at the right time could change any of their fortunes in a big way.

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