The Playoffs are Upon Us
Pictured above: Billy Horschel wins the 2014 FedEx Cup.
Although summer is gearing down, the real excitement on the PGA Tour is just about to begin.
The PGA Tour regular season culminated in the most unexpected of ways, as 51-year-old Davis Love III captured the 21st title of his career by winning the Wyndham Championship by one stroke over Jason Gore. With his victory, Love not only became the third PGA Tour player over the age of 50 to ever win an event, but he also earned a spot in the upcoming Fed Ex Cup Playoffs that begin on Thursday.
Love III played phenomenal golf this past weekend, firing a low-round 64 on Sunday to earn the win. However, with $32 million in total bonus winnings to be claimed during the Fed Ex Cup playoffs, and a solo $10 million prize allocated for the outright winner, all eyes are on the circuit’s new Big 3 to create some drama and fireworks down the stretch.
Expect the scores to be low and the action to be frenetic this week at the Barclays Championship. The first leg of the playoffs is returning to the Plainfield Country Club in Edison, New Jersey for the first time since 2011. The last time it was held there, Dustin Johnson picked the Donald Ross design apart with a score of -19 over 54 holes. That was the year that Hurricane Sandy reared her ugly head, forcing officials to truncate the tournament to only three rounds.
No tempests are expected to affect play this week, unless we are talking about Hurricane Spieth!
The World No. 1 is having a magical season, having already notched two major victories as well as over $10 million in winnings.
I like his chances on Plainfield CC, which only plays 7, 091 yards from the championship tees. With sections of rough measuring up to 8 inches long, the course demands pinpoint accuracy and a tremendous short game — qualities that the 22-year-old has in spades.
The young Texan will have his hands full, however, as 124 of the best PGA Tour players from 2015 will be trying to make up ground on Spieth’s 4, 169 Fed Ex Cup points, over 1, 500 points more than second place Jason Day’s total.
Only the Top 5 Fed Ex Cup point leaders will have a shot at the $10 million bonus prize when the field shrinks down to 30 golfers at East Lake CC. Until then, players will be vying with one another to try to ascend into those coveted positions. Everyone theoretically has a chance to climb into the Top 5, but it will certainly take some very strong play. Just ask last year’s champion Billy Horschel, who had to win both of the final Fed Ex Cup events —the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship — in order to claim the most lucrative prize in golf.
Over the next month, the field will be reduced several times. The Barclays will commence with a field of 125 players only to see that number reduced to only 100 participants for the following week’s action at the Deutsche Bank Championship just outside of Boston.
From there, the number of participants in the field will drop again to 70 for the BMW Championship in Chicago, before it is ultimately weaned down to the top 30 players for the Tour Championship in Atlanta.
At the Fed Ex Cup playoffs, every day is moving day.
During the regular season, FedEx Cup rankings change after the conclusion of each tournament. During the playoffs, however, players’ projected standings rise and fall after each hole. One bogey can send a player, who is sitting on the bubble, sprawling down the rankings, whereas a late birdie can cement one’s position for the following week. This rollercoaster ride is what make’s golf postseason so exciting for fans at home and in attendance to watch.
Although two-time Fed Ex Cup champion Tiger Woods will be noticeably absent from the field this year, the current roster of talent headlining the playoffs is garnering more buzz than at any time that I can recall since the inception of the postseason in 2007.
Many are expecting Day and Rory McIlroy, who will be sitting out the Barclays in order to rest his ankle, to duke it out with Spieth over the course of September. However, there is an entire field of hungry golfers looking to close the gap on the World’s No. 1 during the playoffs, including four Canadians — David Hearn, Adam Hadwin, Nick Taylor, and Graham DeLaet — who are all set to tee it up this week in New Jersey.
The $10 million prize is up for grabs. Who wants it the most?