EDISON, N.J. -- With two months to go before the first tee shot is struck in the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup, much remains to be sorted out before the top-125 players in the FedExCup standings gather in Edison, N.J., August 23-28, for The Barclays. A total of 83 players, however, have played well enough thus far to earn a trip to Plainfield Country Club for the first Playoff event, based on the number of points required to make The Barclays field last year (380). The goal for those players now is to accumulate as many FedExCup points as possible in order to improve their standings and position themselves to move on through the Playoffs toward the ultimate goal: a spot in the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, where one player will walk away with the FedExCup and the $10 million prize.
Of those 83 likely to earn a Barclays start, there is a large rookie contingent of seven players: the Masters champion Charl Schwartzel (No. 19); HP Byron Nelson Championship winner Keegan Bradley (No. 22); Bob Hope Classic winner Jhonattan Vegas (No. 24); Valero Texas Open winner Brendan Steele (No. 31); Robert Karlsson, who recently lost in a sudden-death playoff to Harrison Frazar at the FedEx St. Jude Classic; Chris Kirk (No. 50), who finished T2 at the Shell Houston Open; and Kevin Chappell (No. 61), the low American at last week's U.S. Open with a T3 finish to go with his T2 at the Valero Texas Open. Rookie Scott Stallings, at No. 84 in the standings, is knocking on the door of making The Barclays field as well.
The brief history of the FedExCup has shown, however, that it takes more than just qualifying for The Barclays to make a run at the title. In the four previous installments of the FedExCup, only five rookies total have managed to qualify for the Playoffs and advance to the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola: Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy in 2010; Marc Leishman (2009); Andres Romero (2008); and Brandt Snedeker (2007). Fowler, Leishman, Romero and Snedeker all went on to win Rookie of the Year on the PGA TOUR during the years they reached the TOUR Championship.
In 2010, of the players who were in the FedExCup top 30 entering The Barclays, a total of 22 continued their strong play through the Playoffs and advanced to the TOUR Championship, meaning there is still much work to be done for those 83 who are most likely already in The Barclays field. And while all 30 players at the TOUR Championship will have a mathematical chance to win the FedExCup, the top five in the standings control their own destiny and can win the FedExCup with a victory in Atlanta. Position in the FedExCup standings entering the Playoffs is key.
With that in mind, Bubba Watson could take over the No. 1 position the FedExCup this week at the Travelers Championship, where he won his first PGA TOUR event last year. Watson, currently No. 2, is only 38 points behind FedExCup leader Luke Donald, who is not in the field. Watson took over the FedExCup lead in May when he won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and held onto it for five weeks, until Donald took over when he finished T7 at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance. Watson has made the Playoffs every year since the inception of the FedExCup, but has only advanced to the season finale twice, in 2008 and 2010, when he finished 30th and 22nd, respectively, in the final FedExCup standings. His highest FedExCup rank heading into The Barclays came last year, when he was No. 8 in the standings following the Wyndham Championship.
Of the other players in the current top 20 who are competing at the Travelers Championship, Nick Watney (No. 6), David Toms (No. 8), Brandt Snedeker (No. 12), Martin Laird (No. 15), Webb Simpson (No. 16), Aaron Baddeley (No. 17) and Hunter Mahan (No. 18) could take over the FedExCup lead this week. Snedeker, Laird, Simpson, Baddeley and Mahan would need a win to do so.