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      Despite layoff, Woods' FedExCup hopes still alive

    • Tiger Woods' FedExCup hopes are still intact as he makes his return to competitive golf this week. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR) Tiger Woods' FedExCup hopes are still intact as he makes his return to competitive golf this week. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)

    The most dominant golfer of this era, Tiger Woods returns from a three-month injury layoff this week in an unfamiliar position.

    Behind.

    Behind in what, you ask? The short answer is everything. Wins, top finishes, Ryder Cup points and virtually every statistical category. Woods' best result in three starts this season is a share of 25th at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. A disappointing season thus far for Woods, who last year won five times including THE PLAYERS Championship and was ranked No. 1 in the FedExCup for much of the season.

    One other area where Woods has given significant ground is the FedExCup standings.

    With just 43 FedExCup points this season, Woods currently is 269 points out of the top 125 who qualify for The Barclays in late August. If the projections hold true (see table below), Woods will need to accumulate 371 points between now and the Wyndham Championship to earn a spot in the FedExCup Playoffs.

    Event (field size) 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 5-year avg.
    2014 Projection
    The Barclays (125)
    354 380 334 363 369 360 414
    Deutsche Bank (100) 494 505 526 556 527 522 600
    BMW Championship (70)
    816 796 788 829 823 810 932
    TOUR Championship (30) 1,532 1,572 1,619 1,499 1,468 1,538 1,769

    The above projections are based on the increase in points available thanks to the PGA TOUR's wraparound schedule that debuted this season. No matter how the numbers are looked at, Woods still has a chance of pushing all the way into the Playoff picture in the coming weeks.

    If Woods picks up with a "normal" schedule, he'll have four great opportunities to earn points starting with this week's Quicken Loans National, which the tournament host has twice won. If he doesn't add any events to his schedule, we should see Woods at the Open Championship and PGA Championship -- two 600-point FedExCup events -- and the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, arguably Woods' best event and one that awards 550 points to its champion.

    Theoretically, Woods could finish solo seventh in each of those four events and earn enough FedExCup points to exceed the projected total of 371 points. A solo seventh in the two majors would earn him 100 points each, a solo seventh at Bridgestone would earn him 95 and a solo seventh this week at Quicken Loans is worth 90. That would total 385 points.

    Of course, a win in any one of those events would more than seal his spot in the Playoffs.

    Below you'll see Woods' points earned at his projected remaining 2014 stops since the FedExCup went to its current point-distribution format in 2009:

    WOODS' FEDEXCUP POINTS EARNED AT REMAINING PROJECTED 2014 SCHEDULE
      Quicken Loans
    National
    Open
    Championship
    WGC-Bridgestone
    Invitational
    PGA
    Championship
    Total
    2009 500 0 550 330 1,380
    2010 22 46.5 .83 41 110.33
    2011 DNP DNP 30.5 0 30.5
    2012 500 180 72.25 65.42 817.67
    2013 DNP 101.33 550 28.00 697.33
    A PGA TOUR Season-closing stretch like ones in 2009, 2012 or 2012 would qualify Woods for the 2014 FedExCup Playoffs.

    While the numbers may be against him, the schedule is certainly in Woods' favor. Should he take advantage of his opportunities and climb up into the FedExCup top 125 before The Barclays, Woods could then chase after an unprecedented third FedExCup title.

    Woods has qualified for six of the previous seven FedExCup Playoffs, though he did not compete in 2008 because of injury, and is the only two-time FedExCup winner (2007, 2009). In 18 Playoffs starts, Woods has 16 top-25 finishes and three victories, though none since 2009.

    No matter if he gets there at No. 1 or No. 30, Woods would be a significant threat to take the FedExCup if he qualifies for the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. In four starts there in the FedExCup era, Woods has three top-10 showings including a 2007 triumph and a 2009 runner-up finish, both allowing him to wrap up the FedExCup.

    For many, like longtime FedExCup leader Jimmy Walker, the 2013-14 season is winding down and the FedExCup chase is becoming the focus. For Woods, with so much to play for in the coming weeks, it's just getting started.

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