GREENSBORO, N.C. – Jordan Spieth’s sports allegiances stay loyal to his hometown. The Dallas native passionately roots for the Cowboys, Mavericks and Texas Rangers. Unfortunately, that means he hasn't been able to celebrate much postseason success in his 20 years.
Spieth was too young to remember the Cowboys’ glory days, when they won three Super Bowls in a four-year span (1993, ’94 and ’96). He was on a flight from an amateur tournament while the Mavericks were winning the 2011 NBA title, landing in time to catch the final two minutes of the clinching victory. Then there was the 2011 World Series. Spieth was early in his freshman year at the University of Texas, watching the game with a partisan group in a crowded apartment. The Rangers were one strike from victory before David Freese became a St. Louis superhero.
“We were just going nuts,” Spieth recalls. “Everyone was going crazy. We came so close.”
Spieth’s quest for his own Playoffs glory begins this week at The Barclays, the first of four FedExCup Playoffs events. A runner-up finish at last week's Wyndham Championship raised him from 16th to eighth in the FedExCup.
“The word ‘Playoffs’ always means it’s worth a little more,” he said at the Wyndham. “The increased points puts a big emphasis on these events. I never thought I’d be in the Playoffs at the start of the year. To have a good year and have an opportunity to make it worth a lot more, it’s exciting.”
Spieth, who turned pro in December, became eligible for the Playoffs after his win at the John Deere Classic. He’s one of 20 first-timers in this year’s Playoffs, and one of four first-timers who will start inside the all-important top 30. Billy Horschel (sixth in the FedExCup), Patrick Reed (22) and Russell Henley (24) are the others.
The FedExCup’s top 30 after the third Playoffs event, the BMW Championship, will qualify for the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. All 30 players in the field have achance to claim the FedExCup and its $10 million first prize. Each Playoffs event is worth five times as many points as a standard PGA TOUR event to reward those who get hot in the postseason. That means all 125 players who qualified for the FedExCup Playoffs have title hopes.
Horschel is making his first Playoffs appearance after a breakthrough year that included his first TOUR win, at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, and a fourth-place finish at the U.S. Open. He had seven top-10s in 22 starts.
“Playoffs, what it means to me is that the cream always rises to the top,” Horschel, 26, said. “You can cement your status if you play well in the Playoffs. You can make a name for yourself.”
Horschel used to worry about keeping his TOUR card during this time of year. He turned pro in 2009 and had to attend Q-School in each of the previous four years (he earned his TOUR card in three of those four Q-School attempts).
“I know my job is secure,” Horschel said. “I can have fun.”
That’s true of every player at The Barclays. In seasons past, players who entered the FedExCup at the back of the pack still had to worry about staying in the top 125 of the money list after the handful of Fall Series events that followed the TOUR Championship. Not anymore. This season ends at the TOUR Championship, and with only 125 players qualified for The Barclays, there’s no worry of anyone being bumped out of a TOUR card.
That means a player like rookie James Hahn, No. 101 in the FedExCup, has one goal in mind: advance to the next event. The FedExCup's top 100 after the Barclays move on to next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship. Seventy players qualify for the BMW Championship on Sept 12-15. Only 30 make it to for the following week’s TOUR Championship.
“If you ask any professional team if it’s a success to make the playoffs, they’ll say yes, but every one of us wants to hold that trophy at the end,” Hahn said. “It means I have a chance. I definitely am in a better position than a lot of guys who aren’t in the Playoffs, but there’s a lot more pressure to perform well.
“We always want to try to advance and get to that next level. The grind is just beginning.”
6. Billy Horschel
8. Jordan Spieth
22. Patrick Reed
24. Russell Henley
45. David Lingmerth
54. David Lynn
72. Luke Guthrie
74. Derek Ernst
76. Scott Brown
78. Brian Stuard
84. Richard Lee
95. Jason Kokrak
101. James Hahn
103. Martin Kaymer
104. Charlie Beljan
109. Justin Hicks
111. Morgan Hoffmann
114. D.H. Lee
117. Erik Compton
124. Scott Langley