Power Rankings: FedExCup Playoffs

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August 22, 2012
Rob Bolton, Fantasy Columnist

While the ultimate goal is to follow in the footsteps of Jim Furyk and Bill Haas, many would happily settle to join the club with Heath Slocum or Kevin Streelman.

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FedExCup aficionados -- yes, you're an aficionado if you already know the relevance of those four golfers in the postseason -- will forever attach the label of FedExCup champ to the first two while serving up the second pair as answers to the trivia question; that is, Slocum (2010) and Streelman (2011) are the only two golfers to start the Playoffs outside the top 100 in points and advance to the finale at East Lake.

Terms like volatility and opportunity are tossed around for good reason, but the odds are still with the top 30 entering the postseason to survive the first three stages for a berth into the 30-man TOUR Championship.

In the three years since the current iteration of the FedExCup format was introduced, 22 of the 90 golfers that survived the first three stages started the Playoffs outside the top 30 -- seven in both 2009 and 2011; eight in 2010. Two golfers have achieved this feat twice -- Australians John Senden (2009, 2011) and Geoff Ogilvy (2010, 2011). Of the sample size, only Streelman (2010) remains a non-winner on the PGA TOUR.

All of the top 13 in points at the conclusion of the regular season have qualified for THE TOUR Championship in the last three years. Only seven ranked 14-20 since 2009 have failed to advance to East Lake. The 30 golfers below represent a blend of this trending with guys arriving at The Barclays in great form.

Aside from a shot at the FedExCup title, included in the spoils for the 30 that survive all three stages are exemptions into the first three majors of 2013 and a tee time at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship.

Let's not forget that there is bonus prize money at stake as well. The FedExCup champion receives $10 million. Other notable bonuses read as follows: fifth place = $1 million; 10th = $500,000; 30th = $175,000; 55th-70th = $110,000; 81st-100th = 75,000; 101st-125th = 70,000. And just to ease the sting for the first 25 on the outside looking in, those that finished the regular season ranked 126th-150th are given $35,000. These payouts are in additions to all regular prize money up for grabs in each of the four tournaments.

Power Rankings: FedExCup Playoffs
Rank Player   Comment
Tiger
WOODS
Starts in the pole position and should enjoy the list of host tracks. He won the U.S. Open at Bethpage in 2002, emerged with the victory at TPC Boston in 2006 and he has a win and three seconds at East Lake. TOUR's only three-time champ in 2012.
Rory
MCILROY
Begins third in FedExCup points. In his only previous postseason, he failed to post a top 35 in three events in 2010. Times have certainly changed (read: improved exponentially). He's the man to beat after that whipping at Kiawah Island.
Adam
SCOTT
His length and irons figure to flourish at Bethpage and Crooked Stick, but he's posted top 10s at TPC Boston the last two years (also won the inaugural Deutsche Bank in 2003) and a T6 at East Lake in 2011. Enters 32nd in FedExCup points.
Luke
DONALD
Currently 16th in points while making just 13 starts; only Rory McIlroy ranks higher (third) with fewer (12). Donald chased second-place finishes at TPC Boston and East Lake in 2010 with thirds at both tracks in 2011. Two wins this year.
Keegan
BRADLEY
Poster boy for the modern game hits it long and high. Also wields a long putter. Despite a 10-event stretch from April-July with zero top 25s, he arrives at Bethpage ranked eighth in FedExCup points. Leads PGA TOUR in the all-around.
Matt
KUCHAR
While it seems that he's been back on the scene for a lot longer, he didn't play East Lake until 2010. Won The Barclays that year at Ridgewood CC. Last year's solo second in the first leg was at Plainfield CC. Starts ninth in FedExCup points.
Phil
MICKELSON
Given his play of late -- zero top 35s in six starts -- his inclusion here is based on reputation. Starts postseason ranked 14th in points; first time he's entered lower than sixth. Two-time champ at East Lake; winner at TPC Boston in 2007.
Justin
ROSE
Enters ranked 12th in points. No Order of Merit or Race to Dubai champ on the European Tour has also won the FedExCup; five qualified for this year's Playoffs, including Rose (2007). Defending the BMW but at Crooked Stick, not Cog Hill.
Bubba
WATSON
On the short list of Player of the Year candidates, he arrives at The Barclays ranked fifth in FedExCup points. No top 15s in an aggregate eight starts on Bethpage, TPC Boston and East Lake, but he rose to a new level of consistency this year.
Dustin
JOHNSON
Eked out five top 10s with a win despite delayed start after knee surgery and 11 weeks off due to a back injury. Starts 26th in points. Defends The Barclays but at Bethpage, not Plainfield CC. Only multiple winner in the postseason since 2009.
Hunter
MAHAN
The TOUR's leading ball-striker starts sixth in FedExCup points, highest of his career. One of just three golfers (Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker) to advance to the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola in each of the first five editions of the FedExCup.
Steve
STRICKER
Gunning for his sixth trip to East Lake in as many chances in the FedExCup era. Starts 10th on points thanks to seven top 10s and another three top 25s in 15 starts. Four top 10s at TPC Boston, including a victory in 2009.
Graeme
McDOWELL
You could hear his confidence in his voice all year. Posted no worse than a T12 in any major. Four top 10s and another four top 25s in 13 starts. Starts postseason ranked 27th in FedExCup points. He's played only two events in the Playoffs.
Ernie
ELS
The meaning of his inward, bogey-free, 4-under 32 at the British Open to win by one continues to grow in stature as the shock from Adam Scott's fade wears off. Els has posted top 10s in six of his last seven appearances at East Lake. Eleventh in points.
Jim
FURYK
It's unfathomable that the former FedExCup champ won't make another run. Two runners-up and a pair of fourths this year. Three top 10s in his last four starts at TPC Boston. Won at East Lake in his last trip in 2010. Ranks 17th in points.
Jason
DUFNER
Rose to second in FedExCup points with a T7 at Sedgefield. In offering a striking illustration of his confidence, he's taking a pass on The Barclays to gear up for the final three events. Best career postseason finish is a T2 at TPC Boston in 2009.
Bo
VAN PELT
He's advanced to East Lake the last two years. Starts this year's Playoffs ranked 23rd. The BMW Championship will be considered a home game of sorts for the native of Richmond, Ind., some 65 miles east of Crooked Stick. Eight top 10s this season.
Webb
SIMPSON
Winner of the U.S. Open has logged five other top 10s to start the Playoffs ranked 13th in points. However, it's in stark contrast to last year's 12 top 10s (and 21 top 25s). Will be defending at TPC Boston. Leads TOUR in birdie average.
Zach
JOHNSON
Benefits by starting fourth in the standings since his track records at Bethpage (MC, 2009 U.S. Open) and TPC Boston (no top 15s in four appearances) are disappointing. A lock for the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, where he was co-runner-up in 2007.
Louis
OOSTHUIZEN
First-timer in the Playoffs begins ranked 34th. Wrangled a trio of top-four finishes, including a solo fourth at Firestone three weeks ago. Owns the length for Bethpage and Crooked Stick, and the scoring firepower for TPC Boston.
Bill
HAAS
Slotted 21st. No FedExCup champ has qualified for the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola the following year. Started last year's finale ranked 25th, and then won in a playoff with one of the shots of the year. Struts into Bethpage on the coattails of a T7 at Sedgefield.
Robert
GARRIGUS
Hasn't cleared the second hurdle of the FedExCup Playoffs yet. Starts this year's edition at a career-high 24th in points. Top 25s in his last four starts, two of which went for top fives. Best fit for Bethpage and Crooked Stick.
Rickie
FOWLER
On the bubble for a Ryder Cup captain's pick, he's failed to record a top 30 in his last five starts. If he solves his putting woes, expect the kind of form that led to four top 10s in the spring, including his first PGA TOUR victory. Sits 18th in points.
Carl
PETTERSSON
Not his first rodeo (advanced to the finale in 2008) but he could hang up the spikes and call it a career year, so everything at this point is gravy. No top 20s in six aggregate starts at Bethpage, TPC Boston and East Lake. Starts seventh in points.
Padraig
HARRINGTON
Ranks 62nd in FedExCup points. Top 20s in seven of his last eight starts worldwide. The x-factor is how the rhetoric that he needs to do something extraordinary to make the Ryder Cup team will influence his focus and strategy.
Bud
CAULEY
The fair question as he makes his debut in the FedExCup Playoffs (ranked 35th) is if he's peaked too soon. The PGA TOUR rookie has three top-four finishes in his last four starts, but it's also the reason he's included here. He's fearless.
Scott
PIERCY
Fulfilling lofty expectations bestowed when he broke through in Reno last year. Picked off another victory in Canada in July and has 10 top 20s this season. Seems overrated at 15th in FedExCup points, but he isn't. Has yet to advance to East Lake.
Chris
KIRK
At 80th in FedExCup points, he's lowest-ranked of any in this feature. The PGA TOUR sophomore has found a groove lately with two top 10s and another top 25 in his last four starts. Fits Bethpage well, so he'll need to capitalize on the matchup.
Seung-yul
NOH
While he begins 40th in the FedExCup standings, he's flashed solid form for too long -- 14 consecutive cuts made with eight top 25s -- and he's nails tee to cup, ranking 36th in total driving, 28th in greens and 59th in Strokes Gained-Putting.
Cameron
TRINGALE
Breaks in ranked 56th, eight spots higher than he began last year's run before running out of steam at the BMW Championship. Well-rounded game breeds cuts made, therefore a calculated choice to thrive in dwindling limited fields.

NOTE: After the BMW Championship, the points will be reset to predetermined distributions. I considered this dynamic for the ranking below. Experience and success at East Lake played a considerable role for the 30 golfers that I project to qualify.

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