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Machine predicts the top 30 in FedExCup standings

4 Min Read


    When the Sentry Tournament of Champions begins Thursday, the race for the FedExCup will be in a unique position for the first tournament of the calendar year.

    For one, two major championships have already been contested in this ‘Super Season.’ Nearly 14% more winners’ points have been distributed than at this same point last season.

    Because of COVID-19, there were only 22 tournaments played between last year’s Sentry Tournament of Champions and the final event of the regular season, the Wyndham Championship. There are 35 official events scheduled for that stretch this year, which means players will have work to do if they want to earn one of the 30 coveted spots at the TOUR Championship.

    The unprecedented structure of this new season is guaranteed to generate volatility in the FedExCup race. Last season, half of the top 30 in the FedExCup on Jan. 1 also started the FedExCup Playoffs in that position. Fourteen of those players went on to qualify for the TOUR Championship.

    Using the 15th Club Performance Index, shot-level metrics from around the world, and predictive modeling, we ran 10,000 simulations to determine what the FedExCup standings would look like at the end of this regular season. The exercise yielded some interesting results, and a few surprises from players who could outperform expectations over the next eight months.

    Here’s who the analytics projected would be in the top 30 of the FedExCup entering this year’s Playoffs (and if you’re more interested in a human being’s opinion, click hereto read Cameron Morfit’s prediction of the top 30 entering East Lake):

    30. Brian Harman 29. Mackenzie Hughes 28. Cameron Smith 27. Ryan Palmer Our numbers project that Palmer will be the only 40-something in the top 30 entering the Playoffs. Last year, Palmer was the only player older than 36 to make it to East Lake, getting there for the third time in his career. From 2019 to 2020, the Texan jumped significantly in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green (up 30 spots) and in scoring average (from 56th to 29th). His 11 top-25 finishes in 2019-2020 tied his most ever in a single season, and he finds himself in Maui this week thanks to the expanded Sentry Tournament of Champions field.

    25. Adam Long 24. Tyrrell Hatton 23. Kevin Kisner 22. Joaquin Niemann 21. Abraham Ancer 20. Jason Kokrak

    18. Matthew Wolff

    17. Russell Henley Lauded for his putting earlier in his career, Henley has generated a new statistical calling card: his approach play. He ranked fifth on the PGA TOUR last season in greens in regulation, the best performance of his career in that statistic. From the PGA TOUR season restart last May through The RSM Classic, no player averaged more Strokes Gained: Approach per round than Henley. 15th Club Performance Index ranks Henley as the 27th-best player in the world right now, 33 spots higher than his current spot in the OWGR (60th).

    15. Carlos Ortiz 14. Daniel Berger 13. Tony Finau

    11. Hideki Matsuyama

    10. Viktor Hovland With oceans of game and an outstanding amateur résumé in tow, Hovland is one of the most exciting young players in golf. An improvement in his short game could turn a budding star into one of the game’s best: Hovland ranked 22nd on the PGA TOUR in scoring average last season despite being well outside the top-100 in both Strokes Gained: Around-The-Green and Strokes Gained: Putting.

    6. Harris English Our Performance Index is extremely bullish on English, rating him as the ninth-best player in the world at the moment, between Bryson DeChambeau and Hideki Matsuyama. His ascent has been impressive: since 2018, he has gone from 143rd to 89th to 7th in Strokes Gained: Total. He was one of just four players to rank in the top-20 last season in both Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and Strokes Gained: Putting, along with Berger, Simpson and Bryson DeChambeau.

    4. Xander Schauffele 3. Jon Rahm

    1. Dustin Johnson Johnson ended his 2020 schedule with seven consecutive finishes of sixth or better, capped off with the largest margin of victory at Augusta National (five strokes) since Tiger Woods’ historic 12-shot win in 1997. Johnson could get 2021 off to a quick start: since the Sentry Tournament of Champions moved to The Plantation Course, his score of 148 under par is 14 strokes better than any other player. DJ is on his way to a seventh straight season ranked inside the top 10 in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, and has not shot over par in the final round of a golf tournament in eleven months