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FedExCup Playoffs primer: How the new format works

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FedExCup Playoffs primer: How the new format works

Our FedExCup Playoffs primer will get you suitably prepped for the final stretch of the 2018-19 season

    Written by Mike McAllister @PGATOUR_MikeMc

    Welcome to the FedExCup Playoffs. Now in its 13th season, this competition rewards consistency as well as success during the regular season, while also offering hope for players who can get hot in the three-event Playoffs to make a charge up the standings. With some significant changes in the schedule and format, the question becomes: Who will own August?

    How it works

    The top 125 in regular-season FedExCup points qualify for the Playoffs. The points structure for the first two events will be quadrupled. At THE NORTHERN TRUST, 55 players will be eliminated, with the top 70 advancing to the second event, the BMW Championship. From there, 40 more players will be eliminated, with the top 30 moving on to the Playoffs finale, the TOUR Championship. This is similar to previous Playoffs, albeit with one less Playoffs event.

    It’s at the TOUR Championship where the biggest change has been made.

    Instead of a points reset used in the previous format, the new format for East Lake starting this season involves a strokes-based bonus system called FedExCup Starting Strokes. Each player will start with a score (relative to par) corresponding to his position in FedExCup points after the BMW Championship. Here’s the breakdown:

    This will allow each player to know exactly where he stands throughout the tournament, eliminating the guessing game and the scenarios of past Playoffs. With the implementation of this change, the player with the lowest total score will be the FedExCup champion and be credited with an official victory in the TOUR Championship.

    Players to watch

    A look at the top five in the FedExCup standings going into the Playoffs:


    Tiger Woods -- He's the defending TOUR Championship champ, but despite that Masters win, there's no guarantee he reaches East Lake. He starts a precarious 27th in the standings and his health and stamina will be tested with three starts (he hopes) in three consecutive weeks. Still, his track record on this year's three courses is unmatched by any player in the Playoffs.

    Justin Rose -- The defending FedExCup champ won at Torrey Pines this season, but after that, the season's been less productive. Vying to become the first to successfully defend the FedExCup. Will enter the Playoffs ranked 10th.

    Dustin Johnson -- Has four wins in the Playoffs (tied with Rory and Tiger for most) and 18 career Top 10s (most of any player). And yet he's never been able to lift the FedExCup trophy. Has hit a cold stretch the last five starts. Starts the Playoffs ranked 7th in points.

    The courses

    What's at stake

    FEDEXCUP TITLE: The biggest prize in golf is even bigger this season, with the winner receiving a $15 million bonus – a 50 percent increase from last season. Just three of the previous 12 winners have entered the Playoffs as the top seed – Tiger Woods in 2007 and 2009, and Jordan Spieth in 2015. After a 38-week regular season, it’s now a three-tournament sprint to the finish.

    PRESIDENTS CUP: This year’s competition at Royal Melbourne is in December, but the automatic top eight spots for both teams will be determined after the BMW Championship. For the U.S. Team, rankings are based on accumulated FedExCup points; for the International Team, the Official World Golf Ranking determines the top eight. Some big names are currently on the outside looking in – including U.S. Captain Tiger Woods, currently ranked 12th. Woods and International Team Captain Ernie Els will make their Captain’s Picks during the Fall portion of next season’s schedule.

    PLAYER OF THE YEAR: So you think Brooks Koepka has it wrapped up for the second straight year? He certainly is in the driver’s seat, but perhaps Rory McIlroy – who counts THE PLAYERS Championship as one of his two wins this season – can make some noise to join Tiger as the only two-time FedExCup champs. Or maybe Gary Woodland gets hot and adds the FedExCup title to his U.S. Open victory. Could be enough to sway some votes.

    ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: This one should definitely be decided by what happens in the next three weeks. Sungjae Im has been arguably the most consistent, but Collin Morikawa, Matthew Wolff, Adam Long and Cameron Champ each has a victory. The goal is to get to East Lake … and then make your final argument there.

    MORE BENEFITS: Reaching certain plateaus in the FedExCup standings triggers various invites to tournaments in the following season. Here's a list:

    Playoffs fast facts

    Nine players have qualified for the Playoffs in each of the first 13 seasons: Charley Hoffman, Charles Howell III, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Ryan Moore, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson.

    Phil Mickelson is the only player to qualify for the BMW Championship (top 70) in each of the previous 12 seasons. Mickelson enters this year’s Playoffs ranked 33rd, so he’s essentially assured of advancing to the BMW for a 13th consecutive season. Mickelson also has made more birdies (651) than any player in Playoffs history.

    Dustin Johnson is the only player to qualify for the TOUR Championship in 10 of the first 12 FedExCup seasons. Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose had reached East Lake nine times since 2007.

    Jason Day has a recorded a top-25 finish in 29 of 39 Playoffs events (a 74.4 percent clip). That’s the most top-25 finishes for any player in Playoffs history. Day also is the most under par (227 under) and has the most sub-70 rounds (84).

    Since 2009, Tiger Woods is the only No. 1 seed entering the TOUR Championship to win the FedExCup.

    More Tiger: His 68.27 career stroke average in the FedExCup Playoffs is the best among all players with a minimum of 40 rounds played.

    Since 2012, Jon Rahm has a stroke average of 68.60, the best among all players with a minimum of 30 rounds. Rahm and Justin Thomas each played all 16 rounds of the 2017 Playoffs at par or better – the only ones to have done that in any Playoffs stretch (Thomas won the FedExCup title that year).

    Lowest rounds in Playoffs history: Jim Furyk’s 59 at the 2013 BMW Championship; Zach Johnson’s 60 at the 2007 TOUR Championship. Four players have shot a round of 61 in the Playoffs.

    Just two players have drives of 400-plus yards in the Playoffs – Dustin Johnson, 463 yards at the 2011 Dell Technologies Championship/Rd. 4 (TPC Boston); and Rory McIlroy, 403 yards at the 2017 THE NORTHERN TRUST/Rd. 4 (Glen Oaks).

    Charles Howell III has the longest putt in Playoffs history – 88 feet, 5 inches on the 12th hole at the 2011 BMW Championship (Cog Hill).

    Billy Horschel is the lowest-ranked player entering the Playoffs to win the FedExCup. He entered the 2014 Playoffs ranked 69th, then fell to 80th after missing the cut at THE NORTHERN TRUST. He then finished T-2 at the next event before winning the last two events that season.

    Bubble busters: 34 players who started the BMW Championship outside the top 30 in points have played their way into the TOUR Championship. Geoff Ogilvy was the lowest-ranked player, starting 69th before moving up to 24th after the 2011 BMW.

    Twelve rookies have qualified for the TOUR Championship in the FedExCup era, most recently Aaron Wise last season. Xander Schauffele has the best rookie finish in the final FedExCup standings (third in 2017).

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