Fall events should have major impact on 2013-14 FedExCup race

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Jimmy Walker will have a sizable lead over perennial favorite Tiger Woods when the calendar turns to 2014.
November 18, 2013
By Tom Alter, PGA TOUR

With the 2013 portion of the PGA TOUR Season now concluded, let’s examine the impact those six tournaments might have on the 2014 FedExCup race.

The sheer volume of additional FedExCup points will add a new wrinkle to our conventional ways of thinking. The thresholds that have been used since the current points system was established in 2009 will have to be increased. It’s always been a tricky proposition predicting how many points it would take to qualify for the top 125 and the various levels throughout the FedExCup Playoffs, and things are even more complex this season.

Consider the additional points available to the winners. In 2013, there were five majors/THE PLAYERS Championship (600 points to each winner), three World Golf Championships (550 points each), 25 TOUR events (500 points to each winner) and three additional events (300 points each) for a total of 18,050 points.

For the 2013-14 season, add an World Golf Championships event, five TOUR events and subtract one of the additional events for a total of 20,800 points. That’s roughly a 15 percent increase in total available points for the winners.

Now take that 15 percent increase and add to the various thresholds from last season. Here’s what you get:

Projected points needed to advance in the 2013-14 Playoffs
Threshold 2013 Season 2013-14 Projection
Top 125 after PGA TOUR Season 369 points 424 points
Top 100 after The Barclays 527 points 606 points
Top 70 after Deutsche Bank Championship 823 points 946 points
Top 30 after BMW Championship 1,556 points 1,789 points

After the 2013 Wyndham Championship, the final event to qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs and secure full exemption on TOUR for the next season, Erik Compton had 422 points, good enough for 117th place in the FedExCup standings. It was the first time Compton had qualified for the Playoffs and, given his inspirational story of overcoming two heart transplants, made him a worthy recipient of the inaugural PGA TOUR Courage Award.

But based on the above projections with the 15 percent increase, those 422 points would not be good enough to make the Playoffs this year.

Now let’s take a look at those players who have started strong in the first six events.

Jimmy Walker, who won the Frys.com Open for his first TOUR title, will go into the 2014 calendar year as the FedExCup leader with 684 points. Walker has never qualified for the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola in his 10-year career, and he knows as well as anyone how difficult it is to amass enough points to make it to East Lake. A few months ago, he came to the 72nd hole at the BMW Championship needing just one more birdie. He made par and did not advance, although he did finished in a career-high 36th in the FedExCup.

But after winning at CordeValle, he finished tied for 12th at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, then added a sixth-place finish at the CIMB Classic. Based on the projections, not only should Walker qualify for the Playoffs, he’s likely secured a spot inside the top 100 who will play the Deutsche Bank Championship. But he still has a lot of work to do to reach East Lake.

Three other players inside the top 10 in the FedExCup standings also have never advanced to the TOUR Championship: Chris Kirk (5th), Jason Bohn (7th) and Brian Stuard (8th). Like Walker, none of them have guaranteed spots, but thanks to their strong play in the first six events, they’ve improved their chances in this wrap-around season.

So has 2008 FedExCup champion Vijay Singh. In 2013, the World Golf Hall of Fame member posted only one top-25 finish and missed the Playoffs for the first time in his remarkable career. The 50-year-old has already enjoyed two top-25 finishes this season, including a runner-up at the Frys.com Open. Singh is in 10th place with 346 points, but will likely need two more top-25 finishes to earn a spot back in the Playoffs.

Of all the previous FedExCup champs, Singh is in the best shape coming out of the Fall events. The only other former champ inside the top 125 is Bill Haas, who is 59th. Meanwhile, two-time champion Tiger Woods, 2010 winner Jim Furyk and defending champion Henrik Stenson will go into the new year with zero points.

A year ago, that might not have been a big deal. When Woods made his 2013 debut at the Farmers Insurance Open, he was 538 points behind then-leader Brian Gay. Woods won the event, claimed the 500 points and moved into the fourth place after winning at Torrey Pines.

But when Woods tees off this year, he will be at least 684 points behind and possibly more, depending on how others perform in the events prior to Tiger’s season debut. Theoretically, Woods could face a deficit that’s twice as large (if not larger) than last year.

Of course, if Woods wins five events again like he did in 2013, his Playoffs status will take care of itself. But the wrap-around schedule has created some intriguing scenarios; only time will tell what the inaugural fall in the FedExCup era will truly mean.