Insider: Six veterans who hope to save their seasons

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Retief Goosen has battled back problems all year but enters the Playoffs at No. 101.
August 24, 2011
Stan Awtrey, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

Who said there are no mulligans in golf? At least there are second chances on the PGA TOUR thanks to the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup.


A player who suffers through a disappointing regular season has a chance to make amends and finish the season with a bang. Sure, the major championships have passed by, but there remains much prestige (along with a large purse) to be gained by players who are able to take advantage of their second-chance opportunity.

The biggest hurdle is to simply get into the Playoffs, a privilege only reserved for the top 125 on the FedExCup points list. That's not always easy. Just ask Justin Leonard, a former major champion, who didn't qualify. Or ask major champions Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington, who had to play hard the very last week of the Regular Season in Greensboro in order to qualify for the postseason.

The higher the seed, the tougher it will be to survive the cuts that follow The Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship. It's not impossible, though; two years ago Heath Slocum was the next-to-last man to qualify for the Playoffs, but won The Barclays and wound up with chance to win the FedExCup.

"The system is very transparent," Harrington said. "Essentially, if you're outside the top couple or top three or four or five, you need to win one of the first three, get into that top 5, and obviously you've got to win when you get (to the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.)"

Over the last two years at The Barclays, only nine players have moved into the top 100 and a spot reserved for the Deutsche Bank Championship. There are quite a few big names that are in such a situation this week to salvage what might otherwise be a disappointing year. Here are six to consider:

Harrington (No. 124): He's struggled to complete his swing change and has even switched swing advisers. He has played in The Barclays seven times and missed the cut only once. He won the tournament when it was played at Westchester. He was 47th last year, a mark he must improve upon if he wishes to advance.

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Ernie Els (No. 118): The Big Easy is starting to look more and more at ease with that long putter. Els doesn't have a top-10 finish this season, but had three rounds of 69 or better in Greensboro last week. He's won The Barclays on two previous occasions.

Ian Poulter (No. 114): His only top-10 this season came at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in January. He's pretty much been a non-factor the rest of the season and he missed the cut in Greensboro. Poulter tied for 15th at The Barclays a year ago and a similar finish would go a long way toward advancing his cause.

Stuart Appleby (No. 113): He's done little since the spring and enters the Playoffs having failed to qualify for the weekend (missed cut, DQ or W/D) in 12 of his last 14 events. A potential bright cloud: He made the cut last week in Greensboro.

Camillo Villegas (No. 109): It's a far cry from 2008, when Villegas won the BMW Championship and the TOUR Championship. That season he actually missed the cut at The Barclays and still had enough points to advance. If he misses the cut this year, he's finished. He enters with a full head of steam; he tied for ninth at the Wyndham Championship.

Retief Goosen (No. 101): His season has been hampered by back issues. He has had to withdraw from two tournaments after the first round. Otherwise he's been OK, finishing among the top 25 in five of 14 events. He tied for 17th last week in Greensboro and doesn't need much help to qualify for the second round.

While their situations may be slightly different, each of the six players knows the odds are stacked against them. They also realize that anything is possible.

"I know I need to finish Top 30 to go forward, but actual fact, I kind of am of the opinion that I'm in a great position going into this, that I'm just like every other guy," Harrington said. "In order to win the FedExCup, you're going to have to win one of the first three events and the last event. I've got nearly the same chance as anybody else of winning this outright. So I just need to perform a little quicker than the other guys."

And getting a mulligan certainly won't hurt when it comes time to jump starting the season.