Drama ahead as players vie to make top 30

Chris Condon/PGA TOUR
Bill Haas just missed a spot in last year's TOUR Championship. At No. 24, he's not safe this year, either.
September 13, 2011
Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

The good news?

Unless there's a combination or permutation no one has figured out, no one HAS to win the BMW Championship to make it to next week's TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. A third or so will do it.


The bad news?

We won't know that until Sunday. But we do know 40 someones will be on the outside looking in by then. And at least one of them will be there by the slimmest of margins. Might be kicking himself, too.

The guy in front of him? He'll be smiling.

Welcome to one heck of a top-five roller coaster ride. Emotions and games on high. Four days that will seem like a split second for some an eternity for others.

One last chance to make it to the big show -- and a season-maker. One last chance to head to O'Hare shaking your head.

You need look no further back than 2009 when Brandt Snedeker's meltdown at the 72nd hole of the BMW -- an excruciating painful four-putt -- sent him home rather than Atlanta. And handed John Senden the magic 30th spot.

"I just started thinking about the wrong things," Snedeker said that afternoon. "I didn't concentrate over the bogey putt. I was thinking about all the things the TOUR Championship comes with and I did everything you're not supposed to do. So I'm sure Dr. (Bob) Rotella and I will have a nice long talk tonight and he'll tell me everything I did wrong and we'll learn from it."

And Senden? "Funny game, isn't it?"

Funny. As in exhilarating, inspiring, agonizing, painful, disappointing or career-making or career-breaking. Take your choice.

The push to make it to Atlanta always has a few thrills, a few spills and a week-long case of the chills. At least for those pushing and shoving for those final spots.

This week, there are nine up for grabs. Nine. The top 21 players on the points list are locks for next week's 30-player field. That means a 9-in-49 chance for the rest of the field to finish -- for those who have settled in around 70th place -- third or better and tee it up at East Lake.

In and Out
Previous FedExCup standings after the BMW Championship
30. Bo Van Pelt 1,572
31. Bill Haas 1,565
32. Rickie Fowler 1,564
30. John Senden 1,532
31. Ian Poulter 1,532
32. Mark Wilson 1,438
33. Brandt Snedeker 1,435
30. Chad Campbell 102,812
31. Stephen Ames 102,570
32. Geoff Ogilvy 102,563
33. Boo Weekley 102,513
30. Padraig Harrington 94,841
31. Luke Donald 94,699
32. Jerry Kelly 94,680

Last year, Rickie Fowler fell seven spots and right out of the East Lake lineup. Bill Haas closed with a 74, fell three spots and landed up 31st. J.B. Holmes, who is recovering after brain surgery a few weeks ago, fell 10 spots last year -- from 24th to 34th. Ryan Moore, who started the week 56th, tied for third and headed to East Lake along with K.J. Choi and Kevin Na, both of whom jumped 20-plus spots with steady weeks at Cog Hill.

And before that? Well, the point system has been tweaked over the years, but in year one of the FedExCup -- 2007 -- Padraig Harrington decided to skip the BMW. He needed a week off to recuperate and he thought he was fairly safe at 25th on the list.

He wound up 30th. At East Lake right on the number and just 143 points ahead of Luke Donald.

In 2008, Dudley Hart flew up the list -- 53 spots to be exact -- to make the final 30, while Chad Campbell, who withdrew from the third round when his wife went into labor, fell from 14th in the standings to ... wait for it ... 30th. Again, on the number, 252 points ahead of Stephen Ames. Geoff Ogilvy, who was 30th going into the week, oopsied his way to 32nd and a ticket home.

Yes, this is a mixed-bag kind of week. Play well and you're in. Don't and you're out.

Think an amped-up game of musical chairs. Get off to a poor start and you likely don't have a prayer. Hang in there and find a burst somewhere along the way and you're vying for one of those nine chairs. Put it in overdrive and you might be rocketing toward the top of the points list.

Just who will do it and who won't? You guess is as good as anyone else's. It's been a season of surprises -- both good and bad. We've seen meltdowns and runaways. A final four-birdie flourish to win a major; a couple of oops moments to lose them.

Trending games? That doesn't always mean top 30.

Just ask Snedeker. He just missed the top 30 in 2008 and 2010, too. This year? He's a lock. Fifth on the FedExCup points list and in the conversation for, just maybe, the biggest win of his life.

Funny game, isn't it?

Honestly, nothing that unfolds this week would stun us at this point. A four-putt to win, maybe. But, for the most part, we'll be watching and waiting, wondering if this birdie or that bogey will mean the difference between a spot on the TOUR Championship pairing sheet or a seat on the couch.

The FedExCup title and $10 million bonus? That subject can wait 'til next week.

This week, the only thing that matters is surviving the roller coaster and giving yourself a chance to grab it.