Rory favored, but FedExCup race is wide open
August 20, 2014
By Helen Ross , PGATOUR.COM
- Fresh off a Wyndham Championship triumph, Camilo Villegas has more momentum than anyone not named Rory McIlroy. (Darren Carroll/Getty Images)
PARAMUS, N.J. -- On Monday, Rory McIlroy was palling around New York City with Tiger Woods, the two making an appearance on Jimmy Fallon's "Tonight Show" a couple of hours after helping to launch the new line of Vapor irons made by their shared equipment sponsor Nike.
The past and present FedExCup and world No. 1s even came prepared with a change of clothes so they could take the ice bucket challenge for ALS. McIlroy called out, among others, President George W. Bush, while Woods picked Nike chairman Phil Knight.
On Wednesday, though, McIlroy returned to his comfort zone as he played in the pro-am at The Barclays, the first of four events in the FedExCup Playoffs which will deliver a $10 million bonus to the winner next month.
"It's nice to get back to what I do and get back into some routine," he said. "Excited to get playing again tomorrow."
McIlroy enters the Playoffs ranked atop the FedExCup standings with wins in his last three starts, two of which were majors. But he isn't ready to sit back and savor the summer -- McIlroy is focused on what he calls his "next goal" of winning the FedExCup.
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"I want to finish the season well," he said. "I want to be up there in contention week in, week out. I feel like the season I had, it deserves a finish like that. So I'm going to just grind out every week that I can. ...
"But it's a big four weeks coming up. It's one of the only things that I haven't achieved in this game is winning the FedExCup. I came close in 2012 (when I finished second). It would be great to finish off what has been my best year to date with a victory there."
Adam Scott, who enters the Playoffs ranked No. 15, is among those trying to keep pace with McIlroy, who replaced him as the No. 1 player in the world earlier this summer. While the Aussie has had four top-10s in the seven majors he's played since winning the 2013 Masters and won his 11th PGA TOUR event in May, Scott feels he's been a little left behind this year.
There's no time like the present to lift your game, though. Particularly when there's a striking silver Tiffany cup and $10 million on the line.
"Looking at the run like Rory has been on the last few weeks, would be a good time to do that myself now and make a real run at the FedExCup and get my name on that trophy," Scott said. "That's the result we're all looking for."
Survive and advance is key over the next four weeks when FedExCup points are quintupled. The field of 125 this week at Ridgewood will be trimmed to 100 for next week's Deutsche Bank Championship and 70 for the BMW Championship that follows.
Only the top 30 in the standings advance to East Lake for the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola -- and only the top five are guaranteed to pocket the $10 million bonus if they win the FedExCup finale. So if you're on the outside looking in, winning one of the first three events is imperative.
Preview: 2014 FedExCup Playoffs
Think Heath Slocum in 2009 -- he came into the Playoffs ranked No. 124, won The Barclays and jumped to No. 3. Granted, Slocum went on to finish eighth but he was in the top 5 entering the TOUR Championship and as such, controlled his own destiny.
Jim Furyk, who ranks fifth in the FedExCup, is the only one of the current top five who has yet to win in 2014. He has eight top-10s this season, though, including a trio of second place finishes, and a total of 14 top-25s.
In 2010, though, Furyk missed his pro-am time at Ridgewood so he was disqualified from The Barclays -- dropping from No. 3 to No. 11, as a result. But he still managed to win the FedExCup when he won the TOUR Championship.
"So the regular season is important in that if you have a bad event or two in the Playoffs, you still have an opportunity at East Lake to do some damage," Furyk said. "Where if you're starting back there at 15th, 20th, 25th, you've got to do a little work in the Playoffs to get your ranking up high enough to make East Lake exciting."
Of course, consistency doesn't hurt, either. Furyk has shot more rounds at par or better (82 of 101) in the Playoffs than anyone else -- including a 59 at the BMW Championship last year. And only Steve Stricker has more top 10s in the Playoffs than Furyk, who is one behind.
A lot can be said for momentum, too.
McIlroy has it, of course, but so does Camilo Villegas, who won the Wyndham Championship on Sunday and vaulted 62 spots to No. 37 in the FedExCup. The avid cyclist knows how to ride it, too -- in 2008, when the Colombian finished second to Vijay Singh in the FedExCup, he tied for third at Deutsche Bank Championship and won the last two Playoffs events, as well.
"Last time I checked, there's a big chunk of money being given out after THE TOUR Championship," Villegas said. "So five times the points, FedExCup, I mean, if you don't get motivated, then, I don't know, there's something wrong with you. So I am excited.
"The Playoffs always got me excited, and it's always toward the end of the year, you always want to close the year good. It's no difference than making birdie on the 18th hole. Lunch always tastes better. So when you play good in the Playoffs and you start passing people, it kind of gives you a good feeling till the end of the year."