FedExCup restart looks to be a sprint to the Playoffs
Some big names are chasing No. 1; others are hoping to simply chase down a spot
May 27, 2020
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Off the tee: Brooks Koepka driving highlights
The FedExCup standings will have not changed for three months once the PGA TOUR season resumes at the Charles Schwab Challenge in the second week of June.
Sungjae Im is still leading, followed closely by 2017 FedExCup champ Justin Thomas, with reigning champ Rory McIlroy in third.
Meanwhile, Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia are among the big names needing to make significant moves just to make the top 125 that start the Playoffs at THE NORTHERN TRUST.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting cancellations and postponements of tournaments leaves just 11 eligible tournaments over a 10-week stretch for players to qualify for the Playoffs and a chance at the $15 million bonus that comes with the season-long FedExCup crown.
While the top 125 will not double as the cutoff for TOUR cards next season in this reduced schedule, it will remain the mark to get into THE NORTHERN TRUST, the first of three Playoffs events in the chase for the FedExCup.
Gone is the luxury of extended rest between starts for those sitting way back on the list, such as Koepka, who was just starting to find his feet again on a return from injury when the pandemic halted play in March.
The two-time PGA TOUR Player of the Year will now need to make the most of his starts when play resumes. Currently he sits a distant 213th with just 21 points from his five starts this season. It’s no wonder he’s already announced he’ll play Colonial; he’s made just one previous start at the Charles Schwab Challenge.
Among those not too far ahead of Koepka and still sitting on the outside of the current 125 are some big European names, including: Past FedExCup champions Rose (203rd) and Henrik Stenson (192nd); the last two Open champions in Shane Lowry (140th) and Francesco Molinari (169th), along with Ryder Cup hopefuls Garcia (179th) and Ian Poulter (140th).
Meanwhile, Jim Furyk (168th) and Bill Haas (200th) join Stenson and Rose as past FedExCup champs currently on the outside looking in.
The past has shown that every shot counts, with mere fractions separating players from making the Playoffs and indeed moving on inside them. Just look at the list as we get set to restart.
Currently, 125th place is held by Ted Potter Jr. with 159 points. Fabián Gómez is next up with 158.653. Less than four-tenths of a point would currently represent the difference of keeping your season alive versus being done early.
Although stars such as Dustin Johnson (111th), Jordan Spieth (110th), Rickie Fowler (94th), Jason Day (91st) and Phil Mickelson (89th) will begin the restart of the season inside the top 125, they certainly cannot expect to stay there without some decent results. Besides, the top 125 is just the first step.
Only the top 70 after THE NORTHERN TRUST make it to the BMW Championship and only the top 30 after that make the TOUR Championship for a shot at the FedExCup.
And while just making the TOUR Championship gives players a chance at the $15 million, 30th place starts at East Lake 10 shots behind the leader. The closer you are to the top of the points list the closer you are to the prize.
The good news is, with 500 points for a win at most of the remaining tournaments (600 for the PGA Championship, 550 for the World Golf Championships-Fed Ex St. Jude Invitational and 300 for the Barracuda Championship), Koepka and others can make huge strides with just one big week.
Which brings us to those players at the other end of the spectrum. Those who have already positioned themselves to have a decent crack at the title and now hope to maintain the momentum despite the prolonged break.
Sungjae Im's winning highlights from Honda
Im, last season’s PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year, is the leader -- a remarkable nod to both his ironman will to play and his breakout win at The Honda Classic.
It is his ability to play week in and week out that might just ensure he is a huge chance to become the first player in history to back up a Rookie of the Year win with a FedExCup crown. Im has 14 starts to his name already this season and has a playoff loss and two thirds to go with his win.
The South Korean star had missed only one week – the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am – since playing the Sony Open in Hawaii in early January prior to the shutdown. Other players may need to adjust to a crammed schedule while Im can carry on what has thus far worked to his benefit.
Meanwhile, Thomas and McIlroy hope to chase him down. Thomas has two wins already this season to be just 55 points behind Im’s total. McIlroy has six top-10s from his six starts, including a win and showed in the recent TaylorMade Driving Relief skins game that his form is not far from where he left off.
Barring injury, this dynamic pair will no doubt be in the field at East Lake. McIlroy will be looking to be the first back-to-back champion and the first three-time champion. Thomas will be looking to avenge a year ago when he started the TOUR Championship in top spot with the -10 handicap but failed to close the deal.
Rory McIlroy wins TOUR Championship and FedExCup
The other two players currently in the top five took two very different paths to get there. Brendon Todd was the star of the fall in the 2019 portion of the season, winning twice. With 14 starts, he has a total of three top 10s but none have come since 2020 rolled around.
Webb Simpson on the other hand has played just five times to get himself into fifth on the standings. His form line reads T7 – P2 – 3 – P1 – T61. His win came over Tony Finau at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February after he had let the RSM Classic slip back in November.
Consistency has been common of late for Simpson. His last 12 starts of the 2018-19 season all finished inside the top 30 before he continued it into the 2019-20 campaign.
Will Simpson continue to play a sparse schedule given his lofty spot? Perhaps … but then again perhaps not, given the opening two courses of the restart in Colonial Country Club (two previous top fives) and Hilton Head (six top-16s including a runner up) have been proven venues for the former PLAYERS Champion.
There is no doubt winning already this season does give a little more flexibility in taking weeks off during the crammed race to the finish but with such a tightly packed points list, it is not something to take for granted.
Australian Adam Scott has already touted his preference to delay his restart, something his win at The Genesis Invitational allows given it has helped him to 20th place. He can likely return to the U.S. from his Australian base on his own terms but if he stays away too long, he will slide quickly.
The same can be said for Tiger Woods, who saw first-hand how a limited schedule can bite your FedExCup hopes. Last season after winning the Masters, Woods was unable to get his back and knee fully fit and battled the rest of the way. It resulted in his falling out of contention at the BMW Championship.
This time around his PGA TOUR record tying 82nd win at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP has helped him to 28th spot on the FedExCup from just three starts. And the time off to rest seems to have helped if his impressive ball-striking at The Match: Champions For Charity is anything to go by.
How often Woods plays will be one of many fascinating subplots over the 10 week pre-Playoffs stretch. One thing is for sure -- whoever does win the FedExCup will have well and truly earned it.
Tiger Woods' winning highlights from ZOZO Championship