Dissecting the FedExCup chances of Rickie Fowler, Tommy Fleetwood and others
As the Regular Season nears its conclusion, some big names are still on the Playoffs bubble
July 06, 2021
By Justin Ray, Twenty First Group, PGATOUR.COM
- July 06, 2021
- A T8 finish at the PGA Championship and a T11 at the Memorial Tournament have Rickie Fowler trending up. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
With the season’s final major championship right around the corner, only seven PGA TOUR events remain before the beginning of the lucrative FedExCup Playoffs. Several postseason stalwarts find themselves in precarious spots with less than two months to go in the Regular Season.
As marquee names jockey for position down the stretch, Twenty First Group ran more than 10,000 simulations of how the rest of the PGA TOUR regular season would play out to project the likelihood of different points scenarios unfolding. The projection gives newly-minted major winner Jon Rahm the best chance at leading the FedExCup race entering THE NORTHERN TRUST (36.3%), with current FedExCup leader Patrick Cantlay right behind him (32.8%).
The math says that currently, 100 of 125 spots in the standings are projected to be taken. The most intrigue lies with the remaining 20 percent of the spots still up for grabs. Here are some of the more interesting probabilities the mathematical projections unearthed:
Current FedExCup position: 114
Probability of reaching Playoffs: 73.3%
Strong finishes at the PGA Championship (T8) and the Memorial Tournament (T11) moved Fowler from outside the playoff picture to firmly inside the top 125. Twenty First Group probability models now have Fowler at a better than 73 percent chance to reach the FedExCup Playoffs.
Fowler’s marked recent improvement can’t just be tied to one particular statistic. Entering the PGA Championship, he was averaging +0.22 Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green per round, and -0.39 Strokes Gained: Putting per round. In his last four starts, he’s gaining more than half-a-stroke per round in both statistics. Fowler has qualified for the FedExCup Playoffs every full season he’s been on TOUR (since 2010).
Current FedExCup position: 116
Probability of reaching Playoffs: 55.8%
Hadley’s season is a perfect example of how one week can change the narrative of an entire season. The lanky TOUR veteran has missed 13 cuts in 21 starts entering this week’s John Deere Classic, but a runner-up finish at the Palmetto Championship in June has him in a great position to make the FedExCup Playoffs for the fifth time in his career.
More than 42% of Hadley’s FedExCup points for the 2020-2021 PGA TOUR season came that week in South Carolina. With just a few events left, can he turn an up-and-down campaign into a spot in the Playoffs?
Current FedExCup position: 125
Probability of reaching Playoffs: 71.1%
The man currently in the final qualifying spot in the standings, Tommy Fleetwood, is not in that spot due to the nature of his global schedule. On the contrary, his 15 starts this season are his most entering the month of July in his PGA TOUR career. Currently, Twenty First Group has Fleetwood at about a 71% chance to reach the Playoffs.
Fleetwood has just a single top-10 finish in a stroke play event this season, a far cry from the previous three PGA TOUR seasons, when he was tenth or better in 38% of his starts. Fleetwood has not been as proficient with his driver in 2021, ranking outside the top 150 in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee. Still, The Open Championship – where Fleetwood finished runner-up in 2019 – presents a great opportunity to accrue the points needed to lock up a playoff spot.
Current FedExCup position: 130
Probability of reaching Playoffs: 43.8%
Sitting just outside the top 125 is this week’s defending champion, Dylan Frittelli. In his 2019 John Deere Classic victory, Frittelli was lights out on and around the greens, leading the field in scrambling percentage and ranking second in Strokes Gained: Putting. Those are two statistics Frittelli has struggled with in 2021, as he’s ranked 114th in scrambling percentage and 186th in putting.
After seven missed cuts in his last nine starts, the friendly confines of Sylvis, Illinois, might be just what the South African needs to right the ship.
Charles Howell III
Current FedExCup position: 131
Probability of reaching Playoffs: 55.1%
He is one of just nine players to qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs every season since its inception in 2007, but Charles Howell III has some work to do in the coming weeks if he wants to make it 15-for-15. This week’s John Deere Classic would be a good place to start a resurgence – he finished tied for sixth here in 2019 and has eight top-25 finishes in twelve previous career starts.
Howell’s approach play, in particular, has betrayed him a bit this season, as he is on pace for a career-low finish in Strokes Gained: Approach (currently ranks 194th on TOUR). TPC Deere Run could be a place that turns around, through: In his last 16 rounds played at the John Deere Classic, he’s gained a strong four-tenths of a stroke on approach shots per round.