If you build it, he will come. However, until 2012 FedExCup champion Brandt Snedeker returned to the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola in 2013, he didn't come back. See, Snedeker was the first FedExCup champ to survive the first three legs of the Playoffs in the following edition. He started last year's run slotted third before finishing 12th.
This week's The Barclays at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, New Jersey, kicks off the eighth FedExCup Playoffs. In consecutive weeks, respective fields reserved for 125, 100, 75 and 30 golfers chasing their dreams will travel from the New York City market to Boston, and then to Denver, and finally to Atlanta. TPC Boston and East Lake have served as the anchors of the Deutsche Bank Championship and TOUR Championship, respectively, while Cherry Hills Country Club gets its first crack at hosting the migratory BMW Championship.
The current iteration of the points structure has been in place since 2009. Since, no matter where a golfer has begun the Playoffs, if he's finished inside the top 42 at The Barclays, he's advanced. This is merely a coincidence as regular-season FedExCup points remain on the board. Points are then quintupled during the first three phases before the top 30 are locked into preset amounts. Each of the top 30 at East Lake will have a mathematical chance of winning it all, but only the top five are guaranteed the FedExCup with a win.
Also, in each of the last five Playoffs, while it's possible that a golfer inside the top 13 entering The Barclays may not advance to the finale, that hasn't happened. Only the first two tournaments have 36-hole cuts, so it would likely require a guy opening 0-for-2 to have a chance to set the inglorious precedent. Dustin Johnson begins this week slotted sixth and will not compete throughout, so he'll serve as the litmus test. (As a result of his sabbatical, he is not included below even though he may finish inside the top 30.)
Last year's Playoffs ended a trend and extended others. For the first time under the existing points structure, all four tournament winners began the Playoffs inside the top 30. BMW winner Zach Johnson started lowest at 18th. However, Heath Slocum (2009 Barclays' champ) remains the only winner of a Playoffs event (since its inception in 2007) who hasn't finished inside the top five at the conclusion of the TOUR Championship. Slocum placed eighth.
The 2013 edition also played host to eight golfers that entered The Barclays outside the top 30 and played their ways into the field at East Lake. Lowest of the bunch was Nick Watney at 63rd. It was the second consecutive year that he turned that trick. Sergio Garcia did the same in 2012 and 2013. Since 2009, five guys have done it twice; John Senden is the only golfer to burst the bubble three times. Watney starts this year's at No. 94, Garcia is seventh and Senden is 26th.
Either seven or eight golfers outside the opening top 30 have survived the first three phases every year since 2009. Slocum was the poster boy for what kind of difference this series can make when he won at Liberty National in 2009 seeded 124th. Kevin Streelman is the other extreme outsider to survive and advance after beginning the 2010 set at 102nd.
Finally, Steve Stricker's streak of competing in every TOUR Championship will end. He'll be resting injuries for a few months. So, only Phil Mickelson (slotted 45th) and Hunter Mahan (62nd) can extend the streak of reaching East Lake for the eighth consecutive year. Mahan is the only golfer to play in every FedExCup Playoffs event in its history.
POWER RANKINGS: FEDEXCUP PLAYOFFS
1 Rory McIlroy 2 Rickie Fowler 3 Adam Scott 4 Matt Kuchar 5 Jim Furyk 6 Sergio Garcia 7 Justin Rose 8 Jason Day 9 Keegan Bradley 10 Jimmy Walker 11 Bill Haas 12 Webb Simpson 13 Ryan Moore 14 Graeme McDowell 15 Jordan Spieth 16 Bubba Watson 17 Marc Leishman 18 Brandt Snedeker 19 Henrik Stenson 20 Phil Mickelson 21 Graham DeLaet 22 Zach Johnson 23 Brendon Todd 24 Chris Kirk 25 Patrick Reed 26 Kevin Na 27 Freddie Jacobson 28 Ryan Palmer 29 Martin Kaymer 30 Kevin Streelman