It's the same objective, but with one less lap and a new, staggered start in the finale to determine the champion.
After a dozen years as a four-event series, the FedExCup Playoffs consists of only three tournaments this season – THE NORTHERN TRUST, the BMW Championship and the TOUR Championship. Each is a scheduled 72-hole competition. Only the opener will feature a 36-hole cut and only the top 70 in points after it concludes will advance.
Scroll past the listing of projected contenders to capture a lucky 13th FedExCup for details on this year's format, trends that help project the top 30, the three host courses and more.
POWER RANKINGS: FEDEXCUP PLAYOFFS
RANK PLAYER COMMENT 30 Kevin Kisner 29 Chez Reavie 28 Shane Lowry 27 Sungjae Im 26 Scott Piercy 25 Lucas Glover 24 Paul Casey 23 Charles Howell III 22 Bryson DeChambeau 21 Ryan Palmer 20 Jason Day 19 Hideki Matsuyama 18 Matt Kuchar 17 Gary Woodland 16 Marc Leishman 15 Billy Horschel 14 Tony Finau 13 Adam Scott 12 Francesco Molinari 11 Rickie Fowler 10 Patrick Cantlay 9 Xander Schauffele 8 Tommy Fleetwood 7 Webb Simpson 6 Dustin Johnson 5 Justin Thomas 4 Justin Rose 3 Jon Rahm 2 Rory McIlroy 1 Brooks Koepka
All of the top 20 in the opening FedExCup standings are included above by default. Although actual points fluctuate between every position and year to year, since the current distribution of points was introduced for the 2015 Playoffs, all of the opening top 20 remained inside the top 30 after the first two tournaments in the Playoffs.
Points totaled during the regular season carry into the Playoffs, but points collected during the Playoffs are quadrupled. Winners of THE NORTHERN TRUST and the BMW Championship receive 2,000 points. A solo second is worth 1,200 points, third yields 760, and so on.
Other than the reduction of one tournament – TPC Boston will return to the rotation as host of THE NORTHERN TRUST next year – the most significant change to the Playoffs is how the TOUR Championship will be scored.
Once the top 30 is determined at the conclusion of the BMW Championship, FedExCup points no longer apply. The traditional reset of points and guarantee of the FedExCup title to the winner of the TOUR Championship if he was among the top five upon arrival has been replaced by the FedExCup Starting Strokes scoring system. The top seed entering the finale will begin the tournament at 10-under par. The 2-seed will start at 8-under, and so on down to those seeded 26-30 who open at even par.
The winner of the TOUR Championship will be the FedExCup champion. He'll be credited with an official victory, but there is no separate prize fund. Beginning with bonus money of $15 million to the winner, all earnings will reflect final FedExCup finish.
Of course, he'll have to navigate the first two stops for opening position at East Lake.
As it did in 2009 and in 2013, Liberty National Golf Club opens the Playoffs for THE NORTHERN TRUST. (It also hosted the 2017 Presidents Cup.) It'll feature the standard 36-hole cut, but if more than 78 golfers survive, all are guaranteed 72 holes as the 54-hole/MDF cut provision does not apply in the Playoffs.
Once the results are official, the top 70 will qualify for the BMW Championship. Since 2015, 23 golfers who started the Playoffs outside the top 70 played their way inside the bubble after one tournament. Again, understanding that every Playoffs is unique, it's still worthy to note that the most volatile edition was in 2016 when nine players outside the top 70 were 70th or better after the first event, and among all golfers from 2015-18, Marc Leishman's drop from 57th to 71st with a missed cut in THE NORTHERN TRUST serves as the most cautionary of tales.
Paul Casey (eighth in points; rest), Rafa Cabrera Bello (59th; wife pregnant), Henrik Stenson (85th; rest) and Sam Burns (89th; broken ankle) will not be at Liberty National. Only Casey is assured of surviving.
Those who play on will travel to Medinah Country Club outside Chicago. It's served as the stage for numerous notable tournaments. For example, it's where Sergio Garcia blindly sliced and scissor-kicked his approach on the 16th hole en route to a runner-up finish at the 1999 PGA Championship. It also worked into Europe's favor in the 2012 Ryder Cup, even though Rory McIlroy needed a police escort after misinterpreting the time of his singles match.
With no cut at Medinah, it'll be more difficult for the worst seeds to advance to the TOUR Championship, but it's doable. Since 2015, 14 golfers who started the BMW outside the top 30 played their way in, eight of whom were outside the top 40. The longest shot was Roberto Castro in 2016. As the 53-seed entering the BMW, he finished in solo third and rose to 21st.
East Lake remains the most familiar of the host courses during the series. In fact, it's been the backdrop for the TOUR Championship since 2004 and the three even-numbered years before that.
This FedExCup Playoffs will be subject to a trend that has rewarded the outsider as much as it has the front-runner since its creation in 2007. Exactly once in every previous iteration (2007-2008; 2009-2014; 2015-2018) has the top seed entering the Playoffs gone on to win the FedExCup in the same Playoffs. Interestingly, each occurrence coincided with the debut of the points system. Tiger Woods did it twice (2007, 2009) and Jordan Spieth converted in 2015.
While there is only one FedExCup champion who receives a five-year PGA TOUR membership exemption, merely qualifying for the TOUR Championship has massive benefits. Among them, automatic entry into the Masters, the U.S. Open and The Open Championship in 2020 highlight the perks, and spots in the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions and WGC-Mexico Championship are guaranteed.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
TUESDAY*: Power Rankings: FedExCup Playoffs, Sleepers, Fantasy Insider
WEDNESDAY: One & Done
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.