Power Rankings: FedExCup Playoffs
August 17, 2021
By Rob Bolton , PGATOUR.COM
All-time shots in the FedExCup Playoffs
The 15th edition of the FedExCup Playoffs to conclude the PGA TOUR season has arrived. There will be math and there will be a test, three of them in fact, but it’s all to determine who is crowned the 2021 FedExCup champion.
The format is exactly how it was introduced in 2019 but the last four years have taught a lot in terms of projecting who advances to the TOUR Championship. This annual Power Rankings for the FedExCup Playoffs examines the structure, the recent history and this year’s set of host courses. A projected ranking of 30 to reach the finale gets you started.
POWER RANKINGS: FEDEXCUP PLAYOFFS
RANK PLAYER COMMENT 30 Stewart Cink 29 Billy Horschel 28 Louis Oosthuizen 27 Russell Henley 26 Webb Simpson 25 Joaquin Niemann 24 Tony Finau 23 Jason Kokrak 22 Sam Burns 21 Kevin Kisner 20 Rory McIlroy 19 Corey Conners 18 Paul Casey 17 Bryson DeChambeau 16 Abraham Ancer 15 Hideki Matsuyama 14 Cameron Smith 13 Viktor Hovland 12 Harris English 11 Scottie Scheffler 10 Justin Thomas 9 Patrick Reed 8 Daniel Berger 7 Collin Morikawa 6 Patrick Cantlay 5 Brooks Koepka 4 Dustin Johnson 3 Xander Schauffele 2 Jon Rahm 1 Jordan Spieth
It always seems that just when we’re settling into the latest format of the FedExCup Playoffs, it changes. Sometimes it’s because of the reduction to three tournaments. That’s what happened in 2019. Other times, unfortunately, a pandemic influences the points distribution. Of course, that was last year’s experience when points were merely tripled due to playing time lost midseason. However, a recommitment has been made to quadruple FedExCup points for the first two tournaments of 2021.
Last year’s adjustment didn’t alter the course of history, however; that is, in time, it won’t appear as an anomaly. Since the current points structure was implemented in 2017, all top-19 opening seeds advanced two tournaments. In 2017 and 2018, and when points were quadrupled, that meant to the third leg of what was a four-event series. Since 2019, it’s meant a trip to the TOUR Championship.
This is why all of this year’s top-19 opening seeds are found in the ranking of 30 above. Baked into that is an acceptance that every FedExCup ranking is different no matter the seeds because points totaled in the Regular Season carry forward into the first two events of the Playoffs.
Only THE NORTHERN TRUST that opens the Playoffs will have a 36-hole cut of low 65 and ties. There is no cut in the last two tournaments. And because the opening field of 125 (actually 124 because 8-seed Louis Oosthuizen is resting a sore neck) will be whittled to 70 for the BMW Championship, the series opener is the most volatile. When this slice of 55 debuted in 2019, four seeds outside the opening top 70 advanced. The worst finish among them was recorded by 74-seed Joaquin Niemann, who finished T30 at THE NORTHERN TRUST at Liberty National, also the cite of this year’s edition of the same tournament.
Last year, six from outside the top 70 survived, but it took no worse than a T13 (by three golfers) to do it. In fact, 111-seed Charley Hoffman also placed T13, but he rose to just 77th, thus submitting the best finish in the series opener that didn’t propel him forward.
Monday’s Power Rankings for THE NORTHERN TRUST presents the usual breakdown of the host course among other information, and there will be stand-alone Power Rankings for the last two tournaments, but no matter who advances to the BMW, he will be competing as a professional for the first time at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Maryland, so there is no recent history on which to rely. It’ll truly be a neutral field.
Caves Valley has hosted a number of marquee events, including the 2002 U.S. Senior Open, the 2005 NCAA Division I Men’s Championship, the 2007 Palmer Cup and the 2017 Bridgestone Senior PLAYERS Championship. The Tom Fazio design will be set up for the BMW as a stock par 72 capable of stretching to 7,542 yards. Like it’s relatively near partner in these Playoffs, Liberty National, Caves Valley also boasts bentgrass greens.
The top 30 in the FedExCup standings at the conclusion of the BMW Championship will advance to the TOUR Championship at East Lake in Atlanta. It will challenge familiarly as a par 70 at 7,346 yards with bermuda greens.
In 2019, seven golfers who opened the Playoffs outside the top 30 advanced to East Lake. Last year, only two converted. The lowest seed in either edition to survive was Abraham Ancer. As the 67-seed in 2019, he was the runner-up at Liberty National and climbed to eighth for the BMW.
By merely reaching the Playoffs finale, the golfers are set with traditional exemptions into the 2022 editions of the Masters, the U.S. Open and The Open Championship among many other invitations if not already equipped. Seeding upon arrival will determine all Starting Strokes, which doubles as the leaderboard position at the beginning of play. The top seed opens at 10-under, the 2-seed at 8-under, and so on.
To be clear, the winner of the TOUR Championship will possess the lowest score in relation to par combined with his Starting Strokes. For example, if the top seed, who opens at 10-under, scores 10-under 270 for 72 holes, his total score will be 20-under. Meanwhile, if the 5-seed, who opens at 5-under, scores 14-under 266 for 72 holes, his total score will be 19-under. Last year, although Dustin Johnson opened as the top seed at 10-under, his 72-hole score of 11-under 269 was good for just T3 overall in aggregate scoring, but he prevailed by three strokes in combined scoring because of the opening advantage.
The FedExCup champion is credited with official victory, but neither FedExCup points nor official earnings apply to the TOUR Championship. Only the leaderboard with the influence of Starting Strokes and bonus prize money will be applied. The winner at East Lake also secures a five-year TOUR membership exemption (through 2025-26).
In the history of the FedExCup, six golfers have won a Playoffs event as the top seed entering the tournament they won. Dustin Johnson was the most recent when he prevailed at the 2020 TOUR Championship.
The Playoffs also have been a haven for momentum and piling up victories. On 10 occasions, including twice in 2008, a golfer has won exactly two Playoffs events, including consecutively six times. Rory McIlroy has done it twice (2012, 2016), but he’s one (2012) of four who didn’t win the FedExCup in the series in which he recorded multiple victories. His second of two FedExCup titles occurred in 2019 when Starting Strokes was introduced.
Of course, there also are the tough-luck experiences. In 2019, Kevin Tway opened as the 41-seed and posted respective results of T24 and T11, yet finished 31st in the FedExCup. Last year, Brian Harman (69-seed) went T11-T12 to place 37th, Jason Kokrak (90th) went T13-T6 to finish 42nd, and Russell Henley (101st) went T8-T25 to settle at 56th. However, just making it to the Playoffs means that a PGA TOUR member has had a successful season. It also means that his job is secure for the next.
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.
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.