NOTE: For the first two events of the FedExCup Playoffs, Rob will focus only on golfers outside the bubble to advance. In this first edition, all five below open the Playoffs outside the top 70 in points.
Joaquin Niemann … The 20-year-old is getting his first taste of the Playoffs and he's comin' in hot. Now, that wasn't his early trending as he sat 141st in points going idle at the U.S. Open, but he's responded with a pair of T5s among five top 25s to rise to 74th. Most facets of his tee-to-green game were better than fine, but he was hurting himself with the putter. Perhaps some of that was due to his full cycle through PGA TOUR courses, but he's shaved about a stroke and a half off his score with the putter alone in his recent surge.
Russell Henley … A month ago, he was 165th in the FedExCup. Today, he's 81st thanks to a runner-up finish at the John Deere Classic, a T13 at the Barracuda Championship and a T31 at last week's Wyndham Championship. And that's been his M.O. Get hot, stay hot. Despite a quiet season overall, he's 15th in fairways hit, T46 in greens in regulation, T21 in proximity and T26 in scrambling. Now that he's scoring, he lines up as a spoiler. The Playoffs were built with his profile in mind.
Brian Harman … After enduring months when it was fair to wonder if he'd even qualify for the Playoffs – he was 132nd in points after the U.S. Open (in which he didn't compete) – here he is at 86th thanks to a trio of top 10s on easier tracks. Not surprisingly for the lefty who's best known as dangerous with the putter, those showings coincided with strong weeks on the greens, but he's also improved in piling up the scoring opportunities over the summer. Given he's third on TOUR in conversion percentage inside 10 feet, his personal converging trends are worthy of attention.
Troy Merritt … At 72nd in the FedExCup, he likely needs no worse than a 29th-place finish at Liberty National to play on, but first he'll have to make the cut. The 33-year-old has survived only two of his last six, but one went for a T7 at the 3M Open and the other was a runner-up performance at the Barracuda Championship. They're among a career-best four top 10s on the season. Currently T34 on TOUR in total driving, 24th in greens hit, T21 in proximity to the hole and T21 in conversion percentage inside 10 feet.
Kyle Stanley … With nine top 25s on the season, it looks like a misprint when you see him slotted at the 98-seed at THE NORTHERN TRUST, worst among the golfers on this page. Upon closer inspection, it's understandable given only one of those was a top 10 (T8, Wells Fargo) and that he's missed nine cuts. However, he arrives having connected six cuts made, three of which for a top 25, including a T13 at the Wyndham where he was an uncharacteristically strong sixth in Strokes Gained: Putting. He'll likely need a top-14 finish to advance, but he's not unfamiliar with Liberty National having posted a T50 in 2013.