FedExCup top 5 the place to be
September 07, 2016
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
- Jason Day is second in the FedExCup rankings. (Ryan Young/PGA TOUR)
CARMEL, Ind. -- For many, half the battle is just to get to the TOUR Championship but the BMW Championship is critical for another reason – it is the last gasp chance to get into the all-important FedExCup top 5 heading to East Lake.
A place in Atlanta is certainly a reward in itself. Those who earn their way into the Playoffs finale all have a mathematical chance of winning the FedExCup. And they will have locked up spots in the Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship, three World Golf Championship events, THE PLAYERS Championship and the invitational events on TOUR for 2016-17.
But those who enter in the top 5 do not need a mathematics degree to work out their chances of winning both the TOUR Championship and the FedExCup with its $10 million bonus.
Win at East Lake and the coveted cup and cash is yours.
For four seasons running, the winner of the FedExCup arrived at the TOUR Championship inside the top 5 in the standings. You could call it a trend.
Brandt Snedeker, Henrik Stenson, Billy Horschel and Jordan Spieth have all leveraged their position through three Playoffs events into the promised land.
“It’s the ultimate goal early in the Playoffs, along with winning events obviously,” world No. 1 Jason Day admitted.
“It’s all about being in that top 5 going to the TOUR championship because obviously it creates your best chance to win it all. And we all want to win the FedExCup.”
Day sits second behind Patrick Reed right now. He went to Atlanta first last year before seeing Spieth, ranked second, win it all with a victory in the finale.
Dustin Johnson sits third, Rory McIlroy has moved to fourth and Adam Scott sits fifth.
They are all aware staying there is a huge advantage, particularly to the guy coming in fifth. He is on equal standing with the leader even when a gulf may exist between the two.
Take Snedeker in 2012. After winning early in the year at the Farmers Insurance Open he played decent throughout the year to finish the Regular Season in 19th on the points list. A runner-up finish at The Barclays catapulted him to second before being sixth at the Deutsche Bank Championship and T37 at the BMW Championship to slide to fifth.
He was just 190 points in front of sixth-placed Louis Oosthuizen and a whopping 3,942 points behind McIlroy’s lead. McIlroy had wins at The Honda Classic, the PGA Championship, the Deutsche Bank Championship and the BMW Championship to be 3,232 points ahead of second in Tiger Woods.
But with the points reset at East Lake, Snedeker was suddenly on even footing with the hot hand, provided he won of course. And he did just that.
“Life is all about timing,” he famously quipped when asked what to tell people who might not understand how he won it all over McIlroy.
For McIlroy it was a tough pill to swallow. But he did it with dignity.
“It's just the nature of them (The Playoffs), the way it is. I'm not going to criticize the format,” he said.
“You've got to play well every week. I knew if I came in here and won the tournament, that I'd win the whole thing, and that was the goal, and it didn't happen.”
And besides, he’s seen the benefits for both sides, coming in to the Playoffs this season sitting 36th he’s making his run when it counts.
“It's a great format. It offers guys that aren't right up there a chance to play well when it matters. That's what it's all about,” he said leading into this year’s Playoffs.
“I think you have to take it one week at time a time. I don't think you can really look ahead to the next week. You have to take it one week at time a time because you know in any of the given weeks, if you play well, you're going to progress and you're going to move up.”
Funnily enough McIlroy is trying to emulate what he did in the 2012 Playoffs. With the same rotation of courses he won at TPC Boston before backing it up at Crooked Stick and if he can do so, he will once again head to East Lake as the top dog.
“Once the majors were over with for me, I set my goals as FedExCup and Race to Dubai, obviously with Ryder Cup there as well, but individually, FedExCup and Race to Dubai, those were the two things that I really wanted to focus in on,” McIlroy added after his win last week.
“This has given me a real shot at trying to win that FedExCup for the first time.”
If the chance of winning in Indiana gets away from him, McIlroy knows he needs to grind hard to make sure the likes of Scott and Jordan Spieth, who sits sixth, both don’t slip past him.
Players all the way down to 49th on the points list can forge their way into the top 5 with a win at Crooked Stick this week, a point not lost on Matt Kuchar who sits closer to the top 30 bubble at 28th.
Kuchar has been inside the top 5 three times heading to the TOUR Championship since they implemented the points reset system but was unable to close the deal.
“I don’t see that anybody would want to be anywhere else but the number one position,” Kuchar said.
“This week is an opportunity to make a move towards that but if you’re not you just make the best of it and hope for the Bill Haas scenario.”
Of course, Haas is the poster child for the opposite argument. He won it all from 25th place in 2011 as the top 5 all failed to play decent enough to mitigate his run.
“The guys in the top 5 have had better years and in theory are playing better so they have earned their right for the advantage,” Haas admitted.
“It should be harder for those outside to win it all.”
When he made his move in 2011 Haas had the added benefit of not believing he was actually in contention for the FedExCup, allowing him to play a little more stress-free than he may have had he realized the $10 million was riding on his Playoffs with Hunter Mahan.
Those in the top 5 cannot get away from the fact every shot is worth big cash.
“Maybe that helped me,” Haas admitted.
“But now you cannot escape where you stand anyway as there is a scoreboard on every hole with the projections.
“So you’d much rather be in the top 5 then not, for sure.”
So who is most likely to find their way into the top 5 this week? Interestingly PGATOUR.COM’s popular Power Rankings has the current top 5, as the five best picks at Crooked Stick.
But perhaps England’s Paul Casey, runner-up to McIlroy last week can make a move from 10th. Having virtually locked up a place at East Lake, he can play a bit more care-free in a bid to push toward the top 5.
Casey would be acutely aware of Horschel’s run in 2014. Second in Week 2 before finishing win-win to secure the FedExCup.
Another with form last week was PGA Championship winner Jimmy Walker (third). What about Phil Mickelson? He was T2 at Crooked Stick four years ago, overtaken on Sunday by McIlroy. Maybe rookie Emiliano Grillo will forge back toward the top 5.
Whomever it might be, one thing is certain. It is going to be fun to watch.