Players have been accumulating FedExCup points since the wraparound season last fall, and the 125 who racked up the most will face off this week at The Northern Trust, the first event of the FedExCup playoffs.
As the first of now three playoff tournaments, players begin this event with the points they’ve earned over the past 11 months, but for 55 in the field, the ride will end in Boston, as only the top 70 will move onto Olympia Fields, Illinois for the BMW Championship, the second leg of the playoffs. Those outside the top 70 after Boston will be eliminated from the playoffs.
A large portion of the field will have enough FedExCup points to move onto round two, regardless of what happens at The Northern Trust, but even those who have locked up later round berths will not be short on motivation.
Cup points are tripled for the first two playoff rounds, meaning the player who takes top billing in Boston will earn a cool 1,500 points. To put that in perspective, only five players (Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa, Webb Simpson, Bryson DeChambeau, and Sungjae Im) tallied more than 1,500 points during the entire season, so there is a great deal of potential for playoff movement.
A win here makes a player a lock to reach the Tour Championship at East Lake, regardless of whether that winner is No. 1 Thomas or Wyndham Clark (No. 125).
Perhaps the best example is Heath Slocum, who entered the 2009 playoffs at No. 124, but after a first-round victory, moved up to third-place.
Those top spots are important, especially now as the Tour Championship features a handicap-based system (officially called FedEx Cup Starting Strokes) for the second time.
The FedEx Cup points leader after the first two legs begins the Tour Championship at 10-under par. The No. 2 player will start at 8 under. The No. 3 player starts at 7 under; the No. 4 player starts at 6 under; the No. 5 player starts at 5 under. Players 6-10 start at 4 under; players 11-15 start at 3 under; players 16-20 start at 2 under; players 21-25 start at 1 under; and players 26-30 start at even par.
In the finale at East Lake, the player with the lowest aggregate score over 72 holes when added to his handicap strokes wins the Tour Championship and is also crowned FedExCup champion.
A win at the Tour Championship is considered an official PGA Tour victory, but the money and points earned are not part of a player’s historical record. The FedExCup champion’s $15 million first-place check is considered a “bonus money.” Further, the Official World Golf Ranking awards world-ranking points based on the gross-score finishes, excluding “Starting Strokes.”
Some marquee players who will need a good showing this week to move on include:
Big Names on the Bubble
63 Matt Kuchar
65 Bubba Watson
67 Phil Mickelson
87 Rickie Fowler
89 Tommy Fleetwood
96 Brooks Koepka
99 Jordan Spieth
103 Justin Rose
104 Zach Johnson
122 Shane Lowry
Credit: Getty Images, PGA TOUR Media