PGA Tour Playoff Primer: The FedExCup

Rory McIlroy Wins Tour Championship and FedExCup
Rory McIlroy lines up a putt on the 15th green during the final round of the TOUR Championship at East Lake GC on Aug 25, 2019 in Atlanta, GA. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

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 earned over the past 11 months, but for 55 in the field, the ride will end in New Jersey, as only the top 70 will move onto Baltimore, Maryland for the BMW Championship, the second leg of the playoffs. Those outside the top 70 after New Jersey 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 New Jersey will earn a cool 1,500 points. To put that in perspective, only 17 have tallied more than 1,500 points during the entire season, so there is a great deal of potential for playoff movement.

2019 PGA Tour Schedule FedExCup
FedExCup signage on No. 9 during the third round of the 2018 Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, CT. Credit: Fred Kfoury III / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A win here makes a player a lock to reach the Tour Championship at East Lake, regardless of whether that winner is No. 1 Collin Morikawa or Chesson Hadley (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 third 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.

Justin Thomas TOUR Championship
Justin Thomas swings on the first tee during the third round of the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club on Aug 24, 2019, in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images

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.

The Tour Championship win is considered an official PGA Tour victory, but the money and points earned is not part of the historical record of a player’s statistics. The FedExCup champion’s $15 million prize money is considered a “bonus.” Further, the Official World Golf Ranking awards ranking points based on the gross-score finishes.

Some marquee players who will need a good showing this week to move on include:

Big Names on the Bubble

63 Tyrrell Hatton
66 Shane Lowry
71 Bubba Watson
79 Ian Poulter
110 Jason Day
114 Gary Woodland

FedExCup Playoff Schedule
  1. THE NORTHERN TRUST (8/19-22)
  2. BMW Championship (8/26-29)
  3. The TOUR Championship (9/2-5)


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