The PGA Tour has thrived since its return from a three-month COVID-forced layoff, a fact that was most on display two weeks ago at the PGA Championship, which due to frantic rescheduling, was the first major of the cursed 2020 season.
Now, the FedExCup playoffs return with arguably its strongest collection of contenders in years. An extremely wide-open three-week competition begins this week at TPC Boston for The Northern Trust, with the top 70 moving onto Chicago, and then the top 30 battling it out at the season-ending Tour Championship.
It is especially difficult to whittle down the field to a top-15 ranking, but we made an effort nonetheless. And no, we did not forget about Tiger Woods, we just cannot confidently predict which version of him will show up in any given week right now, particularly with the condition of his back being a week-to-week conflict.
15. Brendon Todd
The 35-year-old who looks like a lock for Comeback Player of the Year is a tough bet with his extraordinary lack of distance, but Todd just cannot stay out of contention in the 2020 season, with two victories, two other 54-hole leads, and five rounds of 65 or better since Tour play resumed in June.
Todd can be depended on to get off to a great start, it’s just a matter of whether he can stay in the zone on Sundays, something he was able to do in November, but has struggled mightily with since. As well as anyone on Tour right now, Todd just keeps the ball in play.
World Rank: 42nd
TPC Boston: T44, MC
North. Trust: 24, 46
2019 Playoffs: DNQ
Recent: MC, 17, 15, 22, 57
Odds (W, T5, T10): 110-1, 18-1, 9-1
14. Abraham Ancer
Something about the FedExCup Playoffs and Abraham Ancer just seems to mix. Arguably his two most encouraging performances in non-team events happened in the playoffs: a runner-up at last year’s The Northern Trust and a T7 at the TPC Boston-hosted 2018 Dell Technologies Championship where he held the 54-hole lead.
The 29-year-old Mexican citizen has not quite broken through for that maiden Tour victory, but it feels imminent, especially during a season where he has two runner-ups and played a starring role for his international squad at the Presidents Cup.
World Rank: 25th
TPC Boston: T7
North. Trust: 2
2019 Playoffs: 26, 28, 2
Recent: 43, 15, 58, 11, 2
Odds (W, T5, T10): 55-1, 11-1, 5-1
13. Patrick Reed
The Northern Trust’s defending champion (not at TPC Boston) seems to be rounding into form late for the second consecutive season. Reed finished last season with eight consecutive top 25s, including the victory, and suddenly he has three finishes of T13 or better in his last four starts this season.
Also a winner at the WGC-Mexico in February, he has been phenomenal on Sundays, ranking fifth on Tour in round-4 scoring average. Between majors, WGCs, and playoff events, Reed has been on his game much more often than not over the past three years.
World Rank: 9th
TPC Boston: 35, 6, 5, 4, 74
North. Trust: 1, 25, 20, 1, 62, 9
2019 Playoffs: 15, 19, 1
Recent: 9, 13, 47, 10, 39
Odds (W, T5, T10): 28-1, 5-1, 3-1
12. Brooks Koepka
We don’t know who that man was who impersonated Koepka on Sunday at the PGA Championship, but he wasn’t very convincing. As shockingly vulnerable as he may have looked in that final round, we cannot suddenly write off the man who relishes the biggest stages as much as anyone since peak Tiger.
We suspect he will at least be back in the mix this week. At the very least, it seems impossible that he somehow doesn’t qualify for Chicago in two weeks, even coming off a missed cut against a weak field at the Wyndham Championship.
We also suspect he will resist taking the bait the next time he is asked about his closest competitors on a major leaderboard. Since opening with a 74 at the 2017 Dell Technologies Championship, Koepka has seven straight rounds at TPC Boston of 69 or better.
World Rank: 7th
TPC Boston: 12, 18, 57, MC
North. Trust: 30, 8, 49, 70, MC
2019 Playoffs: 4, 12, 30
Recent: MC, 29, 2, MC, 62
Odds (W, T5, T10): 35-1, 7-1, 4-1
11. Rory McIlroy
Rory is not looking much like himself as of late. He finished in the top five in all six PGA Tour starts before the COVID-19 layoff, but in the six starts since, a T11 at the Travelers Championship is his only result inside the top 30.
In that time he has dropped from first to third in the world rankings. The notoriously pedestrian putter improved greatly in 2019, but finds himself back outside the top 100 on Tour in strokes gained: putting this season, and has been especially poor in that regard more recently, ranking 60th two weeks ago at the PGA Championship.
However, being the defending FedExCup champion (in addition to the 2016 Cup championship and two other final top-3s) counts for something, and Rory also won at TPC Boston in 2012 and 2016.
World Rank: 3rd
TPC Boston: 2 Wins, 1 Top 5
North. Trust: 1 Top 10
2019 Playoffs: 1, 19, 6
Recent: 33, 47, 32, 11, 41
Odds (W, T5, T10): 15-1, 4-1, 2-1
10. Tony Finau
The absurdly powerful Utah native seems like a genuinely good guy, so we are going to give the tiresome “Will he ever win in the U.S.?” debate a rest, at least for this week.
It’s easier (and less heartbreaking) to just say “bet for place or show, not for win”. Additionally, we will point out that he has three top-8 finishes in his last four starts, including a T4 at the PGA Championship two weeks ago, that he posted two top-7s in his three playoff starts last season, and that he was T4 at the last tournament hosted by TPC Boston.
World Rank: 15th
TPC Boston: 4, 65, 24, MC
North. Trust: 4, 2, 54, 12, 16
2019 Playoffs: 7, 4, 30
Recent: 4, 65, 3, 8, 53
Odds (W, T5, T10): 30-1, 6-1, 3-1
9. Jon Rahm
This probably feels low for the World No. 1, who was consistently in contention from June 2019 through the COVID layoff. In 25 starts worldwide since the beginning of that stretch, Rahm has just six results of worse than T17, and five of those have been since golf resumed play.
However, his recent best has been REALLY good, as he put together a dominant three stroke victory (was five until a controversial two-stroke penalty that was given after the tournament ended) at The Memorial. He did not contend at the PGA Championship, but appears to be back on the upswing after a 68-66 weekend led to a promising T13 finish.
The fiery Spaniard is third on Tour in strokes gained: total, with his short game only lagging slightly behind his famously terrific work off the tees. He was T3 in this event in both 2017 and 2019, and was T4 at the last event held at TPC Boston.
World Rank: 1st
TPC Boston: 43, 4
North. Trust: 3, MC, 3
2019 Playoffs: 13, 5, 3
Recent: 13, 52, 1, 27, 37
Odds (W, T5, T10): 15-1, 4-1, 2-1
8. Xander Schauffele
The man who won the Tour Championship as a rookie in 2017 has not added a fifth career victory in 2020, at least not as of yet, but it is very hard to be down on Schauffele during a season where he has two runner-ups and an unbelievable 13 top 25s in just 15 starts.
Breaking that down further, he has six results of T14 or better in seven starts since Tour play resumed in June. His record shows that he is unequivocally confident on the bigger stages: in four seasons on Tour the world No. 10 has a win, a runner-up, a T3, and a T7 in playoff events, six top-10s in majors (two runner-ups), a T2 at THE PLAYERS, and a win, a runner-up, and a T6 in WGC events.
World Rank: 10th
TPC Boston: 49, 53
North. Trust: MC, MC, 17
2019 Playoffs: 2, 19, MC
Recent: 10, 6, 13, 14, 20
Odds (W, T5, T10): 17-1, 5-1, 2-1
7. Dustin Johnson
A lot of people in DJ’s shoes would be coming into the playoffs dejected, as the 36-year-old finished runner-up at the PGA Championship for the second consecutive season.
Despite his accomplishments, he is in danger of becoming the best player to only win one career major. At least as far as the playoffs go, though, trying to bounce back from disappointment at a major isn’t unfamiliar territory for him, and two of his 20 career non-major victories have come in this event (2011, 2017).
With only his bizarre 80-80 week at The Memorial as an outlier, DJ has looked like his old, usual self over his last four starts. He has also recently played well at TPC Boston, with his 7-under 64 being the second-lowest Sunday round in the field during the last competitive round played on the course. It propelled him from T33 to T7 on the final leaderboard.
World Rank: 4th
TPC Boston: 4 Top 10s
North. Trust: 2 Wins, 7 Top 25s
2019 Playoffs: 30, 57, 24
Recent: 2, 12, MC, 1, 17
Odds (W, T5, T10): 22-1, 6-1, 3-1
6. Collin Morikawa
What would you have thought had happened if we told you back in early March that, going into the playoffs, Collin Morikawa won every major played during the season? No, he didn’t win the Grand Slam, but Morikawa’s sophomore season has become a dream season as the 23-year-old won the PGA Championship just two weeks ago, in his tournament debut, and just his second major start.
That makes three victories in just 27 professional starts, and he now knows he can win against any strength of field. He also has a win at Muirfield Village where he took down Justin Thomas late, and a playoff runner-up since the Tour resumed play.
It’s not unusual to see a hangover after a major breakthrough, but we would be surprised if that happened here, as nothing about Morikawa’s rapid progression has been “usual.”
World Rank: 5th
TPC Boston: DNP
North. Trust: 52
2019 Playoffs: DNQ, 48, 52
Recent: 1, 20, 48, 1, MC
Odds (W, T5, T10): 25-1, 6-1, 3-1
5. Justin Thomas
JT’s 556 point lead over Collin Morikawa in the current FedExCup standings is more than a player even gets for winning most PGA Tour events, a good illustration of just how phenomenal the world No. 2 has been in the 2020 season, one where he leads the Tour with three victories.
Thomas also leads the Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green and co-leads in top 10s (9).
The 2017 FedExCup Champion was in the No. 1 position going into last year’s Tour Championship, and has no lack of great results in big events.
World Rank: 2nd
TPC Boston: 24, 1, MC, 56
North. Trust: 12, 8, 6, 10, 16
2019 Playoffs: 9, 1, 12
Recent: 37, 1, 18, 2, MC
Odds (Win, T5, T10): 13-1, 3-1, Even
4. Daniel Berger
The most impressive Florida State alum this season has not been major wizard Brooks Koepka, but rather Koepka’s college teammate Berger. Now healthy after injury largely caused a two year slump, Berger has six top 10s in just 14 starts this year, an unbelievable bounceback after posting just two in his previous 50 starts.
The 27-year old had three consecutive top 10s prior to the COVID layoff and stayed hot when play resumed, notching a win at the Charles Schwab Challenge (the first event back), and followed that up with results of T3, MC, T2 respectively before contending into Sunday at the PGA Championship.
In a stretch dating back to mid-October, Berger has shot 40 consecutive rounds of 71 or better at courses that aren’t Muirfield Village. Those considering putting down a wager on him should note that TPC Boston is not a secondary name for Muirfield Village.
World Rank: 18th
TPC Boston: 35, 61, 41
North. Trust: 15, 31, 70
2019 Playoffs: DNQ
Recent: 13, 2, MC, 3, 1
Odds (Win, T5, T10): 30-1, 6-1, 3-1
3. Webb Simpson
It has been a banner season for Webb, who has two victories among seven top-10s (five of those in the top 3) in just 12 starts. He is second on Tour in scoring average this season – his third straight season inside the top 4, and his remarkable consistency has him at sixth in the world rankings (he has been as high as fourth in the past month), and third in the final regular season FedExCup standings.
As consistent as has been the past two years, however, he has been very hit or miss at TPC Boston, winning the 2011 edition in a playoff, and shooting a second-round tournament-low 63 during the last event that was held here (2018), but also following up that round with a 76-74 weekend.
Regardless, Simpson having just the ninth best odds in the field this week feels like an injustice. He should be considered a contender everywhere until he actually shows something resembling a weakness in his game again.
World Rank: 6th
TPC Boston: 1 Win, 2 Top 20s
North. Trust: 3 Top 10s, 2 Top 20s
2019 Playoffs: 20, 24, 18
Recent: 3, 37, 12, MC, 8
Odds (Win, T5, T10): 30-1, 6-1, 3-1
2. Jason Day
Coming off four consecutive top 7 finishes, including a T4 at the PGA Championship, Day is playing much better than his 45th-place standing would indicate.
Day looks primed to put an end to his two-plus year winless drought, in an event he won in 2015, on a course where he finished runner-up in 2010.
His putting is not quite back to former World No. 1 levels, but he led the field in bogeys, shots gained: approach the green, and was second in greens in regulation at TPC Harding Park two weeks ago. To be fair, though, Bryson DeChambeau ranked just 26th, 11th, and T7 respectively in those three stats when he won here the last time PGA golf was played at TPC Boston.
World Rank: 34th
TPC Boston: 2 Top 5s, 4 Top 10s
North. Trust: 1 Win, 8 Top 25s
2019 Playoffs: DNQ, 52, MC
Recent: 4, 6, 4, 7, MC
Odds (Win, T5, T10): 26-1, 5-1, 2-1
1. Bryson DeChambeau
The 2018 Northern Trust winner and defending champion from when the Tour was last at TPC Boston (2018 Dell Technologies Championship), DeChambeau was arguably the hottest golfer in the world from February through his victory at July’s Rocket Mortgage Classic.
After a two-week pseudo-slump, the Hulk-esque 26-year-old was back in peak form when he contended at the PGA Championship two weeks ago, contending late and finishing T4. It was his first finish of better than T15 at a major.
Everyone knows about his length (now #1 on Tour in driving distance), but it might surprise many to learn that he is fifth on Tour in strokes gained putting, a big part of the reason he leads the Tour in scoring average and birdie average.
World Rank: 8th
TPC Boston: 1, 30
North. Trust: 24, 1, MC
2019 Playoffs: 7, 48, 24
Recent: 4, 30, MC, 1, 6
Odds (Win, T5, T10): 11-1, 3-1, Even
Next Five: Scottie Scheffler, Tiger Woods, Cameron Champ, Patrick Cantlay, Tyrrell Hatton