The PGA Tour’s discombobulated 2019-20 regular season schedule has finally come to a close. And as with any other sport, what follows is a compelling playoff format that allows the best of the best to rise to the top and take home a massive prize.
Enter former NFL head coach Jim Mora. “Playoffs?! Don’t talk about playoffs! You kiddin’ me? Playoffs?”
Throughout the PGA Tour regular season, the FedEx Cup point system tracks the most successful golfers by awarding various point levels for different finishing positions. In regular PGA Tour events, 500 points is awarded to the winner while a player who barely makes the cut can receive anywhere from two to three points, depending on how many players make the cut. In majors, the winner will receive 600 points and winners of a World Golf Championships event receive 500 points.
Those point values sharply increase during the playoffs. The Top 125 in the current FedEx Cup standings will flock to TPC Boston this week for the Northern Trust Championship. Point values are essentially quadrupled in the playoffs, with the winner adding 2,000 FedEx Cup points compared to the standard 500 in most events.
The Top 70 in the standings after this week’s Northern Trust will qualify for the BMW Championship next. Then, on Labor Day weekend, the Tour Championship will play host to the Top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings to determine the 2020 FedEx Cup champion.
The current leader is Justin Thomas with 2,458 points. PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa (1,902), Webb Simpson (1,878), Bryson DeChambeau (1,657) and Sungjae Im (1,633) round out the top five. Of note, Tiger Woods enters the playoffs ranked 49th with 604 points. Meanwhile, Brooks Koepka is ranked 97th with 360 points and will need a great week at TPC Boston to advance.
It’s very likely that the winner of this week’s Northern Trust will vault to the top of the FedEx Cup standings. So, this playoffs format does what it’s supposed to. It increases the significance of the next three weeks so that the best crunch-time performers rise up to the moment, just like the playoffs in any other sport.
The last piece to note is the new format for the Tour Championship, which originated in 2019. The leader of the FedEx Cup going into the final event of the playoffs will begin the tournament at 10-under par. Second place will start at -8, Third place at -7, fourth place at -6, and fifth place at -5. Golfers ranked sixth through 10th in the standings will start at -4, while those ranked 11th through 15th will start -3. The trend continues with the players ranked 26th through 30th entering the Tour Championship starting the event at the traditional even par.
Rory McIlroy is the defending FedEx Cup champion, won the 2019 Tour Championship last year while beginning the week at six-under-par, four shots back of Thomas. McIlroy took home the massive $15 million prize.
The PGA Tour has done a fantastic job putting together a playoff format that generates competitiveness and excitement that rivals a major championship. And of course, money talks. When $15 million is the top prize, that will grab any golfer’s attention. These guys will be competing for some serious cash over the next few weeks.
Golfers To Watch
The FedEx Cup playoffs tee off this weekend at TPC Boston for the Northern Trust Championship. TPC Boston isn’t a super difficult track, yielding winning scores of 15-under-par or better the last few times it has hosted an event. The most recent winner at TPC Boston was DeChambeau in 2018, at the event that was then called the Dell Technologies Championship.
DeChambeau’s previous success at the course and newfound distance make him the betting favorite this week at 11/1 (via DraftKings). Of course Thomas is a strong candidate to win any given week and is the current leader for a reason. McIlroy has struggled since the PGA Tour returned to action in June and has not shown the firepower to win lately, although he does have two previous wins at TPC Boston.
Jason Day enters this week with the most significant upward trend. The Aussie has finished T7 or better in four consecutive starts, including a fourth-place finish at the PGA Championship. There is no weakness to be found in Day’s game right now, and he is due for a win more than anyone.
Daniel Berger is the PGA Tour leader in strokes gained since the restart in June and has recorded seven Top 15 finishes in his last eight events. Patrick Reed, Paul Casey, Adam Scott, and Woods have all found consistent success at TPC Boston and are solid candidates to make a jump in the standings this week.
One final player to note is Xander Schauffele. He is the highest-ranked player in the standings without a win this season at 11th in the FedEx Cup standings. He won the 2017 Tour Championship prior to the new format and nearly came from behind to win it last year. Schauffele has thrived in his young career in events with a smaller field, and it’s fair to expect his game to improve as the playoffs move closer to the Tour Championship.