With so much money at stake for the Tour players to win over the next four events, the best in the game worldwide want a piece of the Fed Ex Cup Playoffs. The overall Fed Ex Cup winner will receive $10 million dollars and a five-year exemption. In each of the four events, first prize is worth over $1 million dollars.
The Fed Ex Cup favors and rewards consistent players. The points system is flawed, but the PGA Tour was forced to generate some type of interest in golf once the football season starts. They made the system easier by awarding just 500 points to winners during the regular season, however in the Playoffs points are multiplied fivefold to 2,500 points. Anyone in the Top 125 can win, but the lower ranked players are forced to get off to a fast start, because the fields are chopped down after each event.
The Top 125 will play in the The Barclays with a 36-hole cut. Then only the Top 100 advance to the Deutsch Bank Championship where there is another 36-hole cut. Then only the Top 70 players will play in the BMW Championship where there is no cut. Follow that, a week off for the players, and only the Top 30 will play in the Tour Championship where there is also no cut.
The Playoffs begin this week with The Barclays at the renowned Bethpage Black Course in Farmingdale, New York. This tournament last season was held at the Plainfield Country Club. Bethpage is much more popular and a monster of a golf course (open to the public, you’ve probably have seen footage of golfers sleeping overnight in the parking lot just to get a tee time) and measures 7,468 yards long to a par 71. The course will play much easier than the last time they teed it up there in the 2009 U.S. Open; less rough, greens not running at 14 on the stimpmeter and the dreaded 7th hole which was a 500 yard par 4, will now play as a 550 yard par 5, producing a record amount of birdies on that hole.
This course has already showed its teeth, as Jason Dufner has withdrawn today (Monday) after competing in the rain delayed Monday finish of the Wyndham Championship. He feels that an extra day of prep has been lost, his position in the standings is very secure to the next stage and basically wants to rest up for a grueling schedule ahead of the Fed Ex Cup Playoffs and then the Ryder Cup. It may be a wise strategy.
Who do we think will win the Fed Ex Cup points race and all the cash that goes with it? Well as I mentioned before the system is flawed in that only the players who finish high up in the first three events can make a move on the leaders. But the real problem is that in the final event, the Tour Championship, if any of the Top 5 in the standings wins, they win the Cup. The only way another player below them wins is if the Top 5 falls significantly down the ladder. So in other words the top guys that sit now in the standings are pretty much guaranteed to make it to the Tour Championship and that's why we see Dufner and Mickelson in the past skip events.
As of this writing (Monday) there are no odds on players to win the Fed Ex Cup. We've seen them in the past, but with football on the brink they will be slow to post futures if at all, but surely each event will have plenty of action and matchups to attack.
Tiger Woods will obviously be the favorite and he leads the race with 2,269 Cup points due to his Tour leading three victories. He says he will play all four events. He is a two-time winner of the Fed Ex Cup and a win will surely give him the Player of the Year status.
Paired with Tiger in the first two rounds of The Barclays is Rory McIlroy (2nd place in the Fed Ex Cup points standings) who is coming off a huge win, his second major title the PGA Championship. He will love Bethpage Black because of its length and his bombing tee shots should put him in a good spot all week long.
Next in line is Dufner who by now you know we favor a lot and bet him often in matchups. His demeanor and attitude is worth a stroke per round versus his opponents. He is a very easy going player that has become a model of consistency and ranks third in the standings. His game will be more suited at East Lake Country Club, the home of the Tour Championship with its tight fairways and plenty of water.
A couple of longshots I like to possibly grab the big money over the four events include Tim Clark and Bill Haas. Clark jumped from 109th to 54th in the points standings recently. He has been in position to win each of the last two PGA stops and his putting is ranked no. 1 during in that span. He has not played much this season nor in 2011 due to an elbow injury, but now he is back, fresh, playing well and may have more gas in the tank throughout the playoffs than other competitors.
Haas is slowly moving up the board. He is the defending Fed Ex Cup Champion and he seems to play well at this time of the year in the heat and humidity. He was T19th at the WGC Bridgestone, T19th at the British Open, T32nd at the PGA and last week T7th at the Wyndham, so do not be surprised if Haas is there in five weeks again.
Check back with us each week of the Fed Ex Cup Playoffs for my matchup selections