With one event in the books at the 2020 FedEx Cup Playoffs and 55 players headed home, it’s time to reset what’s in store for the final 70 remaining over the final two weeks. Following his 11-stroke win on Sunday at The Northern Trust, there’s a new heavyweight atop the standings (and thus a new favorite for the Tour Championship) and also some big names that need huge weeks at the BMW Championship this week.
Let’s start with Dustin Johnson’s new place atop both the FedEx Cup standings and the Official World Golf Rankings as we look at what’s next with just eight rounds remaining this season on the PGA Tour.
FedEx Cup Playoffs format, schedule
The structure of the FedEx Cup Playoffs is such that the top 125 players in the FedEx Cup standings (accumulated throughout the season) make it to the Northern Trust at TPC Boston. Following that event, the pool is whittled down to 70 for the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields and finally to 30 for the Tour Championship at East Lake.
There’s plenty of room for movement after each event, though, as points awarded to the winners of the first two will be triple what they were throughout the regular season (i.e. one win here is worth three wins during the regular season). Once the 30 finalists are determined for East Lake, they will start out at different places on the leaderboard. Whoever is first at that point will start the Tour Championship at 10 under. Whoever is in second will start at 8 under and so on down the board.
FedEx Cup Playoffs prize money
Short answer: a lot. Longer answer: $60 million will be distributed among the 125 players with the winner of the Tour Championship earning $15 million. The runner up at East Lake earns a cool $5 million. Third place is good for $4 million. Simply making it to the Tour Championship is worth $400,000, and even if you make it to the playoffs and finish last, you still get a nice little $100,000 bonus.
Current top 10 (post-Northern Trust)
The standings can and will change a lot in a short period of time. Last year, Abraham Ancer started the playoffs at 67th, just inside the cut line to make it to the second event. When he finished second at the first event, he moved into the top 10 and made it all the way to East Lake. So take this top 10 with that grain of salt, knowing there can (and likely will) be plenty of movement.
- Dustin Johnson (2,571 points)
- Justin Thomas (2,479)
- Webb Simpson (2,163)
- Daniel Berger (1,917)
- Collin Morikawa (1,902)
- Harris English (1,767)
- Bryson DeChambeau (1,657)
- Sungjae Im (1,633)
- Jon Rahm (1,580)
- Patrick Reed (1,447)
Winning the first event is worth 1,500 points or more than all but five players have accumulated throughout the entire season. As evidenced by Johnson’s skyrocket from 15 to 1 in a week.
D.J. leads with 2,571 FedEx Cup points, and Justin Thomas trails him by 92. Nobody else is even within 400, which means that barring a win from somebody else in the top 15 or completely disastrous performance from both of those golfers at the BMW Championship this week, the odds are decent that they’ll be Nos. 1 and 2 going into the Tour Championship. Why is that a big deal? Remember, if you’re No. 1 going into the Tour Championship, you start at 10 under. If you’re No. 2, you start at 8 under. Can you imagine D.J. starting at 10 under with the way he’s hitting it right now?
One of the few holes in D.J.’s resume is a FedEx Cup crown. Despite sharing the record for most FedEx Cup Playoffs wins (5) with Rory McIlroy, he’s never won the FedEx Cup (McIlroy has done it twice). He and Thomas are definitely the two favorites going into the final 144 holes of the season.
You certainly don’t have to be leading the FedEx Cup going into the Tour Championship to win it. Last year — the first year with this new format — Rory was in fifth and started the Tour Championship at 5 under (compared to Thomas’ 10-under score as he entered in first). But Rory torched the course and won the event by four over Xander Schauffele.
Intriguing candidates to do the same this year include Webb Simpson (3rd), Daniel Berger (4th), Harris English (6th), Jon Rahm (9th) and Scottie Scheffler (14th). All had nice weeks to open up the playoffs at TPC Boston, and all of them are playing really solid golf. D.J. and J.T. will get the headlines over the next two weeks, but any of these golfers could play their way into position to win.
Players currently outside the top 30 that will need big weeks to advance to the Tour Championship include Matthew Wolff, Patrick Cantlay, Adam Scott, Jason Day, Tiger Woods and Bubba Watson. All need varying degrees of success this week (Wolff probably needs a top 15 while Woods needs a top five), but all will be fighting a bit of an uphill battle to advance to the Tour Championship.
The PGA Tour has done a good job of making these playoffs difficult but not impossible to move up and advance on. It’s a good matrix of rewarding who played well in the regular season combined with who really popped in the playoffs, and they’ve dialed it in pretty precisely over the last few years.
What’s in front of Tiger
He needs a monster week at Olympia Fields. Depending on what the players ahead of him do, he probably needs somewhere in the range of a top-six or top-five performance to net enough points to squeeze into the top 30 in the standings. He has not been playing at that type of clip in three events since the PGA Tour restarted, but he has been hitting the ball pretty well overall. He needs his putter — which often has the widest variance of any club in the bag — to really pop this week if he wants to make it to yet another Tour Championship.
There are myriad intriguing narratives going into the last two weeks, but here are some of my favorites.
• How does this season end for Bryson DeChambeau? The Beef Boy has been awesome since the restart, but he’s also missed some cuts (Memorial, The Northern Trust) lately. He won at Olympia Fields as an amateur, but that was five years and 45 pounds ago. Can golf’s newest heavyweight carry this thing the distance and actually win the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup? We shall see.
• Will we see a superstar win the FedEx Cup? Your last five winners of the FedEx Cup have all been mega stars. Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth. You have to go back to 2014 when Billy Horschel won to step outside of this, but there are plenty of lurkers like Berger, Scheffler, Sungjae Im, Brendon Todd and others currently in the top 15. I’m fascinated to see how this plays out.
• Can Rory get right? McIlroy admitted on Sunday after a lackluster Northern Trust that he has just been a little bit off and a little bit unmotivated since the restart with no fans. He’s won two of the last four FedEx Cups and is in position to make it three of five if he can find his game over the last fortnight of this season.
• Player of the Year race. It’s not the sexiest award in sports, but it’s definitely up for grabs right now. D.J. has enter a chat formerly occupied by only Collin Morikawa (two wins and a major), Justin Thomas (three wins) and Webb Simpson (two wins). If nobody closes, it will probably go to Morikawa or Thomas, but as of right now with just two events it’s definitely still up for grabs.