Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Rickie Fowler, in whichever order you want to rank them, and the other 66 players still alive in the FedEx Cup playoffs are taking a week off with two of the four postseason events out of the way.
While they probably aren’t at home plotting ways to win the FedEx Cup, all of those near the top of the point standings know there is a sure-fire way to accomplish that — win the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship.
That is exactly what Billy Horschel did last year, after tying for second in the Deutsche Bank Championship, to walk off with the hardware following the finale at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
That part is easy, but figuring exactly how the FedEx Cup points work as the playoffs move along takes a math scholar from MIT, while deciding what to do with the loot — Horschel banked $13,477,333.33 for taking home both trophies — takes a graduate of the Wharton School of Business.
The FedEx Cup system has been changed more than once, but the players have learned to live with it.
Spieth knew that the huge lead he built in the point standings during the regular season essentially was a mirage, and he lost it in the first week of the postseason, when he missed the cut and Day passed him by winning The Barclays.
Spieth, the 22-year-old who won the Masters, U.S. Open and two other tournaments this season, still doesn’t exactly understand the logic of it, but he knows how it works.
“It’s a little odd that (the points) just completely reset, because if you want it to be the true champion of the year, it wouldn’t necessarily reset for the final, even if you do make it worth more points throughout the playoffs,” said Spieth, who also missed the cut in the Deutsche Bank Championship but can take all the marbles by capturing the last two events.
“(But) Billy Horschel won the FedEx Cup after missing the cut in the first event last year, and I’m in better position than he was at the time. So why can’t I do it, you know?”
When the FedEx Cup playoffs were instituted in 2007, the general consensus was that it was simply something else for Tiger Woods to win, and he did, that first year and again in 2009 — missing the postseason in 2008 following knee surgery.
Since Woods has been in decline the last few years, the playoffs have been more wide open, leading to some exciting finishes, but there have been complaints as well.
Padraig Harrington captured the Open Championship and the PGA Championship in 2008, but he was out of the playoffs after missing the cut in the Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship before tying for 55th in the BMW Championship.
There was a general uproar about the Player of the Year not qualifying for the Tour Championship, but well graciously took the high road, saying that the playoffs are, well, the playoffs, and he had played badly in them.
That was the same year Vijay Singh won the Barclays and the Deutsche Bank before coasting to the Cup by tying for 44th in the BMW and tying for 22nd in the Tour Championship, which became distinctly anti-climactic.
After Woods won the FedEx Cup in 2009 with a victory in the BMW and a runner-up finish in the Tour Championship, the rules were changed so that any player in the top five who won the finale would take home the FedEx Cup.
The playoffs compete with football among fans and the media, so they have to be compelling to the finish.
And it worked, as the last five winners of the FedEx Cup captured the Tour Championship.
“You know when you do get in the playoffs, everyone has got a legitimate chance to win,” Hunter Mahan said. “It takes one good week to propel you up the board, and you can change the whole schematic of the whole thing.
“You can have an OK season, and all of a sudden you play good at the right time, and be a FedEx Cup champion.”
There have been some moments to remember, to be sure.
In 2010, Jim Furyk sank the winning putt with his hat on backward to keep the raindrops out of his eyes on the final hole and punctuated his double victory in the Tour Championship with a huge fist-pump.
The next year, Bill Haas saved par from the edge of a lake on the second playoff hole before beating Mahan with a par on the third extra hole to take home both trophies.
After McIlroy won the Deutsche Bank Championship and the BMW Championship to take the points lead to East Lake in 2012, he stumbled to a final-round 74 to tie for 10th in the Tour Championship. Brandt Snedeker stole away with the FedEx Cup when he claimed a three-stroke victory by closing with a 68.
Henrik Stenson of Sweden won the Deutsche Bank and the Tour Championship two years ago on his way to becoming the only player to capture the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai on the European Tour.
And last year, Horschel virtually came out of nowhere to win.
Spieth, Day, McIlroy and Fowler have made 2015 an exciting year, and they are not finished yet.
–Story courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre