After a week off from PGA Tour play, golfers are back at it in the final event of the 2015-16 season. The top 30 golfers in the FedEx Cup standings have made it to the Tour Championship at East Lake. The Tour Championship and its nearly $9 million purse exists separately from the FedEx Cup Playoffs as a whole (this includes all four playoff events), but now that we are at the end of the playoffs the two are inextricably tied together.
In theory, all 30 golfers at the Tour Championship have a chance to win the event, take home the FedEx Cup and earn the $10 million bonus that goes along with it. Reality says something much different (but more on that in a second).
In case you need a refresher, the FedEx Cup points are all reset this week. Your top five looks like this:
- Dustin Johnson
- Patrick Reed
- Adam Scott
- Jason Day
- Paul Casey
If any of those five golfers win the Tour Championship, they are guaranteed to win the overall FedEx Cup as well. But if, say, the 30th-place golfer (Charl Schwartzel) wins the Tour Championship, he would need the following things to happen to also win the FedEx Cup:
- Dustin Johnson finish 29th or worse
- Patrick Reed finish in a three-way tie for sixth or worse
- Adam Scott finish T4 or worse
- Jason Day finish T3 or worse
- Paul Casey three-way tie for second or worse
- Rory McIlroy T2 or worse
That is a long string of finishes that needs to play out (but probably will not). We can likely eliminate Schwartzel from contention for the Cup even if he wins the Tour Championship. We can also probably eliminate guys like Jhonattan Vegas (No. 29), J.B. Holmes (No. 28) and Jason Dufner (No. 27) because they all need Johnson to finish in the bottom five, which is just not very likely to happen.
So who has a chance to win this thing? I’m glad you asked. Let’s look at my five most-likely winners of the FedEx Cup.
1. Dustin Johnson (Current — 1st): This one is somewhat obvious. He’s the best player in the world right now, finished in the top five in each of his last two appearances at this tournament (and was top 10 in a third appearance) and has the outright lead in the FedEx Cup points race going in. He’s the heavy, heavy favorite for me going into this week, and I would actually be pretty surprised if anyone other than Johnson was cashing that $10 million check come this Sunday.
On the other hand, the last golfer to come into the Tour Championship ranked No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings and hold on for the win was Tiger Woods in 2009. The last three have been No. 2 coming in, which seems like it would bode well for Reed. The lowest-ranked coming in to win was Bill Haas, who was 25th in 2011 when he won the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup.
2. Jason Day (4th): The Australian has finished in the top 10 at this tournament in three of the last five seasons. This time he has the added bonus of being inside the top five going in which means a win would guarantee him the FedEx Cup win and $10 million. His bad back concerns me, but Day has a history of getting it done at big events despite ailments and injuries. It would be stunning to not see him mixing it up this weekend with the leaders.
3. Rory McIlroy (6th): McIlroy would need a bit of help (although not much) to take home the FedEx Cup. If he wins, Johnson would have to finish T2 or worse. That’s it.
“It’s important,” McIlroy said earlier this year of winning the FedEx Cup. “It’s one of the only things I feel is left on my golfing C.V. to achieve. I’ve won The Race to Dubai three times over in Europe, and I’ve been close a couple of times in the FedExCup over here but haven’t quite got the job done. Hopefully one day. But it is, it’s important. I’d love to be able to put my name on it, and even though its history has been quite short so far, there’s been a lot of great winners and I’d love to join them.”
There really have been a lot of great winners: Tiger Woods (twice), Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh to name a few.
4. Jordan Spieth (7th): We have been here before with Spieth. He will need a little bit of help to win the FedEx Cup even if he finishes first in the Tour Championship this time. Johnson would have to finish in a three-way tie for second or worse and Reed would need to finish T2 or worse for Spieth to take home the bonus money. It would be pretty awkward if Spieth beat Johnson at the very end on Sunday to win the tournament only for Johnson to take the FedEx Cup, but that’s a real scenario that could play out. And it could play out with those two golfers in the same group.
5. Paul Casey (5th): It’s a shame we won’t get to see a scorching-hot Casey at the Ryder Cup this season as he eschewed European Tour membership (required for the Ryder Cup) to play a more laid-back schedule on the PGA Tour. He’s probably not too devastated though as his reward could be $10 million and his first FedEx Cup title after a pair of runner-up finishes in the first three playoff events.
Casey finished just four strokes from winning this event last season. This time around it would mean an automatic FedEx Cup victory.
Other darkhorses for me include Justin Thomas (currently 12th), Emiliano Grillo (9th). Jimmy Walker (10th) and Brandt Snedeker (11th). You can see the ranking of all 30 golfers who made it to East Lake right here.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Five golfers most likely to win the FedEx Cup and million