Now the FedEx Cup playoffs are heating up. Two Americans who were hoping to garner consideration for a Ryder Cup captain's pick in Hunter Mahan and Chris Kirk won The Barclays and Deutsche Bank Championship, respectively.
Kirk is first and Mahan is third in the latest FedEx Cup points standings, yet only Mahan was chosen for the USA Ryder Cup team. Sandwiched in between them at No. 2 is world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, winner of the year's last two majors and most recent World Golf Championship at the Bridgestone Invitational.
Going toe-to-toe with McIlroy for the final 36 holes at TPC Boston was no small task for Kirk, who emerged victorious and has plenty of momentum entering this week's BMW Championship.
Cherry Hills Country Club in Colorado is the event's venue for the first time, so the fact that Zach Johnson is the defending champion doesn't do him much good. Johnson is 11th in points thanks to top-25 finishes in the first two playoff events. A strong start to the 2013-14 season has carried him here.
Only the top 30 move on to the Tour Championship in Atlanta for the postseason finale, so let's take a look at some of the top FedEx Cup contenders after the following vital information for the BMW Championship.
Note: Statistics and information are courtesy of PGATour.com unless otherwise indicated.
When: Thursday, September 4 through Sunday, September 7
Where: Cherry Hills Country Club in Cherry Hills Village, Colorado
Tee Times: For a complete list of tee times for the first two rounds, visit PGATOUR.com.
Purse: $8,000,000; Winner's Share: $1,440,000
FedExCup Points: 2,500
|2014 BMW Championship TV Schedule|
|Thursday, September 4||4-8 p.m.||Golf Channel|
|Friday, September 5||4-8 p.m.||Golf Channel|
|Saturday, September 6||1-3 p.m., 3-6 p.m.||Golf Channel, NBC|
|Sunday, September 7||12-2 p.m., 2-6 p.m.||Golf Channel, NBC|
Analyzing Marquee Groups
Chris Kirk, Rory McIlroy and Hunter Mahan
To say Kirk caught fire in the last two rounds at TPC Boston last week doesn't quite do his brilliant play justice.
After matching McIlroy's seven-under 64 on Saturday, Kirk backed it up with 66 paired alongside McIlroy again. A one-under 70 wasn't nearly good enough for McIlroy, but he credited Kirk for his excellent form afterwards:
Rory McIlroy @McIlroyRory
Boston you were awesome this week, disappointing way for me to end the tournament today but congrats @Chris_Kirk_ you deserved it!2014-9-1 23:03:29
Golf channel's Justin Ray gave an idea of just how well Kirk played to capture the Deutsche Bank Championship:
Justin Ray @JustinRayGC
Chris Kirk's last 35 holes: Eagle, 12 birdies, 0 bogeys. +4.85 strokes gained putting.2014-9-1 21:15:51
Justin Ray @JustinRayGC
Chris Kirk closed with 66-64-66 to win - in his previous 72 @PGATOUR rounds he carded 3 TOTAL scores of 66 or lower.2014-9-1 22:31:54
But maintaining form in golf is so difficult, particularly when the stakes are so high. Just ask Mahan, who had been having a tough season before his win at The Barclays, and then came in 64th last week.
Kirk can't be taken lightly, now that he has three PGA Tour victories in four years under his belt. Not the greatest ball-striker, he makes most of his money on and around the greens, ranking 31st in strokes gained putting and ninth in scrambling.
Failing to make the Ryder Cup team is bound to fuel Kirk even more to try and remain atop the chase for the FedEx Cup.
|Key Statistics for Rory McIlroy in Past 4 Starts|
|Event||Finish||Driving Accuracy||Greens in Regulation Percentage||Strokes Gained Putting|
|Deutsche Bank Championship||T5||58.93%||75.00%||.173|
Perhaps McIlroy could take something from Kirk there. If he were a little bit stronger from 100 yards and in, McIlroy would be borderline unstoppable with how well he's driven the ball. He's shown signs of being a great putter, yet has never been consistent in that regard.
In order to win the FedEx Cup, McIlroy must fare better with the flat iron in the next two events.
Jason Day, Jim Furyk and Jordan Spieth
Ready for a mind-blowing fact about this tremendous trio? They have a combined two victories since Furyk last won at the 2010 Tour Championship.
For as often as all three are in contention, this is quite shocking. Day looked to be coming into his own toward the beginning of this season, notching his long-awaited second victory at the WGC match play event in a thrilling final over Victor Dubuisson.
Instead, a thumb injury derailed Day's potential breakout year. That makes it all the more impressive he's fought back to get inside the top 10 in points at No. 7.
Day and Furyk were in the last pairing during the final round at The Barclays, yet neither emerged with the trophy. Perhaps they can feed off each other better than they did in New Jersey.
This stat from Ray encompasses the essence of Furyk's bittersweet season:
Justin Ray @JustinRayGC
Jim Furyk is 4 back. Furyk has won $4.8M this year - already most of anyone in @PGATOUR history in a season without a win.2014-8-30 22:54:39
The recent successes of younger players such as McIlroy and Rickie Fowler have pushed Spieth out of focus for the time being.
Quietly, Spieth has struggled, with just one top-10 finish at the John Deere Classic since he played in the final pair with champion Martin Kaymer at the Players Championship in May.
Nothing about Spieth's game has been spectacular as of late, so he may be enduring growing pains after meeting such immediate stardom so fast. With how complete his game is at age 21, though, Spieth can't be counted out—and figures to be due for a strong week at Cherry Hills.
Rickie Fowler, Zach Johnson and Patrick Reed
What an amalgamation of personalities here. Fowler has the cool demeanor about him and never lashes out in frustration, while Reed is just about as volatile as it gets on the course.
The man who declared himself a top-five player before finishing no better than tied for 35th at the 2014 majors blew up at the Deutsche Bank Championship to say the least. Will Gray of Golf Channel weighed in as Reed shot 82 to miss the 54-hole cut:
Will Gray @WillGrayGC
Patrick Reed just made four doubles in his last five holes. Insert your preferred "top five" comment here.2014-8-31 20:31:08
Bouncing back from a setback like that may be tough for the 23-year-old Reed to do after starting the third round at TPC Boston just two strokes off the lead. At least he's still in the thick of FedEx Cup contention and could be at the top with a win at the BMW Championship.
Understandably, Fowler has lost a bit of steam after finishing in the top five at each of the four majors without coming away with a victory. A top 10 at The Barclays preceded his T-23 finish last week. For context, that was Fowler's worst finish since a tie for 13th at the St. Jude Classic in early June.
Similar to Spieth, Johnson has hung around in the FedEx Cup picture based on his results from earlier in the season. A tie for 16th at the Deutsche Bank Championship suggests Johnson is trending in the right direction at the perfect time.
The BMW Championship has so much at stake, with so many stars in the mix that it's anyone's tournament to win. With the game's best, brightest and youngest due for wins in McIlroy, Day, Spieth, Fowler and even Reed, one of them could very well move into the FedEx Cup driver's seat by weekend's end.
But there are plenty of FedEx Cup bubble boys battling to stay in the mix for The Tour Championship, where an exclusive field of 30 and no more are permitted. A ton of exciting storylines and top-flight golfers in playoff form will create a compelling finish at Cherry Hills.