Phil Mickelson, No. 14 in points.
Now that we’ve all been down the yellow brick road of the FedEx Cup a few times, a few things have become clear. It’s the top five in points who have the best chance to win the $10 million. Those at the end of the points list, have almost no chance to win the big overall prize.
When it comes to winning the Tour Championship, anybody has a shot.
The Tour Championship has been played eleven times at East Lake Golf Club, where Bobby Jones was once a member. Phil Mickelson has won twice. Tiger Woods does not count because he’s not in the field, and he only won once at East Lake ( twice overall).
Looking at the field, you’d be crazy not to go with the hot players, those who have performed well in recent weeks: Webb Simpson, Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson and even Chez Reavie.
However, just as players can get hot, they can go cold like Johnson did last week, finishing nearly last. Then again, he had a lock on second place in points. Why stress when you don’t have to?
Can you count out Luke Donald, world No. 1? He could win the money list on two tours, and if you think that is not important to him, then you don’t know Luke Donald paints.
The Tour Championship in some ways is an easier tournament to win than any all year—with the possible exception of the Tournament of Champions—because there are only 29 guys to beat. The problem is they are among the best in the world. They are not all of the best in the world because some, like Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy, are not playing the PGA Tour now, and because others, like Charl Schwartzel, did not make the points cut after the BMW.
Despite the small field, it is not made of pansy golfers. These guys have been winners at every level. Phil Mickelson has multiple double digits worth of victories. Same with Vijay Singh. Yet they are stirred up in a pot with guys who have never played East Lake Golf Club until this week. Guys like Gary Woodland who was playing on the Nationwide Tour last year at this time. Nationwide Tour to Tour Championship in a season. That’s some year.
Now, who can win the top prize, the big cash grab, the $10 million FedEx Cup? Remember the top five are a lock with a victory. They are :
1. Webb Simpson
2. Dustin Johnson
3. Justin Rose
4. Luke Donald
5. Matt Kuchar
The next five have an outside shot if the first five all play half-way like one of us. They are:
6. Brandt Snedeker
8. Chez Reavie
9. John Senden
10. Jason Day
When it comes to winning the top money, it’s all about the math and where other top players finish.
For Nick Watney to win the FedEx Cup, he would have to win the Tour Championship and both Webb Simpson and Dustin Johnson would have to finish third or worse.
For Chez Reavie to win the FedEx Cup, he has to win the Tour Championship, and Simpson and Johnson have to finish third or worse and Justin Rose has to be second or worse.
For John Senden to win, Simpson has to be fourth or worse, Johnson and Rose have to be third or worse and Luke Donald has to be second or worse.
For Jason Day to win the FedEx Cup, Simpson must finish fifth or worse, Johnson must finish fourth or worse, Rose must finish third or worse, Donald must finish third or worse and Matt Kuchar finish second or worse.
Now while all of those scenarios sound impossible, Jim Furyk was in 11th last year going into the Tour Championship. There was only one way he could win the FedEx Cup. First, he had to win the tournament, which he did. Then the No. 1 player had to finish seventh or worse. The No. 2 player had to finish fifth or worst. The No. 3 player had to finish fourth or worse. The No. 4 player and No. 5 players had to finish third or worse. All of those things happened. Furyk won $10 million.
This year’s No. 11 is Gary Woodland.
No. 30 for the second year in a row is Bo Van Pelt. For him to win the FedEx Cup, he must win The Tour Championship, and all of the following must take place: Webb Simpson must finish 29th or worse, Dustin Johnson must finish seventh or worse, Justin Rose must finish fifth or worse, Luke Donald must finish fourth or worse and both Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker must finish third or worse. But none of the rest matter for Van Pelt if Webb Simpson does not finish 29th or 30th.
Unless the practically impossible happens, those who are in 15th place and lower really have no shot, to quote Bob Rosburg.
So get out your calculators and start crunching numbers because while the winner of Tour Championship could be any one of 30 guys, the winner of the FedEx Cup is likely to come from the top ten.
Or as we learned last year, the top eleven.