FedEx Cup Playoffs 2012: A Closer Look at the Top 25's Chances to Win It All

Ron Juckett@ronjuckettContributor IIIAugust 17, 2012

FedEx Cup Playoffs 2012: A Closer Look at the Top 25's Chances to Win It All

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    The PGA Tour Playoffs start next week with the Barclay’s at Bethpage Black on Long Island.

    Those who are in the top 125 on the FedEx Cup points list get a shot to play in this high money shoot-out that will pay the winner $10 million in five weeks.

    While 25 will be eliminated after The Barclays, the top 100 in points will ship up to Boston for the Deutsche Bank Classic for Labor Day weekend and the top 70 survivors will go to suburban Indianapolis for the BMW Championship.

    After the BMW, the field will be pared down to the last 30 standing and, after the points are reset, the FedEx Cup will be decided in Atlanta at East Lake.

    While the Cup has not completely caught the attention of the casual fan, the PGA and FedEx are committed long term to seeing he playoffs go forward and the players have shown up for the challenge.

    In this short season, the key will be making cuts and have solid finishes. Three weeks is an eternity in golf and for the top 25 currently in points, there is no guarantee that they get to the Tour Championship and a crack at the biggest money prize in the game.

    Here is how the top 25 going into the last week of the regular season stack up on making the Tour Championship final and ultimately winning the FedEx Cup. (via

25. Bill Haas

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    The defending FedEx Cup champion is in pretty good shape going in to defend this year.

    While The Barclays and the BMW are on different courses this year, he did have a top 30 in Boston and won in Atlanta to win the Cup.

    After a rocky early summer, Haas has settled in a bit with some solid top 20 finishes and made the cut both at the Open Championship and PGA.

    If he makes both he cuts at Bethpage and Boston and plays well at the BMW, he will get a crack in Atlanta.

24. Dustin Johnson

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    Injuries sidelined Johnson for most of the spring, causing him to go into the playoffs in 24th place.

    With two of the four venues hosting this year former sites of major championships, a healthy Johnson can take advantage with his length and get himself in position to challenge.

    He has come up short a couple times almost winning majors. Winning the FedEx Cup would go a long way into quieting the doubters and give him a ton of confidence going into 2013.

23. Brandt Snedeker

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    Snedeker had one of those days on the greens at the Open Championship where everything just fell into the hole.

    The playoff course rotation is very strong. Snedeker has the game to do well, but he has to play the weekend each week to get to Atlanta.

    He has to find fairways and greens and putt without fear.

    A name that would surprise the casual fan if he won, Brandt has the game to win this.

22. Robert Garrigus

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    His best tough course finish was a tie for fourth at Congressional for the AT&T National.

    While he did finish in a tie for 21st last weekend at the PGA, he missed cuts at The Masters and U.S. Open.

    He has to make the cut next week at Bethpage and at TPC Boston as the names behind him can really play and he just may be the most vulnerable name on this list.

    If he finishes with a top 30 at Crooked Stick for the BMW, he should be Atlanta-bound.

21. Bo Van Pelt

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    Van Pelt comes in on a roll. While he did not win the PGA last week, he played himself into the final threesome and held his own as Rory McIlroy stole the show.

    With a second at Congressional and a tie for eighth at Firestone at the WGC-Bridgestone, Van Pelt at 37 is showing that his season has not been a fluke.

    Boston will be his best chance to get some needed points as he will be most familiar with that course.

    He has had too good of a season not to get to Atlanta. If he has played well the first three stages, then watch out.

20. Kyle Stanley

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    One of the great stories of the winter, Stanley has not had a top 10 finish since his win at Scottsdale in February.

    Stanley did finish in a tie for 16th a couple of weeks ago at Firestone, but it has been a long season for the 24-year-old.

    Despite his high point total, he really has to make the cut next week at The Barclays to have any real shot at Atlanta.

    He would almost literally have to catch lightning in a bottle to win it all. A great prospect for the future, he has had a great 2012 regardless of the playoffs. 

19. Johnson Wagner

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    Another player that found the winners circle this winter, Wagner’s most impressive finish outside of his win was a tie for fourth at Bay Hill.

    Since then, it has been rough sailing for Johnson. Wagner has missed the cut six out of his last 13 events and his last top 30 came in April in Houston.

    Still, Bay Hill and Redstone are not push over courses. Somehow if he can find his game and get a good result next week, momentum can keep him stable in points and may have a way to get to Atlanta.

18. Rickie Fowler

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    Since having that great run that saw Fowler win at the Wells Fargo and almost win The Players, he has fallen off a cliff.

    After a top five his next time out at Colonial, Fowler has played very sparingly this summer with his best finish being a tie for 31st at the Open Championship.

    Fowler has all the game in the world and this rotation of courses will not phase him.

    Something, however, happened to his confidence after breaking through for his first win and he goes into the playoffs not the same player that had a great May.

17. Jim Furyk

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    A renaissance year for Furyk, he played in the final group of the U.S. Open and at the WGC-Bridgestone.

    The flip side, of course, was that he crashed out of winning both events, even playing himself out of a playoff at Firestone on the last hole.

    A former winner of the FedEx Cup, we know that he likes East Lake and—unless he really has a bad week in the next couple tournaments—should go to Atlanta with a real chance of becoming the first golfer to win his second FedEx Cup.

16. Luke Donald

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    The former world No. 1 has had an enigma kind of season.

    With seven top 10s this year, Donald was somehow absent from contention this year in all four majors. Even with his top five at the Open Championship, Donald started that Sunday 10 shots behind Adam Scott.

    The snap judgment one can make here is that Luke is not real comfortable under pressure. He should not really face any as he should get to Atlanta with just one real good finish in the next three weeks.

    He can silence a lot of people if he wins the Tour Championship. Hopefully that would also give him the confidence to make a deep Sunday run at a major.

15. Scott Piercy

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    Piercy just may be a case of being like the hot NFL team in December. You know, the team that finishes at 9-7 but won five straight to get a wild card game?

    Piercy had a solo third at the John Deere and won the next week at the RBC Canadian Open. He also had a tie for 16th at the WGC-Bridgestone and made the cut at the PGA.

    He seems to be on a pretty good run and at 16th is pretty much assured a spot in Atlanta.

    Scott could really help his chances of winning everything by continuing to get top 20s the next couple of weeks and climb as high as he can before Atlanta.

14. Phil Mickelson

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    Mickelson has had such an odd season.

    He has claimed to be tired and sluggish, but faces a five tournament grind over the next six weeks.

    You would think that he would rather just focus on the Ryder Cup at the end of September, but he has played well both times the United States Open has been held at Bethpage.

    It really depends at this point just how motivated he is to win this thing. It would be a stunner not to see him in Atlanta, but his game is not in playoff shape.

13. Webb Simpson

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    Simpson has returned to the Tour after the birth of his second child. Unfortunately for his game, his return came last week at the PGA.

    The bad news was he missed the cut. The good news is that he shot an even-par 72 on Friday when the field shot a collective 78.

    Before he stopped touring, he had another top 30 in Hartford and a tie for seventh at The Greenbrier.

    The question for Simpson is can he get back into a tournament rhythm before they get to Atlanta. Making the cuts the first couple weeks will all but guarantee a berth in the Tour Championship. A championship he could win.

12. Justin Rose

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    We saw some absolute flashes of brilliance from Rose last week at the PGA.

    Whatever putting flaws he had worked on before the Open Championship were fixed at times as he got off to hot starts on both Saturday and Sunday.

    This bodes really well for Rose. He will know Bethpage pretty well from the U.S. Open and has played in Boston before.

    The key to these playoffs is not that you have to play really, really well over the next three weeks, but play well enough to hold your spot on the points list. He should not face pressure to get to Atlanta and could pull the win there.

11. Ernie Els

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    The real comeback story of the season is right here with Ernie.

    With a world ranking low enough not to automatically qualify for Augusta, Els just played his way back into tournament shape. While he could not win to get in The Masters, he certainly took full advantage of Adam Scott’s collapse at the Open Championship to win. Forgotten in the rush of Scott throwing away his four shot lead was the fact that Els fired a two-under 68 to finish.

    For players like Els, the question is just how much do they really care about this. Ernie played extremely hard all year and was paid back in spades winning his fourth major.

    He is headed to Atlanta pretty much by playing the weekends. He could cap off his comeback with winning the Cup.

10. Steve Stricker

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    If there was ever a format that fits Stricker then this is it.

    He is the very model of consistency. He is never flashy, but always just right there at the end winning big money and lots of points.

    At 45, one of the best players in all aspects of the game is running out of time to break through in a big way.

    Stricker will never make you say to yourself, “wow that was amazing.” He does not have to do that, however, as he just needs to grind out a good score just a little harder and the FedEx Cup could be his.

9. Carl Pettersson

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    Pettersson hits the playoffs in pretty good shape.

    After getting hit with a two-shot penalty for grounding his club in a hazard Sunday at the PGA, he fought back brilliantly eventually getting both those shots back and finished tied for third.

    He won the other tournament in South Carolina this year at Harbour Town and is the defending champion this week at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina.

    Another guy getting hot at the right time, he just needs to keep his confidence the next few weeks to have a chance.

8. Matt Kuchar

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    The Players champion has been a consistent fixture this season on the first page of the leaderboards all year.

    Besides his win at Sawgrass, Kuchar was tied for third at The Masters and tied for ninth at the Open Championship.

    Almost certain to be going to Atlanta based on his point total now, he just has to have one more very good week to finish.

    He finished tied for 20th in last year’s Tour Championship and should be poised to do much better this year.

7. Keegan Bradley

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    Bradley followed up his breakthrough win last year at the PGA with a solid 2012 season.

    Keegan pressed the issue at the close of the WGC-Bridgestone two weeks ago at Firestone and passed a collapsing Jim Furyk for his third career win.

    Despite playing his first time at three majors this year, he made the cut at all of them and nearly defended his PGA with a tie for third.

    He mixes in the right amount of aggression into his game which will be very important for his chances the next month. While he may not win the whole thing, expect him to play some top flight golf and grab a couple more top 10s before the Ryder Cup. 

6. Hunter Mahan

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    After defeating Rory McIlroy at the WGC-Accenture Match Play, it would be hard pressed to call his summer a good one.

    Mahan did win at the tough Redstone course in Houston just before the Masters, but he has had only one top 10 since and missed the cut last week at the PGA.

    That one top 10 did come at Congressional at the AT&T National and the tougher courses used for the playoffs are not going to intimidate him or his game.

    Mahan is poised to make a good run the next month. He is too good of a player overall not to make a reasonable showing. This also gives him one more chance to get his game in shape for the Ryder Cup as well.

5. Bubba Watson

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    The one thing about Watson’s game that seems consistent is that even he does not know from week-to-week what he will do.

    After a dreadful U.S. Open where he missed the cut, Bubba’s worst finish the rest of the summer was a tie for 23rd at the Open Championship.

    Watson’s length and creativity are such an advantage for him right now. He just drives the ball so far that he is only taking a high-iron or a wedge on most par-four’s into the green regardless where the ball lands.

    After having such an emotional year after his breakthrough win at Augusta and the adoption of a child, “Bubba Golf” seems to on the verge of another big push here and it would not be a surprise to see him walk out of Atlanta with all the hardware. 

4. Zach Johnson

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    Zach returned to the winner’s circle twice this year after some time away.

    His wins at Colonial and at the John Deere along with a pair of seconds at Harbour Town and The Players has made 2012 a season to remember for Zach.

    The problem is for Zach, however, is he just does not do all that well on longer courses. He is not really long off the tee.

    Luckily for Johnson, he holds the course record at East Lake with an impressive 60. At under 7,200 yards, Johnson’s game fits well there. At a par-70, he gains a further advantage of the long hitters not having as many par-five’s to score on.

3. Jason Dufner

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    He is the best golfer you still have never heard of.

    He has not missed a cut since January. He won twice over a three week period and got married. He made the cut in all four majors and contended down the stretch in a couple a year before.

    Yet, there is absolutely no buzz about Dufner or his game. A younger version of Steve Stricker, he just does everything real well.

    If he can just putt better than real well, he can win the whole thing. Long or short courses do not matter. He puts it on the short grass and can score. Even if he won the Cup, most people still could not pick his picture out of a line-up and he really could win. 

2. Rory McIlroy

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    After just destroying the field last week at the PGA, just how good is McIlroy? The better question might be, just how motivated is he going to be the next month?

    Sandwiched between the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup—always a big deal for the European players—will he be able to give the playoffs the intensity the PGA Tour wants all the players to have?

    One of the problems with how the playoffs are conducted is that his place in the last 30 is assured by just teeing it up at the BMW Classic. That would be like starting the Los Angeles Lakers playoff season up three games to one in the NBA’s Western Conference Finals.

    Still, he has the chance to further bolster his young legend with a win at East Lake. When he is on, he is the best in the game right now. The ability to absolutely dictate where your shot will go is rare and that is exactly what he did last weekend at the PGA.

1. Tiger Woods

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    This is not the consolation prize Tiger was looking for coming off a three-win regular season.

    Tiger’s game is there. We have seen him throw together great setup rounds at the majors this year. He can hit the ball long, give himself the real chance to score and still make the putt.

    The confidence to do it for four days, on the other hand, is gone. A couple of leaky shots and it falls apart. The drives go wild, the approach shots are not measured properly and the putts start to miss.

    It really is hard to believe that what was the absolute biggest advantage that Tiger had in his glory years is gone—his confidence in his ability to play. Swing problems? Baloney. It is the game between the ears that is in most need of a work over.

    His swing is fine, he just cannot trust himself to execute it. He obviously can win this, it is just a question of if he really wants to.


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