The 2015 FedEx Cup playoffs are underway this week at the Barclays. Entering the weekend, Bubba Watson—already third in the points standings—has the 36-hole lead and a golden opportunity to get an early jump on the rest of the competitors in the PGA Tour's postseason.
There is still a long road to travel for the majority of the world's best golfers, though, with two tournaments still to clear to get into the top 30 and qualify for the Tour Championship.
The man who finishes first in Atlanta has a great chance to win the grand FedEx Cup bonus of $10 million. However, a triumph in the finale doesn't outright guarantee the FedEx Cup trophy. Anyone in the top five of the reset points standings after the BMW Championship can claim the FedEx Cup with a win in the last leg.
If that sounds a tad confusing, the following tables and explanations should make matters easier to grasp. Check out how points are awarded for the Barclays—where the top 125 in FedEx Cup points were eligible to enter—the Deutsche Bank Championship (top 100) and the BMW Championship (top 70):
|Point Distributions for 2015 FedEx Cup Playoff Events|
Whereas regular PGA Tour events netted winners 500 FedEx Cup points, World Golf Championship events paid out 550 and majors endowed 600 to the victor, these playoff tournaments totally change the math.
Not only do golfers have to play well throughout the season to enter the playoffs in a favorable position, but they also must perform at a high level in these high-stakes events down the stretch. It's a grind and an extraordinary test.
Jordan Spieth's runner-up finish at the PGA Championship netted him the No. 1 world ranking and a piece of FedEx Cup history, per ESPN's John Buccigross:
Spieth is suddenly facing a severe setback in the postseason after opening the Barclays with rounds of 74 and 73 to miss the cut.
Because of how skewed the points become to FedEx Cup individual tournament champions, almost anyone can get hot and suddenly position themselves for a playoff run. Reigning Barclays winner Hunter Mahan explains the phenomenon well, per PGATour.com's Helen Ross:
When you do get in the Playoffs, everyone has got a legitimate chance to win. Takes one good week to propel you up the board, and you can change the...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 FedExCup champion.
But even two wins in three weeks doesn't guarantee claiming ultimate FedEx Cup glory. Rory McIlroy won the second and third legs of the postseason in 2012 before finishing tied 10th at the Tour Championship, settling for second overall to Brandt Snedeker.
Here is a glance at the redistribution of points among the eventual Tour Championship top 30:
|Tour Championship FedEx Cup Points Reset|
So although the objective is to win every time one tees it up, those vying for the $10 million payout at East Lake will want to conserve their best for last. They essentially have to get into the top five through the first three events and surge to the finish.
The regular-season points still carry over to reward the golfers who played well throughout the year. So even though Spieth didn't have his best outing in the opening leg, he can still be among the leaders entering the Tour Championship with solid finishes in the next two tournaments.
McIlroy entered the postseason ninth in the FedEx Cup standings despite making just nine official starts. With him coming back and fresher than most and Spieth eager to put the Barclays behind him, the duel for the top world ranking will be one of the many intriguing subplots as the FedEx Cup is decided.