Pressure is beginning to mount for those not safely inside the top 125 of the FedExCup (FEC) Standings as starts are becoming a bit more precious. For the casual golf fan, the U.S. Open marks the half-way point of the season. In reality, 24 weeks are in the books with only nine to play. One of those is this week’s Travelers Championship.
Despite two majors and a World Golf Championships event in this condensed time frame, the rank-and-file players should get plenty of opportunities to compete. The Sanderson Farms Championship is riding opposite The Open Championship and the Reno-Tahoe Open sits concurrent the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Even those fully exempt members at the lower half of the reshuffle should pick up starts at the Travelers, The Greenbrier Classic, John Deere Classic, Sanderson Farms, RBC Canadian Open and Reno-Tahoe without a problem. The AT&T National and the Wyndham Championship could be a little stingier.
Using 2012’s FEC standings as a barometer, all of those with 363 points or more should be in the field at The Barclays and safely holding a 2013-14 PGA TOUR card at season’s end. That puts Roberto Castro (367 points and currently in 90th) as the last man to the good, leaving 35 spots still up for grabs.
Here’s what happened since we last checked in:
While his form gave us no warning, Sang-Moon Bae popped the cap on his first PGA TOUR victory at the HP Byron Nelson Championship. He held off major champions Keegan Bradley by two and Charl Schwartzel by three, respectively. Many people will remember this as the tournament Schwartzel gave away due to an inability to make short-range putts on Sunday, but Bae’s final-round, 1-under-par 69 didn’t make it easy on anyone.
A week later, Boo Weekley bested Matt Kuchar to win his first tournament not named the Heritage with a victory at Colonial. It's ironic that Boo has slipped on a tartan jacket for each of his three TOUR wins. Masters bets anyone? This also marked the first leg of a two week period of domination for Matt Kuchar.
With everyone expecting Tiger Woods to walk away from Muirfield Village with his fourth PGA TOUR win of 2013, a funny thing happened. He played horribly over the weekend and finished tied for 65th while Kuchar grinned his way to a second win of the season.
Already considered one of the best players on TOUR without a win, Harris English shed that title in just his sophomore season with a two-stroke win over Scott Stallings and Phil Mickelson. It would be an omen of things to come for Mickelson, and English certainly hopes the same can be said for him.
Mickelson entered the U.S. Open as a hot name and didn’t disappoint. He led or shared the lead after each of the first three rounds at Merion. When he jarred a wedge for an eagle on the par-4 10th to reclaim the lead in the final round, it looked like destiny was finally with Mickelson at a U.S. Open. Turns out that was partially correct. His destiny seems to be that of a runner-up, falling to Justin Rose by two strokes and sharing second with Jason Day. If you missed it, Rose’s play on the 72nd hole was nothing short of perfect.
At this point you’ve probably skipped what I’m about to write and jumped straight into the rankings, but if you’re still with me I’ll throw one more note your way. Because of where we are in the season, the current FEC Standings were weighed much more heavily than in the past. Players in this snapshot are falling more in line with where they are in the standings rather than vaulting them up or down based on expected future results.
Here we go:
Rank Golfer (Previous Rank) Comment
1 Tiger Woods (1) Disappointing results the last few outings, but well out in front with plenty of nice courses that fit his eye remaining on the schedule. Out until The Open with a strained left elbow, so he'll miss only one start (AT&T National).
2 Matt Kuchar (10) A runner-up at Colonial and a win at the Memorial now make him the obvious No. 2.
3 Billy Horschel (8) His T10 at the St. Jude and T4 at the U.S. Open make it crystal clear that he will not be satisfied or rest on his laurels.
4 Jason Day (7) Nearly picked up his first major at the U.S. Open. Instead, shared second in what could wind up being a career year for the young Aussie.
5 Justin Rose (11) Broke through with his first major championship title at Merion. That could free him up for a sprint to East Lake.
6 Brandt Snedeker (3) Struggling to find consistency of late, but still flashes signs that another win in 2013 is possible. Keep an eye on his health in weekly games.
7 Adam Scott (4) If he played with any regularity, he could challenge for the top two or three. He’s a great play in several of the FedExCup Playoff events.
8 Phil Mickelson (13) He’s a nightmare to project week-to-week, but having a great season when you consider his full body of work.
9 Webb Simpson (16) He’s sort of the ultimate safe pick, much like Matt Kuchar was before he exploded into a completely different category.
10 Rory McIlroy (2) The fade has officially happened. Now watch him win his next two starts.
11 Boo Weekley (46) A healthy and confident Boo will give the British media plenty to enjoy at Muirfield should he gain entry into The Open Championship.
12 Keegan Bradley (12) Results have been a bit erratic of late, but no reason to think he doesn’t still have a few big weeks in him between now and The Barclays.
13 Kevin Streelman (6) His magical horseshoe must have dropped from somewhere, as he’s missed his last three cuts. The last time that happened was the end of 2011/start of 2012.
14 Hunter Mahan (21) Played his final four holes at the U.S. Open in 4-over-par when he had a chance to win. Might get well at the Travelers where he is a past winner and two-time runner-up.
15 Graeme McDowell (5) One of the favorites at Merion suffered an unexpected early exit. Seven double bogeys will have that kind of effect.
16 Dustin Johnson (9) Seems to be all about focus with his best efforts centered around his build-up to the majors.
17 Lee Westwood (24) Continues to knock on the door with solid finishes seemingly every week.
18 Harris English (75) His win at TPC Southwind could open the door for more high finishes in the near future. No reason he can’t be similar to Billy Horschel very soon.
19 Luke Donald (14) Despite his Sunday letdown at Merion, it was still his first top 10 in a U.S. Open.
20 Steve Stricker (17) Sounds like he’s not playing The Open Championship (may have missed the entry deadline), but will play the John Deere. You don’t have to be a long-time golf fan to know he owns TPC Deere Run.
21 Charles Howell III (23) While there’s no reason to think he’s going to win soon, there’s also no reason to think he’s going to lose his consistency down the stretch.
22 Russell Henley (19) Still trying to learn the book on the rookie. Picked up an impressive T6 at the Memorial in a stacked field.
23 Scott Stallings (85) He’s had three top-four finishes since we last checked in, and has The Greenbrier in a few weeks where he picked up his first PGA TOUR win in 2011. Don’t let his T56 in his title defense scare you away from him at The Old White TPC this time around.
24 Charl Schwartzel (28) Looked poised to race Mickelson to the finish line at Merion, but fell off the map in the final round. Still a contender every time he tees it up.
25 D.A. Points (18) Not particularly enamored with him missing his last three cuts, but currently sits 12th in the FedExCup Standings and there just isn’t time for him to fall much further than this.
26 Bill Haas (20) Probably squandered more than his share of chances this season, but still has time for that one magical week. Missed the cut at Merion.
27 John Rollins (62) He’s been a top-25 machine (10) this year, and now has picked up a couple of top-six finishes in his last two starts. Don’t be shocked if he wins the Travelers.
28 Fredrik Jacobson (34) Another guy that’s been steady, but not spectacular, and another guy that is a serious threat at the Travelers.
29 Kyle Stanley (55) Roared to life with three top-six finishes in his last six starts. His putting stats over that time period have been much more palatable than his sour start to the year with the flat stick.
30 Chris Kirk (22) Still having a nice year, but hasn’t had a top 10 since Pebble Beach. He’s been a nice season-long own for gamers.
31 Jimmy Walker (26) Finally missed his first cut of the season at TPC Southwind and hasn’t had a top 10 since New Orleans. That prompts the slight fade.
32 Sang-Moon Bae (118) Came out of nowhere to win the HP Byron Nelson and has retreated with two missed cuts and a T76 since.
33 Martin Laird (30) Coming off his first made cut in a U.S. Open at Merion that included a career-best final-round 68 and led to a T21.
34 Bubba Watson (27) Hasn’t scored a top 10 since the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, but hasn’t been awful either. Could catch lightning in a bottle at any time.
35 Brendon de Jonge (42) The cut machine is still looking for his first win. If we’ve learned anything over the past two years it is that he’s a solid season-long innings eater.
36 Rickie Fowler (36) Top 10 at Merion has him headed in a different direction than a year ago when he struggled down the stretch.
37 Sergio Garcia (15) His recent public meltdown (a/k/a fried chicken comment) is a perfect reason as to why you hold your breath with him if you own him in a season-long format.
38 Bo Van Pelt (31) Sits 67th in the current FEC Standings, prompting the fade, but he’s shown signs of life. I’d buy Bo.
39 Jason Dufner (39) Probably his best round of the year was a final-round 67 at the U.S. Open that included a triple bogey.
40 Henrik Stenson (33) If you invested in Stenson at the beginning of the year, congratulations. You didn’t hit the Billy Horschel/Jason Day lottery, but you came close.
41 Ryan Palmer (61) Two top 15s including a fourth at the FedEx St. Jude since we last checked in.
42 Zach Johnson (41) There’s plenty riding on his defense at the John Deere Classic.
43 Nick Watney (32) Hasn’t made a cut since the Wells Fargo and has looked pretty bad in the process, as in hasn’t broken 75 in four of those six rounds. He should snap out of it, but lay off until he does.
44 Jim Furyk (25) He’s not making short putts and his game is centered around precision and putting.
45 David Lingmerth (49) There were several rookies we expected big things from this year, and he was not one of them. Fresh off a T17 at the U.S. Open to go with a T2 at THE PLAYERS.
46 Tim Clark (40) Erratic of late, with three missed cuts framing a T7 at Colonial.
47 Ryan Moore (48) Speaking of erratic, he has a T13 surrounded by three missed cuts. Headed to TPC River Highlands where his record is sterling.
48 Michael Thompson (27) Currently 27th in FEC Standings, I’ve dropped him as far as feasibly possible. His T8 at the Memorial was nice, but there’s nothing good surrounding it.
49 Brian Gay (35) Hasn’t cracked the top 30 since the tournament after his win. That was in January.
50 John Merrick (45) I feel like I’ve just thrown three of the more random winners of the year together in a row. Actually, that’s not true. Derek Ernst and Scott Brown are a little further down.