Cue the infamous Jim Mora “Playoffs” rant, because it’s time to talk about the FedExCup Playoffs.
Let’s get the basics out of the way. The top 125 players on the FedExCup standings at the end of the Wyndham Championship have qualified for the Playoffs that begin with this week's Barclays. Following The Barclays, the top 100 will move on to the Deutsche Bank Championship. The top 70 after its conclusion head to the BMW Championship. Ultimately, the top 30 following the BMW meet at East Lake Golf Club for the TOUR Championship to decide the winner of the FedExCup.
If you place a strong emphasis on course history, the Playoffs might drive you mad. Ridgewood Country Club serves as the host to The Barclays and has been out of the rotation since 2010. Cherry Hills Country Club will be host to the BMW, but the history at this course is largely a smattering of USGA events, including Phil Mickelson’s U.S. Amateur win back in 1990. Fortunately, TPC Boston and East Lake are the familiar sites of the Deutsche Bank and Playoffs finale, respectively.
The biggest wild card for this year’s Playoffs involves those players already locked into the Ryder Cup. Sergio Garcia has already commented that he may lighten his schedule leading up to Gleneagles in an effort to stay fresh. Will Rory McIlroy do the same? Will Matt Kuchar take it easy to make sure his back is good for the Ryder Cup? These are all valid questions that make several of these guys riskier-than-usual buys.
Before we dive into the rankings, let’s clarify what this is and what this isn’t. This is NOT a prediction of where everyone will finish in the final FedExCup ranking. If it was, I would not be ranking Dustin Johnson 125th (because a virtual lock to survive the first three rounds despite sitting out). Rather, this is a wide brush stroke attempting to assign value to players across all relevant formats.
For example, a player who enters the Playoffs at 120th on the points list, but stands a reasonable chance at making the cut at The Barclays, could prove more valuable than a guy who is 86th and in bad form who misses the first two cuts. The player in 120th may move only to 105th and miss out on the second tournament, but the four rounds he plays at Ridgewood could add up to a better return than the four rounds another guy plays split between two courses.
Of course, knowing a guy will tee it up in the no-cut BMW Championship due to his current FedExCup standing is extremely valuable for obvious reasons. There is value to a player who is a lock to get two starts and likely to snare a third. Even if in bad form, that player is essentially like buying a lottery ticket. Maybe he gets lucky. More starts are better than less, not to mention the BMW is a no-cut event. Confused yet?
In addition to the ranking for each player, the number in parenthesis represents the player’s FEC standing entering The Barclays.
Let’s do this.
Rank Golfer (FedExCup ranking) Comment
1 Rory McIlroy (1) Even if I found out that he was playing only two events, he would still be numero uno.
2 Adam Scott (15) His ability to turn out top-10 finishes at ease is a bonus, and he’s a past winner at TPC Boston and East Lake.
3 Jim Furyk (5) Won the TOUR Championship and the FedExCup title in 2010. He's also playing incredibly well right now.
4 Rickie Fowler (16) His time with Butch Harmon really clicked on the biggest stages this season, snaring top-five finishes in each of the four majors. He could continue that run in the Playoffs.
5 Jimmy Walker (2) A bit of a safety pick in this spot as he is a virtual lock to play all four events and crack the top 25 with regularity. He will be well worth the investment if a couple of those top 25s turn into top 10s.
6 Phil Mickelson (45) Why not? He’s playing his best golf of the year and is still motivated to nab a win in 2013-14. Should he make it to East Lake, he will be one of the favorites at that venue.
7 Henrik Stenson (70) The Swede heated up this time last year, and a top five at the PGA has him riding high into The Barclays.
8 Bubba Watson (3) Similar to Walker, the lefty's true value lies in knowing that he will be around for all four legs.
9 Jordan Spieth (8) Form has cooled a bit over the summer, but he nudges out a few players with other concerns.
10 Sergio Garcia (7) It’s all about his schedule. If he plays three events (including the TOUR Championship), his form dictates that he is worthy of this spot. If he plays only two, this could be a bit high.
11 Matt Kuchar (4) The back spasms that forced his withdrawal from the PGA Championship were a surprise to many. It also brings into question how much rest he will require ahead of the Ryder Cup.
12 Ryan Moore (19) Sitting solidly inside the top 30 entering the Playoffs. He cracked the top 20 in four of his last seven PGA TOUR starts.
13 Patrick Reed (9) He’s very dangerous in the Playoffs in both a good and bad way due to how quickly he can heat up and cool off.
14 Justin Rose (18) I’ll sign up for a ball-striker in his prime who has 12 top 25s and seven top 10s on TOUR in 2013-14.
15 Marc Leishman (27) Trended well into the PGA before disappointing, and the pressure of not trying to make a Ryder Cup impression could free him up to play well.
16 Graeme McDowell (43) Five consecutive top-10 finishes across the globe, including a win in France, before his T47 on a Valhalla course that was probably a little too long for him to reasonably contend.
17 Brandt Snedeker (55) Putting up solid returns of late due to his putter getting back on track, and he is doing his best to impress Tom Watson. If the pressure of trying to earn a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup doesn’t hinder him, he is a solid buy.
18 Hunter Mahan (62) He’s never missed out on the TOUR Championship since the inception of the FedExCup. A T15 at Firestone and a T7 at Valhalla have him trending incredibly well into the Playoffs.
19 Keegan Bradley (23) He made this a tough call by laying an egg at the PGA Championship, possibly impacted by the pressure of trying to make the Ryder Cup team, but he outclasses some of those currently above him on the list and should find a way to emerge with some nice finishes.
20 Chris Kirk (10) Hasn’t popped the top on a top 10 since a T4 at Memorial, but he is a lock to play the first three events and should play all four.
21 Zach Johnson (11) Had it not been for a runner-up finish in the John Deere Classic, his résumé would be fairly bleak for the last few months.
22 Webb Simpson (13) Strong showing at the Wyndham has him riding high entering the Playoffs, but he’s battled consistency most of the season.
23 Brendon Todd (12) Was one of the hottest players in the world earlier this summer before a step up in scheduling proved a bit costly on the finishes.
24 Martin Kaymer (14) Has been a disappointment since winning the U.S. Open in a landslide, but that serves as a reminder of what can happen if he puts together a big week at the right time. Has also battled shoulder discomfort.
25 Jason Day (34) If he’s healthy and tees it up every week, he would be a steal in this slot.
26 Bill Haas (24) While he hasn’t provided the fireworks of some of his previous seasons, he is a cut-making machine. He’s the kind of player that could top-25 his way into East Lake.
27 Charl Schwartzel (60) Seems to be peaking as his last four starts have gone T7-T43-T4-T15 at The Open Championship, RBC Canadian Open, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship, respectively.
28 Nick Watney (94) Was quietly finding his form before the Wyndham Championship, but now the secret is out. There is some immediate pressure on him to play well at The Barclays due to his current standing.
29 Harris English (17) The past few months haven’t been his best, but he is still poised to make a lengthy run.
30 Graham DeLaet (28) His T7 at the RBC Canadian Open and T15 at the PGA Championship are great signs. If the putter gets remotely hot, he’s dangerous.
31 Kevin Streelman (39) Offers top-five finishes in both of his past trips to Ridgewood (2008 and 2010), which hosts this year’s Barclays.
32 Kevin Chappell (68) A T13 at the PGA Championship was the culmination of a solid stretch of tournaments and has him trending well into the Playoffs.
33 Kevin Na (20) Snapped a string of six consecutive made cuts at Valhalla two weeks ago.
34 Ryan Palmer (30) Time will tell if he can maintain the momentum of a T5 at Valhalla.
35 Tim Clark (29) Consistently undervalued due to his lack of length off the tee, but ranks high in approach proximity from the longer distances.
36 Matt Every (25) Form isn’t appealing, but he’s one of the few players on TOUR that doesn’t offer clues to future success based on recent performance.
37 John Senden (26) Hasn’t cracked the top 25 since his T5 at Colonial, but surprisingly it’s been the ball-striking, and not the putter, causing him issues at times this season.
38 Hideki Matsuyama (22) He was among the classier players at last week’s Wyndham, but missed the cut. Tough to interpret that result.
39 Brian Harman (21) Has failed to back up his breakthrough win at the John Deere Classic with any solid finishes.
40 Freddie Jacobson (38) The Junkman was a major part of the story at Sedgefield, but has a poor history at Ridgewood. We’ll see if form trumps history later this week.
41 Kevin Stadler (31) Baby Stads tied for fourth at TPC Boston last year, so he’s worth the investment at this slot for that reason alone.
42 Andrew Svoboda (80) Makes his first foray into the FedExCup Playoffs and has shown spurts of potential over the last 13 months between his time on the PGA TOUR and Web.com Tour. Could be a dark horse.
43 Ian Poulter (78) Hard to tell if the upcoming Ryder Cup will be a distraction or a motivation, making this spot risky, but he should be worth a roll of the dice.
44 Gary Woodland (32) Since June, he’s become the definition of mediocre.
45 Charles Howell III (33) Had no business missing the cut at Sedgefield last week. Known more as a fast starter to the season than solid closer, so his real value is knowing he will get three starts.
46 Kevin Kisner (93) Risky due to current standing, but played well at the Wyndham. Not a bad flier if that’s the order of the day.
47 Charley Hoffman (35) Limping towards the finish line, but has played reasonably well at the Deutsche Bank Championship over the years.
48 Matt Jones (40) Made his last four PGA TOUR cuts, but nothing inside the top 30.
49 J.B. Holmes (36) Three top 30s in his last six starts suggests that there is a chance he could put it all together for one of the Playoff events.
50 George McNeill (41) The feel-good story at The Greenbrier Classic is mostly known for his work on Bermuda greens in Florida and similar climates. It would be a mild surprise if he did much more than make a few cuts.