This year’s PGA TOUR Playoffs have been a success…so far. The final FedEx Cup event is this week at East Lake Country Club in Atlanta, Georgia. Tiger Woods leads the point’s race and, thus, holds fate in his hands. A win gives Woods a second FedEx Cup trophy.
But, the PGA TOUR made some changes to the playoff system after last season to give the final event some dramatic storylines, and meaning. The biggest change was a points reset heading into this week, where typically it was at the beginning of the playoffs. This rewards players for their regular season success and those with post-season triumphs. The result is the top five in the points – Woods, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson and Heath Slocum – all can claim the $10 million bonus with a win. The reset also gives the entire 30 player field a mathematical chance at playoff glory.
Last season’s champions – Vijay Singh (FedEx Cup champion) and Camilo Villegas (TOUR Championship winner) – are not in the field this week. It is hard not to pick Woods to win it all, true champions rise to the occasion at events like this, but, there are four rounds in golf and anything can happen.
So, if not Woods, who?
Out of the top five – Zach Johnson is the pick. On the season, Johnson has two wins and eight top 10 finishes. In the playoffs, Johnson has gotten better every week. He finished 28th at The Barclays, 19th at the Deutsche Bank Championship and fifth at the BMW Championship. A win would cap off a career year and put Johnson in the elite class.
Padraig Harrington and Sean O’Hair are two other players that have a better than average chance at claiming the top prize in golf. O’Hair has had a breakout season – one win, one runner-up to Woods and eight top 10 finishes. A win at East Lake would be icing on the cake. Harrington reworked his swing in the offseason and struggled early on but, things seem to be clicking and Harrington is in the mix when it counts. In the playoffs, Harrington has not finished outside the top 10 – second at The Barclays, fourth at the Deutsche Bank Championship and sixth at the BMW Championship.
Of the rest, many things would have to happen for victory. For example, Phil Mickelson is in 14th place and would need some help for FedEx Cup victory. If Mickelson wins THE TOUR Championship, he would need Woods to finish ninth or worse, Stricker to finish outside of the top five, Furyk can not do better than fourth, with Johnson and Slocum having to finish third or worse.
Sounds like an NFL playoff scenario. But, 30 golfers and four rounds can make or break a player. So, outside of the top 10, players like Geoff Ogilvy and Mickelson always seem to play well when the lights are on. Others to watch would be Retief Goosen, Masters champion Angel Cabrera and British Open champion Stewart Cink. Surprises for the week could come from Dustin Johnson, Brian Gay or Kevin Na.