The unusual golf seasons come to an end this week in Greensboro, North Carolina. The regular season will though. Golf is a year-round deal, but the PGA Tour version will end at the Wyndham Championships, followed by three playoff games to determine its season-long championship.
This week is important because it will help determine the top -125 on the FedEx Cup leaderboard. Only the players can advance to the play-off rounds and next week’s Northern Trust tournament. And without any other kind of release, those who fall outside will lose their PGA Tour card and face the Korn Ferry Tour final or will have to rely in other ways to take part in tournaments in the 2021-22 season.
The FedEx Cup system started in 2007, and only nine players qualified for the playoffs all the time – Charley Hoffman, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Brandt Snedeker, Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, Charles Howell III, Justin got up and Ryan Moore.
Hoffman, Mickelson, Watson and Snedeker are safe. The others have some work to do. Howell is not enrolled at the Wyndham, so he will not pick it up for the first time.
Other things play out this week. Those who are outside the top-70 can increase their chances of qualifying for the BMW Championship within two weeks. Others are aiming to qualify for the top-30 and the touring championships to end the season.
And there are, of course, Ryder Cup points to earn. The Wyndham as well as the Northern Trust and BMW Championships are the last qualifying events for the American Ryder Cup team.
After a ‘season’ with six major championships – including two US Opens, two Masters – and dates to early September, we look at some of the players battling to advance:
121st FedEx Cup leaderboard
It was a difficult time for the Masters champion in 2013. He does not live in the United States and experienced quarantine problems every time he visited his family. Scott won the Genesis Invitational just before closing. Nothing has been the same since. He got COVID-19 last fall and struggled to get back in shape, dropping from as high as sixth in the world early last year to now 43rd place. He finished 36th on the FedEx St. last week. Jude Invitational, an eleventh consecutive finish outside the top 10. Scott may progress without a strong finish this week, but then he leaves his fate to others. Either way, Scott does not have to worry about keeping his Tour card. He has fully released status.
124th on the FedEx Cup leaderboard
Kuchar, who has been one of the game’s most consistent players for more than a decade, suffered bad form and missed four consecutive tracks, including last week’s Barracuda Championship. He did not make it to one of this year’s majors or to the tour championship this weekend. In fact, Kuchar missed the cut at all three majors last year. (The Open was not played in 2020 due to COVID-19.) He still has a chance, mostly on the back of his third place finish at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship in March. Like Scott, his touring status is secure.
130th on the FedEx Cup leaderboard
For most of the past 18 months, Fowler has struggled with a slump, but has shown signs of outbreaks. He just could not move forward enough for the big result that would change his year. He did not want to play last week’s Barracuda Championship against the field and dropped five places in the FedEx Cup position. There is no reason to play it safe this week; he must make the cut and make a move. He has never managed to make the playoffs in his pro career, which dates back to 2010. Even if he does not make the playoffs, he also has an exempt Tour status.
136th in the FedEx Cup position
It was a quiet year for the Englishman who played in the 2018 European Ryder Cup team. Although he still holds the 35th place in the world, he has only played 15 PGA tournaments, as he also competes in Europe. And he only scored two top-10s. He will at least need it and probably more to continue his PGA Tour season.
Justin got up
138th on the FedEx Cup leaderboard
The Englishman won the FedEx Cup title just three years ago – the same day Tiger Woods won the tour championship – and was earlier in 2019 number 1 in the world. He has fallen to 48th place in the world and has struggled with his game for the past two years. Rose did manage to compete in the Masters, where he finished seventh. And he teamed up to finish eighth at the PGA Championship. But in just five tournaments since then, there has been nothing better than a draw for 20th. Rose needs a big week to keep his playoff series alive. If he does not, he also has a place on Tour next season, as he has been fully released.
142nd in the FedEx Cup position
Like Rose, nothing but a high-end finish will keep Moore’s playoff series alive. He missed seven tracks this year, did not play in any of the majors (he was a replacement for The Open, but passed when his name appeared) and tied for 35th place at the Players Championship.
* 26th in the FedEx Cup position
The asterisk indicates that Zalatoris is only a special temporary member of the PGA Tour. Because he’s not a full member, he’s ineligible for the FedEx Cup playoffs, even if the number of points he earned would put him in 26th place. Zalatoris made his side last fall when he competed in a few tournaments, achieved some high finishes and earned special temporary status, which means he can accept unlimited bail exemptions. He will be a fully released member of the tour next season due to the number of points he has earned. His only way to the playoffs — and a chance at all the money at stake in two big money tournaments plus the FedEx bonus money — is to win this week. A win automatically makes him a member of the PGA Tour.