Jordan Spieth, already the PGA of America Player of the Year and the presumptive choice to win the Jack Nicklaus Award as PGA TOUR Player of the Year, has yet another world to conquer starting this week.
With four victories this year, including the Masters and the U.S. Open, Spieth is the leader in the FedExCup standings heading into the Playoffs, which began this week with The Barclays at Plainfield Country Club in Edison, N.J. Spieth has a commanding 1,710-point lead over his nearest competitor, PGA champion Jason Day – a Muirfield Village Golf Club member. Spieth’s point total of 4,169 is the highest total for any player heading into The Barclays since the inception of the FedExCup in 2007.
One problem: the leader heading into the Playoffs has been having a hard time winning the $10 million bonus and the FedExCup when the dust settles at the TOUR Championship presented by Coca Cola at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. The regular-season leader in FedExCup points has won the overall title just twice -- and both times by Tiger Woods, the five-time winner of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide. Just one year ago another guy with two major wins for the season, Rory McIlroy, went in as the FedExCup leader but ended up third despite three straight top-10 finishes. Billy Horschel won the grand prize with two wins and a runner-up in the last three events.
Going into the start of the playoffs, the top five in the standings are: Spieth, Day, Bubba Watson, Jimmy Walker and 2010 Memorial winner Justin Rose. They still have the best chance to win it all, but these playoffs have usually been about surprises and who gets on a roll.
“The Playoffs are all about getting hot in this last month,” said NBC Sports golf analyst Johnny Miller, who will be the 2016 Memorial Tournament Honoree. “After missing the cut at The Barclays last year – he [Horschel] played the last 12 rounds in the 60s and should have finished 1st, 1st, 1st, but he ended up finishing 2nd, 1st, 1st. The Playoffs are all about getting hot, and even if you miss the cut at [The Barclays], if you're ranked pretty good you've still got a shot at it.”
The top 125 players in the season-long points standings qualify for The Barclays. The top 100 after The Barclays move on to the Deutsche Bank Championship, followed by the top 70 getting in the third Playoff event, the BMW Championship. The top 30 qualify for the TOUR Championship.
There are always surprises going into these playoffs. Davis Love III, who hadn’t won since 2007, captured the last regular season event, the Wyndham Championship, and moved from 186 to 76. Meanwhile, major winners Geoff Ogilvy and Martin Kaymer were part of the select 30-player field at East Lake last year but didn’t even make the playoffs this time. Neither did former Memorial winner Ernie Els (2004), who like Ogilvy is missing the post-season for the first time.
Hunter Mahan is the only man remaining in PGA TOUR history who has reached the TOUR Championship in each of the first eight stagings of the FedExCup playoffs. He’ll begin this year’s Playoffs 77th, so he has work to do to keep his streak alive.
A total of seven Memorial Tournament winners will start their playoff run this week at The Barclays, they are: Jim Furyk (2002), Matt Kuchar (2013), David Lingmerth (2015), Hideki Matsuyama (2014), Carl Pettersson (2006), Rose (2010) and Vijay Singh (1997). Both Furyk and Singh look to Join Woods as the only two-time FedExCup Champion. Singh won the title in 2008 and Furyk was the 2010 champ.