Tournament: The Northern Trust, August 24-27, 2017
Course: Glen Oaks Club (Composite), 7,350 yards, par 70 (on Long Island, NY, just outside of Hicksville. I swear.)
Defending Champion: Patrick Reed. The former Bulldog (before being asked to leave UGA and ending up at Augusta State) fell behind on the final day, but charged ahead and held off a few competitors for a 1 stroke win over Sean O’Hair and Emiliano Grillo.
Fun Fact: The tournament will be played on 18 holes made up of three different nine hole courses. The Blue course will be used in its entirety (9 holes), holes 4 and 5 from the Red course, and holes 1-3, 6-9 of the White course.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 2-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, 1-2:30 p.m. (GC), 3-6 p.m. (CBS). Sunday, noon-1:30 p.m. (GC), 2-6 p.m. (CBS).
Former 'Dawgs in the Field (Seven): Kevin Kisner, Brian Harman, Russell Henley, Hudson Swafford, Chris Kirk, Harris English, Bubba Watson
How do the rich get richer? Glad you asked (start rant here):
The FedEx Cup playoff system was instituted in 2007 on the PGA Tour as a way to add intrigue to the end of the season. Previously, the high drama ended in August after the 4th and final “major” tournament (PGA Championship) was played. Then it was a case of players dropping out of tournaments to spend time family, football taking over and watching the golf ratings drop faster than Butch Jones crafting an alternate narrative, and general waning of interest by fans until late winter. Instead, they shortened the season, gave out points based on season tournament results, and let only the top of the rankings continue playing. (There are a myriad of by-products of this including what happened to Q-School, the Web.com Tour, tournament date swaps, etc. but we’ll save all that for another time).
Golf is similar to baseball in one regard. In baseball, every team will almost certainly win at least 50 games, and also lose 50 games every season - the difference is what they do with the other 62 games. In golf, the top 150 in the world have about the same 50 players in it year after year (some attrition as golfers get older, but those are replaced by rising stars), and there will be about 50 who surprise you near the top and 50 who surprise you near the bottom. Maybe that isn’t the best analogy, but hopefully you get my drift.
These 50 who stay in the top 100 or top 70 in the world year after year have it made... many tournaments have qualifications that require being in the top 70. So if the only golf purse that’s available is only available to the top golfers, those who have already made a bunch of money by getting to the top will stay at the top, and get additional world ranking points by being in tournaments that only let in those at the top. Those who fight and claw to get into tournaments (Monday qualify, sponsor exemption, play good one week and get a last-minute invite the following week) walk the razor’s edge of being in the elite or continually getting blocked out of the real money-making events.
The PGA Tour FedEx Cup playoffs are similar, but shorter-lived in nature. If during the current season you rank inside the top 125 in points, you make it to the first round of the playoffs. Playoff tournaments have more points awarded, so for those at the top of the rankings who play moderately well are less likely to be jumped in the rankings, thus they continue progressing through the playoff schedule. If you’re borderline, you have to have a spectacular first week in order to secure a berth further on.
As has been mentioned elsewhere, the first round of the playoffs is for the top 125 in points, then week 2 is for those in the top 100, round 3 for the top 70, and round 4 (Tour Championship) is only for the top 30. If you’re currently in the top 10 in points, the chances of you not making the Championship are slim, whereas if you barely make it into the playoffs, you really have to earn your way to the Championship through 3 grueling tournaments.
This week is round 1 - the Northern Trust. It has had several corporate names before, and played on several different courses, but the pressure is still the same. Play well here, move up the rankings, and you not only get the prize money but you gain entry into the next round of the playoffs where more money is there for the taking. The course is pretty new to the Tour, so I’ll just jump right into where our ‘Dawgs sit.
Kevin Kisner. #24 in the world and #9 in the playoff rankings, has 1 win this season, 2 second place finishes, and 7 top 10s. He’s set for a while.
Brian Harman. #26 in the world and #10 in the playoffs, also has 1 win, a second, a third, and also has 7 top 10s overall. See: Kisner.
Russell Henley. #56 in the world and #19 in the playoffs, also has a win this season, only 4 top 10s, but is secure into the 3rd round of the playoffs. Great chance to make the Tour Championship.
Hudson Swafford. #86 in the world and #37 in the playoffs, he made a huge leap with his January Tour win and 4 top 10s total. He’s good for rounds 1 and 2, but could use a top 50 or top 30 finish to secure round 3.
Chris Kirk. #139 in the world and #96 in the playoffs, he can get bumped if he doesn’t make the cut this weekend. He has 4 career victories on Tour, including a playoff event a couple years back, so he’s got the game.
Bubba Watson. #54 in the world and #113 in the playoffs, he has been off his game. #2 in the world as recently as 2015, he only has 1 top 5 this season and 2 other top 10 finishes. Seriously on the bubble to move further.
Harris English. #134 in the world and #114 in the playoffs, he only has 2 top 10s this season (still good for over $800k in earnings) and is, like Bubba, on the bubble to make round 2 so he needs a good week.
Yeah, I know there is football on this weekend, and supposedly college football (ask Redcrake). But there is also compelling golf, and good golf being played by good golfers who are playing... well, good. So flip it on over to Golf Channel and CBS to watch ‘Dawgs chasing little white balls.
And as always...