Tournament: THE NORTHERN TRUST, first round of the FedEx Cup Playoffs from the 2020-21 season, August 19-22, 2021 (for some reason, all official PGA related media has the name in all caps, the rest of the media world types it the right way.)
Course: Liberty National Golf Club, par 71, 7,410 yards. Just north of Staten Island, just south of Jersey City, just across the upper bay from the southern tip of Manhattan.
Purse: $9.5 million in total; $1,710,000 to the winner. Not unimportant is that 2,000 FedEx Cup points go to the winner, with last place getting somewhere around 40 points.
Defending Champ: Dustin Johnson. Former Bulldog Kevin Kisner was tied for fourth, and Harris English finished solo second. The only problem is that English was 11 shots back. DJ absolutely lapped the field. And I don’t know if it was as close as the scoreboard indicated.
Fun Fact: 10 former Bulldogs will be part of the 125-man field. That’s 8 percent. No other college program has ever put 10 products in the FedEx Cup playoffs before. And that’s a Bulldog point of pride.
‘Dawgs in the Field: You already know the number. I’ll list everyone below along with their current FedEx Cup standing.
First, a primer. Starting last September when the PGA Tour season began, players began accumulating points based on their finish in each tournament. A typical tourney gives 500 to the winner, down to low single digits for those in last place (only those who made the cut). It tallies up over 10 months, with WGC and major tournaments giving 10-20% more points, and the top 125 after the Wyndham Championship are eligible for the post-season. And 10 of those now eligible used to matriculate in Athens and play for UGA Men’s Golf Coach Chris Haack.
You have to make cuts to get points. Wins, or top 3 finishes, give you lots of points. Several top 10s will certainly pad the tally. There are myriad ways to get there (a handful of very high finishes, or making lots of cuts, or combinations thereof). And our Classic City Canines run the gamut: I count 4 wins, and without looking, around 50 top 10s. Probably 20+ top 3 finishes. That adds up.
Once inside the playoffs, the top 125 play the first round this week with a normal cut of top 70 and ties after 2 rounds. The 2nd playoff round next week is only for the top 70 in points - so if you’re outside the top 70 this week, you’d better make the cut, and you’d better finish higher than the guys in front of you.
And there is much more volatility... the playoff events carry 4 times the points awarded. For example, the points leader going into the playoffs is Collin Morikawa at 2,171 points. The 125th (last) player to get into the post-season is Chesson Hadley (Raleigh shout-out) with 440 points. If Hadley wins, and Morikawa misses the cut, Hadley passes him in the points list. It’s like 3rd and Grantham with his team down 3 in the final 90 seconds... lots of moving parts, anything can happen, usually a big thing, and not necessarily something expected.
It’s almost enough to make one’s head hurt. But if you have questions, leave them in the comments and I’m glad to attempt an answer. But now to who we’re rooting for:
Keith Mitchell starts the playoffs at #101 of the 125. Like I said above, he will need to have a high finish this week, likely top 10, to move into the top 70 and advance. Mitchell had a nice break from his playoff preparation by playing an informal money-match with Phil Mickelson this week. These are common on Tuesdays before tourneys, but this one was announced in advance and live-tweeted by Lefty himself.
Sepp Straka sits at #99. The Olympian has a nice start to his career, making the Playoffs in each of his first 3 seasons on Tour. He hasn’t advanced far, but he’s collected over $3 million in earnings since his 2019 rookie season.
Brendon Todd is 4 spots higher at #95. In 2019, Todd recaptured his early career form and success, but hasn’t been able to get the ball in the hole quite as quickly this season. Still, his driving is an advantage and he could make a move this week.
Bubba Watson holds down the #71 slot. So he needs to not only make the cut, but finish around 40th or higher to ensure he has enough points to move to next week’s top 70. Bubba is one of only 6 players to make the Playoffs every season.
Hudson Swafford is driving the #56 car. With the potential volatility, Swafford needs to make the cut to prevent getting leapfrogged by the guys behind him. Do that, and he can book his travel to Baltimore for next week’s 2nd playoff round.
Chris Kirk holds his own at #51. Like Swafford, Kirk doesn’t necessarily need a high finish, and might survive no matter what, but making the cut eliminates other players and gives him a better chance to advance.
Russell Henley moved up a few spots to #44. In case you didn’t see it, Henley held the lead this past weekend at Greensboro for each of the first 3 rounds, but two short missed putts on 11 & 12 Sunday eliminated his cushion, and a missed 4 footer on 18 left him out of the 6 man playoff. Fortunately for ‘Dawg fans in general (and not Russell fans in particular), it turned out okay (keep reading).
Brian Harman hits the post season at #35. Maybe the most consistent Golfing ‘Dawg this season, he had a nice run of 5 top 10s in the summer and starting hoarding points like Kenny McIntosh collects annoying Dawg Sports commenters. He’s pretty solid to make the 2nd round, but now’s a great time to improve his status for the top 30 and the finale at East Lake.
Kevin Kisner has moved into the desired top 30 (#29) thanks to winning the aforementioned 6-man playoff at Wyndham last weekend. This ain’t no hobby, fellas. Kiz is extremely well-respected on Tour, and with this most recent win is now being bandied about for naming to next month’s Ryder Cup team. Like Harman, he is safe for the 2nd round. But he’s not safe for Atlanta so either do it now or next week.
And Harris English, he of two wins, 3rd place at the US Open, and 5 other top 10s, is in the 4th position. I won’t say he’s guaranteed to make the Tour Championship in 2 weeks, but he’s pretty darn close. Make a cut, and he probably can start looking at shuttles from Hartsfield.
So that’s the list. Again. And we’ll update it next week too. With only 70 players advancing, it may be that we have an even larger percentage of the field. Either way, tune it and catch the golf post-season. And as always...