The most unusual of golf seasons will come to an end this week in Greensboro, North Carolina. Well, the regular season will. Golf is an all-year deal, but the PGA Tour’s version will conclude at the Wyndham Championship, to be followed by three playoff events to determine its season-long champion.
This week is important because it will help determine the top 125 on the FedEx Cup points list. Only those players can advance to the playoffs and next week’s Northern Trust tournament. And without some other type of exemption, those who fall outside lose their PGA Tour card and are faced with playing the Korn Ferry Tour Finals or having to rely on other means to get into tournaments in the 2021-22 season.
The FedEx Cup system began in 2007, and just nine players have qualified for the playoffs that entire time — Charley Hoffman, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Brandt Snedeker, Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, Charles Howell III, Justin Rose and Ryan Moore.
Hoffman, Mickelson, Watson and Snedeker are safe. The others have some work to do. Howell is not entered at the Wyndham, so he will not make it for the first time.
Other things are in play this week. Those outside of the top 70 can further their chances of qualifying for the BMW Championship in two weeks. Others will have their eye on qualifying for the top 30 and the Tour Championship to end the season.
And, of course, there are Ryder Cup points to be earned. The Wyndham as well as the Northern Trust and BMW Championship are the last qualifying events for the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
So after a “season” that featured six major championships — including two U.S. Opens, two Masters — and dates to early September, here is a look at a few of the players who are fighting to advance:
121st FedEx Cup standings
It has been a tough time for the 2013 Masters champion. He does not live in the United States and has faced quarantine issues every time he has visited his family. Scott won the Genesis Invitational just prior to the shutdown. Nothing has been the same since. He got COVID-19 last fall and has struggled to regain form, dropping from as high as sixth in the world early last year to 43rd now. He tied for 36th last week at the FedEx St. Jude Invitational, an 11th straight finish outside of the top 10. Scott can advance without a strong finish this week, but then he leaves his fate up to others. No matter what, Scott doesn’t have to worry about keeping his Tour card. He has fully exempt status.
124th in FedEx Cup standings
One of the game’s most consistent players for more than a decade, Kuchar has run into a stretch of bad form, missing four consecutive cuts, including last week’s Barracuda Championship. He did not make the weekend at any of this year’s majors nor at the Tour Championship. In fact, Kuchar missed the cut at all three majors last year. (The Open was not played in 2020 because of 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 Tour status is secure.
130th in FedEx Cup standings
Battling a slump for much of the past 18 months, Fowler has shown signs of breaking out. He just hasn’t been able to push forward enough for the big result that would change his year. He declined to play last week’s opposite-field Barracuda Championship and dropped five spots in the FedEx Cup standings. There’s no reason to play safe this week; he needs to make the cut and make a move. He has never failed to make the playoffs in his pro career, dating to 2010. Even if he doesn’t make the playoffs, he too has exempt Tour status.
136th in FedEx Cup standings
It has been a quiet year for the Englishman who starred on the 2018 European Ryder Cup team. Although still ranked 35th in the world, he has played just 15 PGA Tour events, as he also competes in Europe. And he has posted just two top-10s. He will need at least that and probably more to continue his PGA Tour season.
138th in FedEx Cup standings
The Englishman won the FedEx Cup title just three years ago — the same day Tiger Woods won the Tour Championship — and was No. 1 in the world early in 2019. He has dropped all the way to 48th in the world and has struggled with his game for the better part of two years. Rose did manage to contend at the Masters, where he finished seventh. And he rallied to tie for eighth at the PGA Championship. But in just five tournaments since, there has been nothing better than a tie for 20th. Rose needs a big week to keep his playoff streak alive. If he doesn’t, he also has a spot on Tour next season, considering he is fully exempt.
142nd in FedEx Cup standings
Like Rose, nothing short of a high finish will keep Moore’s playoff streak alive. He missed seven cuts this year, didn’t play in any of the majors (he was an alternate for The Open but passed when his name came up) and tied for 35th at the Players Championship.
*26th in FedEx Cup standings
The asterisk denotes that Zalatoris is only a special temporary member of the PGA Tour. Because he is not a full member, he is not eligible for the FedEx Cup playoffs, even though the number of points he has earned would have him 26th in the standings. Zalatoris started earning his way last fall when he got into a few tournaments, had some high finishes and earned special temporary status, which means he can accept unlimited sponsor exemptions. He will be a fully exempt member of the tour next season due to the number of points earned. His only way into the playoffs — and a shot at all the money at stake in two big-money tournaments plus the FedEx bonus money — is to win this week. A victory automatically makes him a PGA Tour member.