One event is over (finally), but there are still two remaining as well as the lion’s share of the available bonus money still left to hand out over the next two weeks of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Tony Finau won The Northern Trust on Monday in a playoff over Cameron Smith and is the new leader of the FedEx Cup standings heading into this week’s BMW Championship at Caves Valley Golf Club. That means he’s also in the driver’s seat to be in the top slot at the Tour Championship where the leader goes into the tournament at 10 under. Here’s a breakdown (and reminder!) of how the FedEx Cup Playoffs work, what to expect now that the first round is complete and how everything will play out over the next two weeks as the best in the world make one final push toward the finale.EventsAug. 26-29 — BMW Championship at Caves Valley Golf Club (Owings Mills, Maryland)Sept. 2-5 — Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club (Atlanta, Georgia)FieldsBMW Championship: 70Tour Championship: 30Though all three playoff events are 72-hole stroke-play tournaments, the fields gradually get smaller as we zero in on a $15 million winner at the Tour Championship. The metrics change during the playoffs, too, as everything is quadrupled. In the last regular season event, Kevin Kisner got 500 FedEx Cup points for winning the Wyndham Championship. Finau got 2,000 points for winning The Northern Trust on Monday. That goes for every slot on the leaderboard (300 for second becomes 1,200 and so on). Only five golfers surpassed the 2,000-point total during the entire regular season, which means the FedEx Cup standings can shift quite a bit over the first two playoff events. Winners are disproportionately rewarded.
The first two winners — Finau and whoever wins the BMW — will sit pretty at the Tour Championship. In the first year of this format, Patrick Reed won The Northern Trust and started the Tour Championship in fourth. Justin Thomas won the second playoff event and started the Tour Championship in first. Last year, Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm won the first two events and started first and second at the Tour Championship. There is a lot of movement to be had over the next two weeks before the grand finale.The top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings after the BMW Championship move on to the Tour Championship.Tour Championship formatGoing into the Tour Championship inside the top five or top 10 in the FedEx Cup standings is important because of how scoring is dispersed. Whoever is first in the standings after the BMW Championship this week starts the Tour Championship at 10 under, and the event is played under normal scoring conditions from there. Second starts at 8 under and so on (see full numbers below). With so much money at stake, those margins become more meaningful than even a normal week. The eventual winners of the last two have started first and fifth.
1st: Starts Tour Championship at -102nd: -83rd: -74th: -65th: -56th-10th: -411th-15th: -316th-20th: -221st-25th: -126th-30th: EPrize moneyThe numbers are startling. The winner of the Tour Championship gets $15 million. If you make it to the Tour Championship, you’re guaranteed $395,000 even if you finish last. Everyone who makes it to the BMW Championship is guaranteed at least $140,000. Heck, everyone who finished in the top 125 is guaranteed at least $101,000. And all of this is on top of what the tournaments themselves pay out. Add it all up, and FedEx is giving out $60 million in bonus funds to the best players in the world.1st: $15 million2nd: $5 million3rd: $4 million4th: $3 million5th: $2.5 million6th: $1.9 million7th: $1.3 million8th: $1.1 million9th: $950K10th $830KFavoritesThe current top 10 going into the BMW Championship is an amalgamation of this season’s best players as well as those (like Finau and Smith) who thrived at last week’s Northern Trust. Players who were great all year as well as players who were great for the last four rounds — even better, if you were both, like Jon Rahm, who is currently second and the favorite to win the Tour Championship). It’s extremely difficult to envision Finau falling out of a top-three spot given his nearly-600-point lead after the first event. Somebody like Viktor Hovland (14th in the FedEx Cup standings) or Hideki Matsuyama (16th) could theoretically win this week and vault everyone on this board with those 2,000 first-place points.
1Tony Finau3,3482Jon Rahm2,7633Cameron Smith2,7394Patrick Cantlay2,3025Justin Thomas2,2186Collin Morikawa2,1717Jordan Spieth2,1508Harris English2,1189Bryson DeChambeau1,98910Abraham Ancer1,941There are some interesting storylines here. Patrick Reed, who is ranked 26th, was hospitalized over the weekend and will not play the BMW Championship, which means he likely won’t make it to the Tour Championship for the first time in the last eight years. Rory McIlroy, ranked 28th, is in danger of missing as well after he’s made six of the last seven. Some players like Kevin Kisner, Si Woo Kim, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Sergio Garcia are narrowly on the outside looking in at the top 30 and will need good weeks at Caves Valley to make it to East Lake.Bubble BoysThe other Bubble Boys include those who narrowly sneaked into the top 70 after The Northern Trust and now have some house money to play with to try and make it to the Tour Championship for that monstrous payout. Those include Keith Mitchell (who birdied his last three holes on Monday to get in), Kevin Streelman, Mackenzie Hughes and Harry Higgs. And coming in at No. 70 is the ineffable Phil Mickelson, winner of the 2021 PGA Championship. Mickelson is playing not only to get to the Tour Championship but also for his Ryder Cup life (he’s currently ranked 19th in the U.S. standings). He’s not the only one, either. Shane Lowry (47th in the FedEx Cup) is hanging on to one of the final spots on the European side, and golfers like Sam Burns (12th in the FedEx Cup), Jason Kokrak (17th), Scottie Scheffler (24th), Billy Horschel (27th) and Kisner (31st) are all vying for the final spot or two on the U.S. team.All of that makes for some fascinating storylines going both ways at the BMW Championship and Tour Championship. Making it to East Lake as one of the final 30 players standing in any season is an underrated achievement. It’s extraordinarily difficult to do, and we probably don’t use it as a barometer for a strong season often enough. Throw in Ryder Cup pressure for a lot of guys — on the U.S. side, automatic qualifying ends this weekend though final captain’s picks won’t be made until after the Tour Championship — and there is a ton to follow over the next eight rounds of golf.