FedEx Cup: Difficult to Break Into Top Five at BMW

With two FedEx Cup playoff events down, breaking into the top five in the standings is a tall order.

Everybody wants to start the Tour Championship in one of the top five positions in FedEx Cup points. The problem is, getting there is nearly impossible for the field at the BMW Championship — for many, only a win will do.

Rory McIlroy, for instance, moved up 34 places with his victory at last week’s Deutsche Bank Championship and is now No. 4. That’s because playoff winners pick up a staggering 2,000 points for their efforts. But this week’s last-place finisher will earn just four points. The point values also fall off drastically from first to tenth, with tenth place worth just 300 points.

While a tenth-place finish might not ruin Jason Day’s chances of being in the top five, it won’t get Brooks Koepka, currently in 30th, within sneezing distance. In fact, depending on what others do, it could bump Koepka out of a spot in Atlanta.

Last year, four of the top five entering the BMW were also in the top five entering the Tour Championship. The year before, three of the top five going into the BMW were still there heading into East Lake. It was a similar story in 2013 — four of the top five remained. A lot of that probably comes down to the fact that golfers get into patches of playing well, and success often begets success.

However, it’s not just the top five spots that are hard to get into. Equally important is the fact that in the last five years, only a handful of golfers starting the BMW outside the top 30 have played their way into the Tour Championship.

According to Tom Alter of the PGA Tour, the Tour projects that 1,561 points will be needed to qualify for the Tour Championship. Right now, he said, prior to the start of the BMW, Gary Woodland is 21st on the list and the last player whose total all but guarantees him a tee time at East Lake.

Alter added that in the nine-year history of the FedEx Cup playoffs, the most players to play their way into the Tour Championship after the BMW is four. It happened in 2010 and 2015.

In 2010, Camilo Villegas, Kevin Na, K.J. Choi and Ryan Moore were able to do it. In 2011, it was Justin Rose, John Senden and Geoff Ogilvy. In 2012, Robert Garrigus and Ryan Moore. In 2013, Nick Watney and Luke Donald. In 2014, Morgan Hoffman and Ryan Palmer. In 2015, Daniel Berger, Scott Piercy, Kevin Na and Harris English.

Sep 27, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Jordan Spieth with the FedEx Cup trophy after winning the final round of the Tour Championship by Coca-Cola at East Lake Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

While the addition and subtraction gets crazy, practically speaking, the guy in 30th place, Brooks Keopka, can’t afford to get beat by any one of the 40 guys behind him, unless a similar number of players in top 30 struggle mightily. Other players just inside the bubble, like Sergio Garcia, William McGirt, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar, must also advance on the field or they have no shot to get into the Tour Championship.

Those in places 31 through 35, Daniel Berger, Fabian Gomez, Smylie Kaufman, Jason Kokrak and Scott Piercy, have to overtake any top 30 player they can — and hope several of them don’t play well.

Because the points for the BMW fall off sharply after the 2,000 for winning, those outside the bubble have to focus on securing victory, or at least a very high finish. Second is 1,200 points, while tenth is 300. A middle-of-the-pack finish is worth very little in terms of moving up in the standings.

Once play gets underway on Thursday, it will be easy to follow the ups and downs of your favorites on the link the PGA Tour has set up. But if you’re in the business of making predictions, keep in mind that those who are in the top five now have the best chance of staying there for the Tour Championship. By the same token, those who are beginning the BMW outside the bubble are less likely to advance to the Tour Championship than you’d probably think.

Who do you think will be in the top five by the time the Tour Championship rolls around? Will any player in the current top five be bounced after this week? Let us know in the comments, and keep it here at Pro Golf Now for more FedEx Cup updates.

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