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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The FedExCup Storylines

FedExCup logoWe're right on the cusp of the Tour Championship, so it's a good time to see just what the storylines are for this tournament. First, we begin with a list of the 30 players in the field. In addition to their reset point totals, I've added an asterisk for each win a player has (Mickelson gets a *M for his single major win):
  1. * Matt Kuchar -- 2,500
  2. ** Dustin Johnson -- 2,250
  3. * Charley Hoffman -- 2,000
  4. ** Steve Stricker -- 1,800
  5. Paul Casey -- 1,600
  6. * Jason Day -- 1,400
  7. Luke Donald -- 1,200
  8. ** Ernie Els -- 1,000
  9. Martin Laird -- 800
  10. *M Phil Mickelson -- 600
  11. ** Jim Furyk -- 480
  12. * Geoff Ogilvy -- 460
  13. ** Justin Rose -- 440
  14. * Adam Scott -- 420
  15. ** Hunter Mahan -- 400
  16. * Ryan Palmer -- 380
  17. Retief Goosen -- 360
  18. * Bubba Watson -- 340
  19. * Zach Johnson -- 320
  20. Kevin Na -- 310
  21. * Tim Clark -- 300
  22. * Ben Crane -- 290
  23. K.J. Choi -- 280
  24. Jeff Overton -- 270
  25. * Camilo Villegas -- 260
  26. Ryan Moore -- 250
  27. Robert Allenby -- 240
  28. Nick Watney -- 230
  29. Kevin Streelman -- 220
  30. Bo Van Pelt -- 210
In case you've been living in a cave somewhere, I'll remind you that the top 5 players on this list "hold their own destinies in their hands" because if they win the Tour Championship, they automatically win the FedExCup (and the $10 million dollars that goes with it). Some other players can also win the big money if they win the tournament, but they'll need some help to do it. I suppose that means that Bo Van Pelt can win the whole thing if the players finish in the exact opposite order that they are in now. (Good luck on that one, Bo.)

But the Cup is hardly the only story we're watching this week, oh no. The Player of the Year competition (aka the Jack Nicklaus Trophy) is wide open at this point, and the Tour Championship could determine the winner. Let's quickly examine the most obvious possibles and how this tournament could affect the outcome (here's the link to the PGATOUR.com stat page for quick reference):
  • Two-time winners: Dustin Johnson, Steve Stricker, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Justin Rose, and Hunter Mahan could all become three-time winners this week. With no other clear POY candidate, that could be enough.
  • One-time winners: Matt Kuchar, Charlie Hoffman, Jason Day, Geoff Ogilvy, Adam Scott, Ryan Palmer, Bubba Watson, Zach Johnson, Tim Clark, Ben Crane, and Camilo Villegas could all join the "two-timer" club with a win, thereby tossing their names into the hat for POY.
  • Phil Mickelson: Mickelson is in a category by himself here. Since his one win is a major, adding the Tour Championship would give him two huge wins; as the only player with a major, that Masters win would certainly make him stand out among the double winners. But since a win for him would also probably make him #1 in the world rankings, winning would almost certainly make him the POY.
  • Money Title (aka the Arnold Palmer Trophy): Of course, the winner's check for $1,350,000 could give several players this title. But winning this trophy could also give you an extra reason to be considered for POY. Note that Phil is 5th on this list, and far enough behind Kuchar that he could win and still not get this title.
  • Scoring Title (aka the Vardon Trophy and the Byron Nelson Award): Yes, there are two of these -- the Vardon is presented by the PGA, and the Nelson by the PGA Tour. The Vardon has a 60-round minimum and the Nelson has a 50-round minimum. At this point, Matt Kuchar leads Steve Stricker by one-hundredth of a stroke! Yes, you read that right -- Kuchar stands at 69.57 after 89 rounds, while Stricker's at 69.58 after 69 rounds. Getting the Scoring Title could certainly affect the POY race; if Kuchar wins, he has 2 wins and the trophy, while Stricker could get the trophy (even if he doesn't win) just by beating Kuchar.
  • Matt Kuchar: Just as Mickelson is in a category by himself, so is Kuch. Winning would only give him two wins, but he would also lock up the money and scoring titles, as well as several other statistical categories. If Kuch could pull it off this week, he could upset everybody's apple cart and walk off with the POY Trophy.
If neither Phil nor Kuchar wins, any of the two-time winners has a decent shot at POY if they play well. Dustin Johnson, Ernie Els, and Steve Stricker in particular have decent shots at the money title, as less than $700,000 separates #1 Kuchar from #4 Stricker... and I already mentioned Stricker's chance at the scoring title. (Els, at #5 on the scoring list, has the next best chance to use scoring as a "chip" in the POY race... but he's .30 behind Stricker. That's a lot to make up in one tournament.)

So, who's the most likely to turn a Tour Championship win into a POY Trophy? Here's my list, in no particular order, with what they would most likely have:
  • Phil Mickelson: Two wins (including the Masters), #1 in the world rankings.
  • Matt Kuchar: Two wins, Scoring Trophy, Money Title.
  • Steve Stricker: Three wins, Scoring Trophy, possibly Money Title.
  • Ernie Els: Three wins, maybe Money Title, long shot at Scoring Trophy.
  • Dustin Johnson: Three wins, and most likely Money Title.
So now it's time to watch these storylines play out and see who lives happily ever after.

4 comments:

  1. oh boy - ANOTHER week where the discussion will be "will Phil take over #1 ?" (lol) He can also get it if he finishes second and gets a little help from the top 5 seeds. (yawn)

    I'm pulling for Paul Casey to win just to tweak Monty and his decision to leave the #8 player in the world off the European Ryder Cup team.

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  2. If it makes you feel better, Court, I only mentioned Phil's #1 shot in terms of the POY race; if he wins, that could certainly help his case.

    And I agree about Casey. That would be a great story... but again, Casey's not in the running for POY, so I didn't mention it.

    Of the five guys I listed, Dustin's the real wild card. I don't think anybody knows what to expect from him at East Lake.

    I'd watch Ernie real close, though. His record's pretty good there.

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  3. Since the POY is still more or less a popularity contest (you still have to have the credentials to be considered) - Dustin Johnson has to be a little more than a wild card. This would be three wins, the money title, the FEC, AND all the residual feel good following from Pebble and Whistling Straights.

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  4. When I call Johnson a "wild card," I'm only referring to his play. We know he's mentally tough and can throw off mistakes really well... but we still don't know how he'll play with the pressure of $10M and everything else, especially on a tough course. Nobody knows which Dustin will show up this week (he's like Phil in that respect), but I wouldn't bet against either Kuch or Stricker being there at the end.

    POY is only a popularity contest when there is no clear winner. If Dustin wins this week, he won't leave much doubt about the POY.

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