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PGA Tour has a fall playoff race, too

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 1:15 a.m. CST

The college football season is upon us, the blot-out-the-sun monstrosity that is the NFL regular season is just around the corner and the pennant races in baseball are ready to turn September serious.

Amid all that excitement, the PGA Tour will fight for a toehold of TV viewership with its FedEx Cup playoffs.

The four-tournament playoff series, in its seventh year, begins Thursday with the first round of The Barclays at Liberty National in New Jersey and concludes Sept. 22 with the final round of the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.

The third playoff event, the BMW Championship, will be held Sept. 12-15 at Conway Farms in Lake Forest, Ill., just a one-hour drive from downtown Milwaukee.

Mark Wilson, a Menomonee Falls, Wis., native and current resident of Elmhurst, Ill., expects to see a lot of familiar faces in the gallery at Conway Farms.

“Oh, yeah, there will probably be a few cheeseheads out,” he said. “That was one of the first things I thought of when they moved it up here (from Cog Hill in southwest suburban Chicago). Cog Hill, being way south, people in Milwaukee aren’t even thinking that’s on the radar.

“But now that it’s at Conway Farms and it’s just over the border, no question about it, they’re going to come out.”

You can make the short drive to Conway Farms or settle into your easy chair and give your remote a workout. Either way, here’s a FedEx Cup playoff primer:

Who plays: The top 125 on the final points list following the Wyndham Championship qualified.

After The Barclays, the top 100 move on to the Deutsche Bank Championship. The field then is cut to the top 70 for the BMW Championship. Only the top 30 advance to the Tour Championship.

Who’s No. 1? It’s probably of small consolation to Tiger Woods, who failed to win a major championship for the fifth consecutive year, but he topped the season point standings.

Woods also entered the playoffs ranked No. 1 in 2007, 2009 and 2012. He went on to win the FedEx Cup the first two times and finished third last year behind Brandt Snedeker and Rory McIlroy.

Woods is the only player to have won the FedEx Cup more than once and has a 68.04 scoring average in the playoffs. He’s already won five times this year; no one else on Tour has won more than twice.

The contenders: Matt Kuchar, who won The Barclays in 2010, enters the playoffs at No. 2 in the point standings. Since 2009, he has 41 top-10 finishes and five of his six career victories.

Snedeker is ranked No. 3 in the points and has a chance to become the first FedEx Cup champion to defend his title. He was the only rookie to reach the Tour Championship in 2007, the inaugural year of the playoffs.

It’s hard to tell how jacked up Phil Mickelson gets about the FedEx Cup, but the British Open champion goes in No. 4 in the points. He is one of only three players who have reached the Tour Championship in all six years of the playoffs. Steve Stricker of Madison and Hunter Mahan are the others.

Speaking of Stricker: He has elected to skip The Barclays and will play in only two of the four playoff events: the Deutsche Bank and the BMW Championship.

In order, Stricker has finished second, 14th, third, seventh, 18th and 20th in the FedEx Cup. He starts the playoffs No. 20 in the points despite making only 10 starts this year.

Stricker is tied with Jim Furyk and Camilo Villegas for most top-10s in playoff events with 10. Next on the list are Mickelson and Woods with nine top-10s, followed by Dustin Johnson and Luke Donald with eight each.

Stricker is going to have to play well at the Deutsche Bank if he is to make the U.S. Presidents Cup team. He slipped from ninth to 11th in the point standings last week. The rankings deadline is Sept. 2.

Young guns: Jordan Spieth, who lost on the second hole of sudden death to Patrick Reed at the Wyndham Championship, starts the playoffs in the No. 8 position.

The 20-year-old Spieth won the John Deere Classic last month and is trying to become the youngest two-time winner in PGA Tour history. He is one of nine rookies to make The Barclays field.

The red-hot Reed finished among the top 10 in each of his last three starts, including his victory at the Wyndham, to move from 130th to 22nd in the point standings.

He is the first player to win with his wife (Justine) as his caddie since Stricker won the 1996 Western Open with his wife, Nicki, on the bag.

Only six rookies, one per season, have made it to the Tour Championship in the playoffs. All went on to win rookie of the year honors.

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©2013 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Visit the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at www.jsonline.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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