Newton Square: Easily overlooked in golf this week is that other “cup,” the one more about finances than flags.
Jordan Spieth sure hasn’t forgotten about the FedEx Cup.
One year after he was in the mix for the $10 million bonus until the final hour at East Lake in Atlanta, Spieth is simply trying to make sure he has a tee time at the Tour Championship. He is No. 27 in the FedEx Cup, and only the top 30 move on to the finale in two weeks.
“Each year you pick a schedule, and I have essentially assumed — based on the previous years — that would be part of it, and have a chance to win the FedEx Cup,” Spieth said Wednesday at the BMW Championship. “Each year, I’ve had an opportunity to win the FedEx Cup at the end of the year. This year, at this current state, I’m in a more difficult position to win the FedEx Cup than I’ve been in the last five years.”
He’s still inside the top 30 from the 70-man field at Aronimink who hope to advance to East Lake. Spieth figures he only needs a “normal” week in the third FedEx Cup play-off event.
A year ago, Louis Oosthuizen came into the BMW Championship at No. 24 and missed out on the Tour Championship by one point. The highest-seeded player who didn’t advance was Rickie Fowler in 2016, when he was No. 22 and missed by 0.57 points.
So for Spieth, there is work to be done.
And it’s not just the mathematical shot at the $10 million bonus, or even pride to not be left out of the Tour Championship for the first time since turning pro.
The PGA Tour has a policy that requires its members to play in a minimum of 25 tournaments. If they fall short of that, players have to add a tournament they have not played in four years. Because he added nothing new to his schedule this year, Spieth has to reach 25 events. And the only way to reach 25 events (the Ryder Cup counts) is to make it to the Tour Championship.
The policy is in its second year, and no one has violated it yet.
Also on the bubble are Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler.
Woods has finished out of the top 20 in both play-off events and has dropped five spots to No. 25, needing to play well to avoid missing the Tour Championship for the first time when playing a full schedule. Fowler missed the first two events with an injury and is No. 26.
As for that other cup?
US captain Jim Furyk announced three of his four picks for the Ryder Cup on Tuesday evening: Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau. And then on Wednesday, European captain Thomas Bjorn picked Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia.
All of them except Garcia, who didn’t qualify for the play-offs, are at Aronimink.
And then there’s Tony Finau, who has played so well the last two weeks that he is No. 4 in the FedEx Cup. He goes into the BMW Championship trying to nail down one of the top five seeds for East Lake because those players only have to win the Tour Championship to claim the richest prize in golf.
He also wants to be No. 12 — the final member of the US team that Furyk will announce on Monday.
Finau is the leading choice as the final pick, mainly because he trails only world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for the most top 10s this year, and because no other candidates have stood out over the last few months.
“I just continue to approach it the way I have the last couple weeks, and that’s winning the FedEx Cup. Seems to have worked the last couple weeks for me,” said Finau, who was runner-up in The Northern Trust and tied for fourth in the Dell Technologies Championship.
Twenty-two players in the 70-man field could be in the Ryder Cup. All of them could be in the running for the FedEx Cup, and no one knows that better than Rory McIlroy.
He skipped the opening playoff event, struggled finishing off rounds last week at the TPC Boston to tie for 12th, and comes into the BMW Championship at No. 24. Two years ago, McIlroy was having a mediocre year by his standards when he won the second playoff event and the Tour Championship and walked off the big winner.
“It turns a sort of average season into a great season,” he said.
No one has less at stake than DeChambeau, who won the last two weeks and is assured of being the No. 1 seed at the Tour Championship.