MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Jon Rahm has the game for any occasion, most notably the PGA Tour’s postseason.
He just doesn’t have history on his side.
Rahm is the No. 1 seed going into the FedEx Cup playoffs, courtesy of four wins — including the Masters — along with a runner-up finish in the British Open. But only once in the last 13 years has the top seed at the start of the postseason gone on to capture the FedEx Cup.
The exception falls to Jordan Spieth, and that surprised him.
“Because usually if you’re the No. 1 seed you’ve won at least a couple of times,” Spieth said as he began his Wednesday afternoon pro-am on rain-soaked TPC Southwind.
One good week should be enough to get it done, provided that one week is the last one. Such is what happened to Spieth in 2015, the year he was three strokes away from a shot at the calendar Grand Slam. He had an enormous lead, missed the cut in two events and made up for it by winning the Tour Championship.
Circumstances are far different going into the FedEx St. Jude Championship, which starts Thursday as the first of three postseason events.
For starters, there are no cuts this year. The field for opening event has been reduced from 125 players to 70, with only the top 50 (down from 70) reaching the BMW Championship next week outside Chicago.
Plus, Rahm has company. Scottie Scheffler has two wins and has finished in the top 10 at all but four of his 17 tournaments. His worst finish is a tie for 23rd in the British Open. That’s why he’s No. 1 in the world ranking.
Also right there is Rory McIlroy. For all the focus on McIlroy going a ninth straight year without winning a major, he has two wins this season and hasn’t finished out of the top 10 in three months.
Is it pure talent or a little bit of timing?
“I’d say a little bit of both,” McIlroy said, who speaks from experience as the only player to win the FedEx Cup three times. “You have to put yourself up there. To just consider it good timing seems unfair on my part. I’d like to think that I play good enough golf over the years to give myself a chance a bunch of times.”
It starts to unfold Thursday on a course that for has been getting soaked since Monday, with a big downpour that cut out half of the pro-am on Wednesday. This could be a case of target golf and low scoring, but that’s not the only way to keep score.
The key is the top 50 — not only because players want to advance. Those who do are assured of playing in all eight of the $20 million signature tournaments next year in the new PGA Tour schedule.
Rahm, Scheffler and McIlroy are already assured of being in the top 30 who reach the FedEx Cup finale at East Lake. For now it’s about winning for the sake of winning, and making sure they’re among the top when they get to the finish.
Rahm started from behind two years ago — the No. 1 seed starts at East Lake with a two-shot lead — when Patrick Cantlay beat him by one shot on the final hole.
“Obviously you want to win every time we tee it up,” Rahm said. “But yeah, the goal is to try to get to East Lake as No. 1 and enjoy that two-shot lead. It’s always made a difference. It made a difference when I finished second place. It’s the reason why they give it to you, so if we can take advantage of it, it would be nice.”
Ben Griffin got the 70th and final spot at TPC Southwind by nine points over Justin Thomas, who missed the postseason for the first time. Matt Kuchar is at No. 60, the only player to reach the postseason every year since the FedEx Cup began in 2007.
Right on the bubble at No. 50 is Nick Hardy. Points are quadrupled for the playoffs, allowing for more movement and more pressure.
Scheffler has strong memories from last year’s postseason, and they’re not happy memories. He was the top seed at the start and going into the Tour Championship. He had a two-shot lead to start the last event and had a six-shot lead on the final day only for McIlroy to beat him.
“I’m excited to get another crack at the playoffs. I’m obviously not ecstatic with the way last year finished,” Scheffler said. “I feel like last year … I should have won the FedEx Cup, and I didn’t, and this year is a year where we’ve had a lot of guys having really good seasons. Jon had a great run at the beginning of the year, and I’ve been consistent most of the year, and Rory has popped up on leaderboards here and there and won a few times.
“It should be an exciting finish to the year.”
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