The revamped and downsized FedEx Cup playoffs begin this week with the FedEx St. Jude Classic at TPC Southwind near Memphis.
But the payout is still pretty darn good for those who survive the next two steps to the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta Aug. 24-27.
The eventual FedEx Cup champion will earn $18 million for his victory at East Lake. Winning at Southwind, or the next stop, the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields near Chicago Aug. 17-20 will park $3.6 million in the winner’s direct deposit account.
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Only 70 players took the first step in qualifying for the playoff, down from 125 in the previous 16 years of the FedEx Cup. The top-50 on the points after Southwind advance to Olympia Fields, and the field then gets pared down to 30 for East Lake.
The other bonus for the top-50 after this week is that they form the basis for the first series of PGA Tour “Signature Events” in 2024.
Here’s a look at the TPC Southwind field:
The five locals
Only five area players qualified for the FedEx Cup playoffs, a sharp drop from past years. Billy Horschel of Ponte Vedra Beach is missing his first playoffs in 12 seasons, by a margin a handful of strokes last week in Greensboro, N.C.
The local players are led by British Open champion Brian Harman of St. Simons Island, Ga., (sixth), followed by Harris English of St. Simons (43rd), J.T. Poston of St. Simons (48th), Keith Mitchell of St. Simons (58th) and Sam Ryder of Atlantic Beach (61st).
Aside from Harman, Poston is probably the area player on the best roll, with four finishes of seventh or higher than summer. Mitchell has quietly posted eight top-25s and has made the playoffs six years in a row and Ryder finally broke through, after five years in a row in which he finished between Nos, 100 and 125.
The big three
It’s hard to imagine someone other than the top three players on the points list finally winning the big prize. No.1 Jon Rahm, No. 2 Scottie Scheffler and No. 3 Rory McIlroy dominated the PGA Tour this season, at least until first-time major winners Wyndham Clark (U.S. Open) and Harman won the final two majors of the season.
Rahm, the Masters champion, is the only four-time winner on the Tour this season while Scheffler, who won The Players Championship, and McIlroy are two of six other players to have won twice.
Looking for a spoiler? Try No. 8 Keegan Bradley, who can grind with the best of them on tough courses.
The rest of the top 10 are Max Homa, Clark, Harman, Viktor Hovland, Bradley, Rickie Fowler and Tony Finau.
Welcome back, 2015
Two of the top players in the world in 2015 were Jason Day and Rickie Fowler. They combined for seven victories, with Day winning the PGA and a FedEx playoff event, and Fowler capturing The Players and another FedEx playoff.
The two fell off the planet for an extended time but both won tournaments this season, both for the first time since 2018. Day won the Byron Nelson AT&T and Fowler the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
They had remarkably similar seasons in other categories. They both had eight top-10s, Fowler had 16 top-25s to Day’s 13 and Fowler made 20 of 22 cuts, while Day made 15 of 21. Day is ranked 20th in the world this week and Fowler is 26th.
He’s still here
Matt Kuchar keeps rolling along when it comes to the FedEx Cup playoffs.
The 45-year-old, who is now residing in Jupiter after years on St. Simons Island, finished the regular season 60th on the points list, He’s the only player to have made the playoffs for its entire 17-year history but now he’s got some ground to make up to get into the top-50.
Kuchar has missed one cut and tied for 25th and 43rd in his last three starts at Southwind.
Who else is staying home?
In addition to Horschel, previous FedEx Cup mainstays who didn’t make the top 70 are two-time PGA champion Justin Thomas, 2013 Masters champion Adam Scott, Will Zalatoris (the defending St. Jude champion, who has missed the entire season with an injury), and major champions Shane Lowry, Gary Woodland, Webb Simpson, Zach Johnson and Jimmy Walker.
This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Jon Rahm, Scott Scheffler, Rory McIlroy lead field for FedEx Cup Playoffs