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John Renslow: Breaking down the FedEx Cup playoffs

As life returns to normal in a lot of ways, the culmination of the 2020-2021 season will put the PGA Tour back on track to begin its next year right on schedule.

It’s been a busy summer with two Americans winning gold medals in the Olympic Games and a couple of Californians earning victories in the PGA Championship and British Open.

Now we’re on to the season ending finale, the playoffs, the FedEx Cup. Playoffs? You’re talking playoffs? Yes, and it starts next Thursday.



They’re kind of like the changing of clocks in the fall. It happens every year, but sneaks up on us every time.

Each of these playoff tournaments is on the same Thursday through Sunday schedule as a weekly tour event, but the last two do not have a cut. Due to the reduced field, everyone plays all four days.



The first week is sponsored by Northern Trust and is comprised of the top 125 players on the FedEx Cup point list (essentially a money list). After the Northern Trust, the top 70 golfers in the standings will then qualify for the second event of the playoffs, the BMW Championship in Maryland. Following that event, the top 30 golfers move on to the Tour Championship in Atlanta for the final week.

It all started at the first stop of the tour schedule, last fall at the Safeway Open (Napa) in October. The players are earning points based on the how they finish each week. Sounds a bit like NASCAR points…and it is.

Everybody who plays well, and makes the cut, gets a certain number of points. Using the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am as an example, the winner received 500 points and the last player to earn a paycheck received a whopping 52 points. After the tour’s final regular season event, those who have enough points to finish 125th or better on the list qualify for the playoffs.

A hopefully simplifying measure is the change in accumulated points. It has been a bit confusing. In other sports, it is generally one team versus another. Or a “heads up” match between opponents.

In golf, we have a field of players. Again, these players have been earning points throughout the season. As is always the primary concern, the sponsors (and viewers) want to see the elite players. They don’t want a format that would have their elite players eliminated by one bad week.

So, playoff week No. 1 stands alone as an event. However, the annual points carry over each week. If a top player does not play well, they will have enough points to get them into the second week of playoffs.

This has been a challenge to follow, because we are watching two things at the same time. We have the current event. Yet, as the week progresses, we wonder if a player near the bottom of the list will make it to the next week based on position or if a player in the middle will get eliminated.

Each week, Get Into Golf will provide a synopsis for that event and try to simplify things as much as possible.

These guys are playing hard all year, FedEx Cup or not. However, it is an added bonus for both the players and fans. For the players it is the opportunity and challenge to compete with the tour’s best, not to mention that the winner of this little shindig gets $15 million.

For us, the fans, we get to see the top players for three consecutive weeks, rather than players taking time off. Throughout the year, some guys will skip a tournament for rest, family or maybe they just don’t like the golf course. But, when you’re talking $15 million and the chance to end the year on top, all of the boys will tighten the laces and tee it up.

John Renslow is a PGA professional, VP of Yugi Golf Management, and provides golf instruction at local courses

John Renslow

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