The Beginning of the FedEx Cup Playoffs

OLD WESTBURY, NY_The 2016-17 PGA Tour season has produced a season of player movements — both up and down the world ranking lists. The start of the FedEx Cup Playoffs commences this week with a new sponsor and venue. The Northern Trust exchanges its place as tournament sponsor from the LA Open and replaces Barclays as the title sponsor for the kick-off event for the 11th consecutive season since the Playoffs were introduced in 2007.

In addition, the top 125 players will encounter a new venue — the Glen Oaks Club in Old Westbury on Long Island. Formed in 1924 south of Lake Success on land purchased from the estate of William K. Vanderbilt, and later moved to the current site in Old Westbury. The course was designed by Joe Finger and opened for play in 1971. The 27 holes at Glen Oaks were largely unchanged until 2011, when Joel Weiman and Craig Currier, the superintendent of the club, led a renovation that completed in 2014.

Six different courses have hosted the Northern Trust since it became a FedExCup Playoffs event (Westchester CC in 2007, Ridgewood CC in 2008, 2010 and 2014, Liberty National GC in 2009 and 2013, Plainfield CC in 2010 and 2015, Bethpage Black in 2012 and 2016, Glen Oaks Club in 2017). The tournament course is a composite layout — featuring a front nine comprised of a mix of the White and Red nines and a back nine featuring the Blue nine in order.

The top-100 players on the FedExCup points list following the Northern Trust qualify for the Dell Technologies Championship at TPC Boston in Norton, MA which concludes on Labor Day. Following that event the top-70 players on the FedExCup points list then move on to the BMW Championship, played at Conway Farms GC in Lake Forest, Ill.

The top-30 players following the BMW Championship will qualify for the TOUR Championship. Prior to the TOUR Championship, a points reset will take place, giving all players in the field a mathematical opportunity to win the FedExCup title. The top-five players control their own destiny and would claim the FedExCup with a victory at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

The battle for the top spot could well mean Player-of-the-Year honors for any of the leading top five players entering the Playoffs.

The Top Five

No. 1 – Hideki Matsuyama (Japan)

FedEx Cup

Hideki Matsuyama has recorded three victories and three runner-up results in 18 starts this season. Two World Golf Championships wins (HSBC Champions, Bridgestone Invitational) and a playoff victory over Webb Simpson at the Waste Management Phoenix Open have him No. 1 in the FedExCup standings heading into the FedExCup Playoffs. Matsuyama also won the unofficial Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. His three runner-up finishes came at the CIMB Classic, Sentry Tournament of Champions and the U.S. Open.

It was also a good season in the major championships for Matsuyama. Along with his T2 at the U.S. Open, he finished T11 at the Masters, T14 at The Open and T5 at the PGA Championship after sharing the 36-hole lead with Kevin Kisner. Matsuyama, who has taken the top spot four different times and 12 weeks in total, is one of five players to hold the lead in the FedExCup standings this season.

Matsuyama will be making his fourth start at the Northern Trust, where his best result is a T13 in 2015. He was T30 in his tournament debut in 2014 and he missed the cut at this event last year. Matsuyama enters the FedExCup Playoffs with 2,869 points, a 180-point lead ahead of Justin Thomas in the standings. He is looking to advance to the TOUR Championship for the fourth time in his career.

  • FedEx Cup Playoffs starts – 12
  • FedEx Cup Playoffs wins – 0
  • FedEx Cup Playoffs top-5s – 1 (5th/2016 TOUR Championship)
  • FedEx Cup Playoffs top-10s – 2

No. 2 – Justin Thomas (United States)

FedEx Cup

Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

It was an outstanding season for Justin Thomas with four victories, including his first major title at the PGA Championship. After a T8 finish in the season-opening Safeway Open in Napa, Thomas defended his CIMB Classic title in Malaysia. His second win of the season came at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. He stayed in the Islands to produce his third victory at the Sony Open in Hawaii, firing an 11-under 59 in the opening round to become the seventh player in TOUR history to post a sub-60 round.

Additional top-10 results at the WGC-Mexico Championship (T5), Zurich Classic of New Orleans (T5, with former Alabama teammate Bud Cauley as partner), the Memorial Tournament (T4) and the U.S. Open (T9) have him tied with Rickie Fowler for most top-10 finishes (nine) this season. At Erin Hills, Thomas shot a third-round 9-under 63 to match the U.S. Open 18-hole scoring record. The highlight of his career was the two-shot win in the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow, elevating him to No. 2 in the FedExCup standings, 180 points behind Hideki Matsuyama, heading into THE NORTHERN TRUST. Thomas, who gained the lead three different times for six weeks in total, is one of five players to hold the lead in the FedExCup standings this season.

Thomas makes his third appearance at THE NORTHERN TRUST after finishing T16 in his FedExCup Playoffs debut at this event in 2015. Last year, he posted his first top-10 result in the Playoffs with a T10 at Bethpage Black in this event. Thomas failed to advance to the TOUR Championship in 2015 but made it to East Lake last year and finished T6 in the season finale.

  • FedExCup Playoffs starts – 7
  • FedExCup Playoffs wins –
  • FedExCup Playoffs top-5s – 0
  • FedExCup Playoffs top-10s – 2 (best result T6/2016 TOUR Championship)

No. 3 – Jordan Spieth (United States), 2015 FedExCup Champion

Jordan Spieth will be making his 20th start of the 2016-17 PGA TOUR Season this week, having collected eight top-10 finishes. Of those, Spieth claimed his ninth, 10th and 11th PGA TOUR titles at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the Travelers Championship and The Open Championship, respectively. Holing out from a greenside bunker in a playoff to defeat Daniel Berger at the Travelers Championship was certainly a highlight of the PGA TOUR season. As was his remarkable comeback over the final nine holes at Royal Birkdale to win over Matt Kuchar at The Open, his third major title. Spieth posted a runner-up finish to Kevin Kisner at the DEAN & DELUCA Invitational in his hometown and recorded third-place finishes in the two events in Hawaii early in the season (Sentry Tournament of Champions, Sony Open in Hawaii). One additional top-five finish came when he teamed with fellow Texan Ryan Palmer to finish 4th at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in the new-format team event.

This will be Spieth’s fifth consecutive start in the Northern Trust. He finished T19 in his debut at Liberty National Golf Club in 2013 and T22 in 2014 at The Ridgewood Country Club. In 2015, when he missed the cut at Plainfield Country Club, he joined Billy Horschel (2014) as the only players to miss the cut at THE NORTHERN TRUST and go on to win the FedExCup. Last year he posted a T10 result at Bethpage Black. Spieth has played in all 16 FedExCup Playoffs events for which he has been eligible, advancing to the TOUR Championship in each of the last four seasons. Spieth, who led the standings for two weeks following his win at The Open Championship, sits 198 points adrift of FedExCup leader Hideki Matsuyama.

  • FedExCup Playoffs starts – 16
  • FedExCup Playoffs wins – 1 (2015 TOUR Championship)
  • FedExCup Playoffs top-5s – 3
  • FedExCup Playoffs top-10s – 6

No. 4 – Dustin Johnson (United States)

A 15-time winner on the PGA TOUR, Johnson extended his streak of winning at least once a year to 10 straight, the current PGA TOUR record. Following his first victory of the season at the Genesis Open, Johnson won the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship in his next start. His third win of the season in three consecutive starts, at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, made him the first player to win each of the four World Golf Championships events, completing the ‘WGC Slam’.

He also took the No. 1 spot in the FedExCup standings after the win in Austin, Texas and held it for 17 straight events before relinquishing it to Jordan Spieth at The Open. After injuring his back in a fall on the eve of the Masters, Johnson withdrew from the first major of the season. He returned to the TOUR with a T2 at the Wells Fargo Championship and posted just one additional top-10 result (T8/RBC Canadian Open) before the FedExCup Playoffs began. Johnson owns the longest drive of the season, a 439-yard tee-shot at No. 16 during round one of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

Johnson will make his ninth appearance at the Northern Trust, an event he won in 2011. He has three additional top-10 finishes along with his 2011 victory (T3/2012, T9/2015, T9/2010) as well as at T15 in 2009 and missed cuts in both 2013 and 2008. Last year, his T18 at THE NORTHERN TRUST was his weakest performance in the four FedExCup Playoff events (T8/Dell Technologies Championship, 1/BMW Championship, T6/TOUR Championship) while finishing No. 2 behind Rory McIlroy in the FedExCup. Johnson, 403 points behind leader Hideki Matsuyama, is seeking to advance to the TOUR Championship for the eighth time in his career.

  • FedEx Cup Playoffs starts – 29
  • FedEx Cup Playoffs wins – 3 (2016 & 2010 BMW Championship, 2011 THE NORTHERN TRUST)
  • FedEx Cup Playoffs top-5s – 8
  • FedEx Cup Playoffs top-10s – 15

No. 5 – Rickie Fowler (United States)

Rickie Fowler has recorded nine top-10 finishes in 17 starts in the 2016-17 PGA TOUR season, tied for most top-10s for the season with Justin Thomas heading into the FedExCup Playoffs. Fowler won The Honda Classic for his fourth PGA TOUR title and his first since the 2015 Dell Technologies Championship. With the win, Fowler moved to No. 10 in the FedExCup standings and never fell outside that number while working his way to No. 5. He was runner-up at the Memorial Tournament and posted third-place finishes at the Shell Houston Open and the Quicken Loans National. Fowler was a combined 16-under in the major championships this year and one of 13 players to make the cut in all four major championships. With T5 finishes at both the U.S Open and PGA Championship, Fowler now owns seven top-five results in 32 major appearances but still seeks his first major title.

After cracking the top-25 just once in his first three starts, Fowler will make his eighth appearance at the Northern Trust with three top-10 results in his last four starts (T7/2016, MC/2015, T9/2014, T9/2013). For seven consecutive seasons, Fowler has competed in the first three Playoffs events but advanced to the season-finale just three times (2015, 2014, 2012) and seeks to return to the TOUR Championship for the first time since 2015.

  • FedEx Cup Playoffs starts – 24
  • FedEx Cup Playoffs wins – 1 (2015 Dell Technologies Championship)
  • FedEx Cup Playoffs top-5s – 3
  • FedEx Cup Playoffs top-10s – 7