Henrik Stenson is the point’s leader in the FedEx Cup ahead of the penultimate counting event. However, even if he wins back to back by taking the BMW Championship at 12/1 he still may not be assured of winning the FedEx Cup and 10 million dollar bonus. In the last three seasons the winner of the season ending Tour Championship has also picked up the huge prize.
The purpose of these end of season lucrative tournaments is to attract world class fields more regularly on the US PGA Tour. The FedEx series has worked out perfectly for the organisers and sponsors this year as the leading 20 players in the current world rankings have entered the BMW sponsored event.
This week’s tournament, at a new course for the Tour at Conway Farms Golf Club in Illinois, is only open to the top 70 players in the standings. There is no cut so everybody picks up a cheque but the main subplot will be qualifying for the Tour Championship finale by ending the week in the top 30 of the FedEx cup point’s table.
Some bookmakers are betting on who will win the FedEx Cup. The favourite at a best priced 2/1 is Tiger Woods, who is currently second behind Stenson. Even if he wins this week to overtake the Swede Woods will still probably have to win the Tour Championship to be presented with one of those oversized cheques which in this instance is justified as it will be worth 10 million dollars.
The scoring system is heavily weighted in favour of the winner of the Tour Championship. Last season Rory McIlroy won two FedEx Cup play-off events but Brandt Snedeker won the 10 million dollars because he won the Tour Championship. That win led to one of the quotes of the season when Snedeker, 10 million dollars richer, questioned the need to buy a new car when he had a perfectly adequate vehicle in the garage back home.
Woods is the only player to win the FedEx Cup more than once. He has won five tournaments this year, including a World Championship event. He would probably swap all those wins and the FedEx prize money for the elusive fifteenth major. Tiger might even trade the new lady in his life, who incidentally looks remarkably like the last won, for the other five majors he needs to overhaul Jack Nicklaus’s total of 18.
When Woods won the 14th major of his career at the US Open in 2008 he was long odds on to win more than 18. However that was the last time he won one of the four biggest prizes in golf and some commentators have even suggested he will now not add to his tally. In effect he missed two years of his career at his prime due to injuries and some distractions away from the course.
Since 2008 a regular pattern has emerged of Woods playing himself into contention over the first two days of majors but then faltering over the weekend. That was certainly the case this year but the host courses were not a good fit for his game and three of next year’s majors are being played on courses where he has won majors in the past.
Augusta National, Valhalla and Royal Liverpool at Hoylake are courses where Woods has dominated fields in previous majors. This time next year might be a better time to judge if he still has the game and temperament to win more majors. However, if he doesn’t add to his tally in 2014 beating Nicklaus’s career total may well be beyond him. So, in the context of his overall standing in the game winning the FedEx Cup and 10 million dollars will probably be a mere trifle.
Woods has won more prize money than any other golfer in the history of the sport and probably only Rory McIlroy would be close to matching his market value away from the course. Both now use Nike clubs after McIlory signed a huge deal and he is yet to convince the pundits that he has fully adjusted to the new equipment.
In the context of the BMW Championship, qualifying for the Tour Championship and ultimately winning the FedEx Cup there are probably more hungry golfers than Woods. One of those would be Stenson who has now climbed back into the top 10 in the world rankings after falling out of the top 200 from a career high of number four.
All summer Stenson seems to have been contending in the biggest tournaments and in retrospect looked a ‘winner about to happen’. However, he repeatedly felt the heat of competition in majors and WGC events so he could have been forgiven for suffering from mental letdown. He holed the crucial putts in the Deutsche Bank Championship and will have spent last week’s break resting and preparing for the next huge challenge.
At just over 7200 yards the host course at Lake Forest is short by modem standards. There will be a premium on accuracy over distance which means the big hitters will not have a comparative advantage over the rest of the field. In identifying potential winners special attention should be given to the accuracy disciplines when examining PGA Tour statistics.
The course should also favour the more experienced pros with the patience and course management skills to handle and bounce back from the inevitable bogeys on such a tight track. Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker are such players and Furyk is a former winner of the FedEx Cup. Stricker has a light schedule but still seems to return from long breaks with his game in good order.
The bookmakers as usual see Woods as the most likely winner this week but the key to his chances is the number of times he takes out the driver. He will need that club to reach the par 5s in two shots but he has more latiitude on those holes. Even so at the current odds other players are preferred but with no course form to assess there could be a relatively big priced winner this week.