Reality Intrudes

Let’s say that you’re a really good PGA Tour player, good enough that golf fans everywhere know your name. And let’s say that you haven’t been having that good a year. But you’ve been unbothered by that because you know who you are. Instead, you’ve been methodically working on your game, waiting for it to come around.

But now reality intrudes. This week’s Wyndham Championship played at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, North Carolina is the last chance to qualify for the four-tournament playoffs that begin next week.

Only 125 players qualify for The Barclays at Plainfield Country Club in Edison, New Jersey.

Only 100 players qualify for the Deutsche Bank Championship at the TPC Boston in Norton, Massachusetts.

Only 70 players qualify for the BMW Championship at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club in Lemont, Illinois.

And finally, only 30 players qualify for the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia.

So what? Here’s what. Normal PGA Tour events have purses between $5.5 and $6.5 million. The purse for each of the playoff tournaments is $8.0…with fewer players vying for them. Granted, except for the Tour Championship itself,  it’s still 70 guys playing for it after each cut, but the talent pool will have been culled of some you thought could go all the way. Last year, Jim Furyk won $1.35 million for winning the Tour Championship tournament and $10 million for winning the points race for the FedEx Cup: $11.35 million. Not bad for just four tournaments’ worth of work.

And that’s the problem. It isn’t just four tournaments’ work, it’s an entire season’s work to qualify to get into the playoffs.

And now it’s time to pony up the price of admission—as of Thursday morning that’s 320 FedEx Cup points which is precisely where Camilo Villegas sits. By contrast, Nick Watney is in the number 1 slot with 1,906.

The problem for the players is that the threshold is a moving target; while it may be 320 points Thursday, that doesn’t include what everybody is going to win during this tournament. Here’s a sample of the points distribution:

1.          500

2.          300

3.          190

4.          135

5.          110

6.          100

7.          90

8.          85

9.          80

10.        75

15.        56

20.        51

25.        46

30.        41

70.          1

So if the median is around 40 points and Camilo wins that, that means that his 125th slot would move from 320 to around 360 points. So everybody needs to do a math guesstimate to figure out where they need to come down.

Or ignore all of this and just play as good as you can. But you gotta be thinking in the back of your mind, just how good is that? And haven’t you been trying to play “as good as you can” all year long? What would make this week any different than any of the other weeks?

So that’s the albatross some of the players will be wearing around their necks this week. Once you know that, it makes the undercurrent of Greensboro quite a bit more than just a jaunt in the bucolic, North Carolina countryside. This is quite serious for some.

Here are just some of the notables outside of the 125 bubble now:

126. Ernie Els – 320 pts.

128. Dean Wilson – 318

129. Tiger Woods – 318 – not playing

130. Padraig Harrington – 316

131. Ben Curtis – 304

142. Justin Leonard – 278

147. Paul Casey – 258

150. Angel Cabrera – 237

Knowing that talent like this is struggling, it makes our weekend viewing a little bit more purposeful. You almost don’t want to take the time to make popcorn.

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