I was texting with a PGA Tour employee who shall go unnamed recently, bemoaning the lack of clarity in the four-tournament playoff run that closes out each PGA Tour season. "It's just math!" he chirped, which is technically true. But also, quantum physics is also "just math," and that doesn't offer me any solace.
In case you need a refresher, though, let's take a look at the way the FedEx Cup Playoffs are set up and the path of least resistance to $10 million at the end of September. Let's start with this week's Northern Trust.
Playoff Event No. 1
Tournament: The Northern Trust
Location: Glen Oaks Club
The top 125 on the FedEx Cup list are trimmed to 100 after this event. The catch is that there are four times as many FedEx Cup points available here than at a regular PGA Tour event. So let's say No. 114 Harris English (who currently has 397 points) wins this week. He takes home 2,000 (!) FedEx Cup points, which would vault him up onto the top 10 on the list (Hideki Matsuyama leads with 2,869 points currently). As you can see, getting into the playoffs is huge and can propel you onto the Tour Championship at the very end.
Playoff Event No. 2
Tournament: Dell Technologies Championship
Location: TPC Boston
This is when it starts to get real. The top 100 are cut to 70 after this event, and because the points balloon so much in the first two weeks, it's tough for anyone outside the top 50 to make up enough ground to get to that magic number of 30 and into the final event of the season with the Tour Championship.
Playoff Event No. 3
Tournament: BMW Championship
Location: Conway Farms Golf Club
This is always one of my favorite tournaments of the year with its small field and great courses. The final 70 get cut to 30 after this and go onto the finale. Also, there is a week break between the Dell Technologies Championship and BMW Championship to allow players a little rest before the final eight rounds of the year.
Playoff Event No. 4
Tournament: Tour Championship
Location: East Lake Golf Club
For this tournament, the scores are reset for all 30 participants. The No. 1 player will still be No. 1, but his points will be reset to 2,000 so that everyone (theoretically) has a chance to win the FedEx Cup by winning this tournament. The point distribution remains similar the first three events. First place gets 2,000 points, second place gets 1,200 and so on. So if you're in 30th and have 115 points going in, you have to win the Tour Championship and whoever is No. 1 going in would have to finish near the bottom.
A purse of $35 million will be distributed to all playoff participants with the winner of the FedEx Cup getting $10 million and the runner up receiving $3 million. Now that's some easy math.