No one on the planet has been playing better of late than Jason Day. Four wins in his last six starts, a major championship, and two FedEx Cup playoff title, have Day on a hot streak. The 27-year old Australian has been going so well in fact, that he’s built more than a 2,000-point lead in the chase for the FedEx Cup and its $10,000,000 prize. Since there is only the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola remaining in the 2015 season, and the winner can only earn 2,000 points in that, even you may well be wondering why the PGA Tour doesn’t just write “Jason Day” on the oversized bonus check and be done with it.
The Magic of “Re-seeding”
This year the PGA Tour has engineered the season-ending TOUR Championship so that every player in the 30-man field has a chance to win the $10,000,000 Fed Ex Cup. All those points players have been accumulating for 51 weeks? Toss them out the window. What they have been playing for is actually seeding in the season finale, with new points assigned based on your ranking. The Tour calls it “re-seeding” but that is just shorthand for “re-allocation of points.”
As the leader, Day begins with 2,000 points and the totals cascade down the list from there. The officials, however, rigged the totals so that any of the top five ranked players will automatically win the $10 million if they win the TOUR Championship this week. So, despite his stellar play this year, Jason Day doesn’t even have the best chance of winning the FedEx Cup he seems to have already clinched. Jordan Spieth (ranked #2), Rickie Fowler (#3), Henrik Stenson (#4) and Bubba Watson (#5) can still pocket the $10 million just by winning the TOUR Championship.
Scenarios Only an Accountant Could Love
If one of the top-five ranked players doesn’t win this week, all sorts of scenarios come into play and it’s time to break out the slide rules. In these scenarios, which involve every player’s finishing position, Day does indeed have the best odds of winning. In fact, the only way he CANNOT win the FedEx Cup, is to finish last in the 30-man field. If that happens, it opens the door for #30 ranked Harris English who can take home the $10,000,000 by winning the TOUR Championship and having a series of misfortunes happen to the other top-ranked players.
All the players ranked outside the top five faces similar, if less daunting, odds. To win the FedEx Cup all must first win the TOUR Championship and then study the rest of the leaderboard. To take one example, former World Number One Rory McIlroy is ranked 11th after an injury-plagued year. For McIlroy to capture the Cup after a win this week, Jason Day must finish tied for 6th or worse, Jordan Spieth must finish tied for 4th or worse, Rickie Fowler must finish outside the top 3, Stenson must finish in a 3-way tie for second or worse, and Watson cannot finish higher than third. A scenario not likely, but odder things have happened.
What’s a Golf Fan to Do?
If you enjoy NFL playoff tiebreaker rules, then this week in golf is for you. When you tune in the TOUR Championship, know that Day, Spieth, Fowler, Stenson, and Watson can all win the $10,000,000 by winning the tournament. Simple as that. However, if none of those five win at East Lake in Atlanta, the numbers crunchers determine the winner of the Cup. At that point, it’s best to just sit back and let someone tell you who won.