Monday, August 15, 2022

2022 FedEx Cup Playoffs: Rickie Fowler headlines golfers on the bubble at Wyndham Championship

This week’s Wyndham Championships is the last event of the 2021-22 PGA Tour regular season, and it represents the final opportunity for several golfers to solidify their spots in the 2022 FedEx Cup Playoffs, which begin next week at the FedEx St. Jude Championship. For some, this week is even more important than making the playoffs because if they don’t play their way into the top 125 in the FedEx Cup standings, they will have to attend Korn Ferry Tour Finals to regain a card for the 2022-23 PGA Tour season.

This will be the last year of the current system. Next year, Nos. 71-125 will miss the FedEx Cup Playoffs and subsequently play a fall schedule for status on the PGA Tour in 2024. They will not play in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals. However, that’s 12 months from now. This time around, there are some big names, former major winners and young potential stars going at it this week at Sedgefield Country Club for a spot next week in Memphis.

One interesting note off the top is that several players in this range are getting a built-in boost because golfers ahead of them who have transitioned to the LIV Golf League — like Dustin Johnson, Pat Perez, Brooks Koepka and others — are ineligible for the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Somebody like Stewart Cink is No. 125 on the overall list, but when you remove the LIV players, he jumps to No. 116. Let’s take a look at where some of those notable players stand and what they need to do to make the playoffs (you can view the full list at this link here). 

116. Stewart Cink: The former Open winner has his card through the 2024 season because he won last season, and because of the LIV factor he’s not really in jeopardy of falling out of the top 125 (otherwise he would be right on the bubble at No. 125). Cink will almost certainly be in the playoffs next week in Memphis.

117. Webb Simpson: The newly named Presidents Cup assistant captain is in an even better boat than Cink. Because of his Players Championship win in 2018, Simpson has his PGA Tour card locked up through 2026. He will also, barring something truly preposterous from 10 or so of the players just behind him, move on to the playoffs. Simpson has the added benefit that he thrives at this course and this tournament with five consecutive top-10 finishes here with five consecutive top-seven finishes and has a much better chance of moving up in the standings than moving down.

121. Chesson Hadley: Remember when Hadley made an ace in the final round at this tournament last year to squeeze into the FedEx Cup Playoffs? That was an incredible moment and one that Hadley certainly hopes is mimicked (with or without the ace) this week. The gap between Hadley and those outside the top 125 is thin. If No. 126 Max McGreevy finishes 32nd or better and Hadley misses the cut, then that would be enough for McGreevy to overtake him. Still, Hadley would need to be overtaken by five different players to fall out of the top 125, which is certainly feasible but not necessarily probable.

123. Rickie Fowler: He’s definitely the biggest name on the list, but like Cink and Simpson, Fowler is not in jeopardy of losing his PGA Tour card. His win at the 2019 Phoenix Open secured his card through the end of next year, and even after that he will have plenty of lifetime exemptions to use to stay on Tour. He’s in a similar spot as he was last year, though, when he came into the Wyndham Championship ranked No. 125. He missed the cut that week and dropped all the way to No. 134 and missed the playoffs.

125. Austin Smotherman: He is a nice benchmark since he currently sits on the No. 125 spot. Smotherman currently has just over 314 FedEx Cup points, which means that golfers at No. 146 or below would have to finish in the top six to catch and surpass him (presuming he doesn’t gain any points himself at Sedgefield). That’s a massive leap for a lot of players who are not too far behind the cutoff point to get into these playoffs.

Rick Gehman, Kyle Porter and Jonathan Coachman preview the 2022 Wyndham Championship. Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

127. Danny Willett: Eligibility for the 2016 Masters champion runs out this year, so he needs a solid week at Sedgefield to get into the top 125. The good news for him is that he’s moving in the right direction. Willett jumped 16 spots with his T7 finish at the 3M Open and also made the cut last week at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He also has the DP World Tour to fall back on for the remainder of the year if he wants to go that route. If he is unable to secure full status for next year, Willett might play more of a Tommy Fleetwood schedule where he jumps back and forth between tours and plays in the major championships.

129. Nick Hardy: A young potential star from the Korn Ferry Tour, Hardy popped at the U.S. Open (T14) and Travelers Championship (T8), but he has some work to do to get inside the top 125 and retain his card for next season. If he fails to finish in the top 25 or so — which he’ll need to do to advance — then he’ll be headed back to Korn Ferry Tour Finals to try and earn a card through that circuit for the second consecutive year.

130. Cameron Champ: Champ is notable for a few reasons, primarily because of his immense talent but also because he has some work to do to make his way into the playoffs. However, his win last year at the 3M Open has his card locked up for through the end of 2024, so he doesn’t have much to worry about on that front. Unless he wins this week or somehow gets into the playoffs and wins one of those events, this would be the first season in the last four that Champ would have gone winless.

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