BMW Championship: A FedEx Cup Playoffs Primer

Most golf fans know what the FedEx Cup is, but how do the playoffs work?

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Prior to 2007, the PGA Tour season sort of sputtered out between the PGA Championship and the Tour Championship, which was played at the end of October. There were a bunch of events that not many players participated in, and there never really felt like there was a conclusive end to the season.

That year, the Tour began the FedEx Cup, a playoff system that encompassed four events over a five-week span that was designed to crown a "Tour Champion," and to reward him with a $10 million top prize for amassing the most FedEx Cup points.

The BMW Championship, which is run by the Western Golf Association, the entity that used to run the Western Open, has been part of that playoff system since its inception. The tournament has been held at several courses, with the most notable being Cog Hill Country Club in suburban Lemont.

This year's edition, being played at Conway Farms in Lake Forest, will feature the top 70 players in the FedEx Cup points standings and will determine who will make up the field of 30 players that will compete for the Tour Championship next week in Atlanta.

The FedEx Cup system is a mystery to many casual golf fans, but to help out, here are the highlights of how it works:

  • Throughout the PGA Tour season, players amass FedEx Cup points based on their performances in various events. The higher a player finishes in an event, the more points they get, with winners at regular tournaments getting 500 points and the winners at majors (The Masters, US Open, Open Championship, and PGA Championship) getting 600 points.
  • After the Wyndham Championship, the top 125 players are then eligible to compete in the first leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs, The Barclays. The top 100 after that event are then eligible to play in the Deutsche Bank Championship. The top 70 then advance to play in the BMW Championship, with the top 30 in that event advancing to the season-ending Tour Championship.
  • Point distribution changes once the FedEx Cup playoffs begin, so that there is more incentive for players to play well (or to play at all) in the events. Wins are worth 2500 points rather than the 500 they are during the regular season, and all other positions see a bump in their point value as well. This increased volatility makes the events more fun to watch, as players fret over every putt that could send their playoff hopes sky high, or cause them to crash and burn.
  • In the first two events of the FedEx Cup playoffs, there is a 36-hole cut, where part of the field isn't eligible to compete on the weekend. At the BMW Championship, however, there is no cut, so all 70 players will play 72 holes. That means that even if a player struggles mightily the first two days, they can still make a charge back and make themselves eligible for the Tour Championship.
  • After the BMW Championship, all points earned up to that point are wiped off the board, and the players are reseeded, with the top player beginning at 2500 and the 30th place golfer beginning with 210. The reason the Tour made this change was because of what happened in the 2008 playoffs, when Vijay Singh (the only former FedEx Cup champion not in the field this week at Conway Farms) racked up enough points in the first three playoff events to clinch the title before the Tour Championship.
  • The winner of the final points standings not only gets a $10 million prize, but they are also given an exemption to all PGA Tour events for five years as a reward. The winner of the Tour Championship also receives a three-year exemption to all Tour events.
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