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FedExCup 101: How does the PGA Tour's new postseason work?

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With the PGA Tour having dramatically overhauled the FedExCup Playoffs, here's a (hopefully) helpful primer on the new postseason:

You may ask yourself, "These are not my usual playoffs. This is not my normal Tour Championship. How did I get here?" 

The PGA Tour first staged the FedExCup Playoffs in 2007. The postseason has undergone a series of tweaks in the intervening years. This is the 13th edition of the playoffs and the first in which there will can only be one champion crowned at East Lake. We'll get to that in a moment. 

How many events are there?

Previously consisting of four events, the postseason slate has been trimmed to three as part of the Tour's scheduling overhaul. The playoffs now consist of The Northern Trust, BMW Championship and Tour Championship. The top 125 players on the FedExCup points list qualify for The Northern Trust. Thereafter, the top 70 move on to the BMW and the top 30 advance to the finale, where the Tour has made some serious changes.

OK, so how does the Tour Championship work now? I seem to remember Tiger Woods and Justin Rose both standing victorious last year.

You remember correctly, but those days are over. Now, there can only be one, with the victor at East Lake also being crowned FedExCup champion. Unlike in the past, the season finale at East Lake is now a weighted tournament to identify a single champion. 

What do you mean weighted?

Right, this might sound a little odd, but the new Tour Championship doesn't work like any other PGA Tour event. Players are going to start with an advantage (or disadvantage) based on their season-long performance. This will be reflected in the number of strokes they are spotted prior to the tournament. 

How does that work?

The No. 1 player on the FedExCup points list after the BMW Championship is going to start the Tour Championship at 10 under par. Nos. 2-5 will start at 8 under, 7 under, 6 under and 5 under, respectively. From there, Nos. 6-10 will start a 4 under, Nos. 11-15 at 3 under, Nos. 16-20 at 2 under, Nos. 21-25 at 1 under and Nos. 26-30 at even par.

So what would that look like?

There are two more tournaments before the field is set, but – just to give you an idea – here's how the Tour Championship would start based on the top 30 at the end of the regular season.

  • Brooks Koepka: 10 under
  • Rory McIlroy: 8 under
  • Matt Kuchar: 7 under
  • Xander Schauffele: 6 under
  • Gary Woodland: 5 under
  • Patrick Cantlay, Dustin Johnson, Paul Casey, Webb Simpson, Jon Rahm: 4 under
  • Justin Rose, Marc Leishman, Rickie Fowler, Chez Reavie, Charles Howell III: 3 under
  • Tony Finau, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, Tommy Fleetwood, Shane Lowry: 2 under
  • Adam Scott, Kevin Kisner, Sungjae Im, Ryan Palmer, Francesco Molinari: 1 under
  • Scott Piercy, J.T. Poston, Tiger Woods, Sung Kang, Hideki Matsuyama: Even par

Well, that's certainly different.

Indeed, it is. And for reference, here's how a past edition of the FedExCup Playoffs would have played out under this new format. 

Alrighty, then. They still playing for a lot of money?

They are. The FedExCup payout pool has been raised from a total of $35 million to $60 million, with the winner now in line for a $15 million windfall.

Where are these tournaments played, and what happened to the Boston stop?

The Northern Trust will played this year at Liberty National in New Jersey. The course, site of the 2017 President Cup, previously hosted the postseason opener in 2009 and '13. In 2020, The Northern Trust will head to TPC Boston, the longtime stage for the Tour's now-defunct playoff event, previously sandwiched between The Northern Trust and BMW. Speaking of the BMW, that will be held this year at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago. The Tour Championship, as always, will be at East Lake in Atlanta.