JERSEY CITY N.J. – Players move on quickly after a good or bad tournament, most weeks on the PGA Tour. But at The Northern Trust, one’s performance can be enough to send a player home or keep alive his season.
Keith Mitchell was one of six players who played their way into the top 70 on the FedExCup standings and into the BMW Championship.
Mitchell came into the week ranked 101st in the standings. Fighting for a spot in the second of three playoff events, he birdied his final three holes during Monday’s weather-delayed final round, securing him a tee time on Thursday, at 64th in points.
“We knew 13 [under] was probably going to be close, but the odds were in my favor,” said Mitchell, who tied for eighth at 13 under par. “So, when that putt dropped [on 18], I was super excited and just kind of looked around to find some media official and the stats guys to figure out if it was good enough. I figured it was, and it looks like it is.”
With Hurricane Henri extending the tournament an extra day, there will be a quick turnaround to get to Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Maryland, and Mitchell will celebrate accordingly, by driving his BMW to the BMW.
Harry Higgs will add a little more taste – Tito’s vodka and water, that is – to his celebration after a closing 68 sent him to the second leg of the playoffs for a second year in a row. But the festivities had to stay on ice.
“It's a great question, because I guess I've got to drive there,” Higgs said, in response to how he was going to celebrate getting to 69th in points. “So, cocktails probably are going to be delayed until getting to Baltimore. More than likely with probably a not-so-healthy meal, a drink upon arrival, probably one more before I go to sleep and then finally, for the first time in what feels like four weeks, sleeping without an alarm set.”
Alex Noren came to New Jersey 94th in the FedExCup standings and the Swede finished T-4, boosting him to 43rd.
Tom Hoge was 108th in the standings and also tied for fourth – his best finish of the year – to rise to 48th. He’s the lowest of anyone in the original standings to advance to the second event.
Erik van Rooyen, two weeks removed from his first Tour win at the Barracuda Championship, played his way into the final group in Round 4 after a third-round 62. Despite making a quadruple-bogey 7 on the 11th hole, he shot 71 and finished solo seventh. That moved him from 76th to 45th.
"At the end of the day,” van Rooyen said, “happy to be moving to BMW.”
Harold Varner III sprung to a Day 1 lead after a 5-under 66, and fired three more rounds of par or better, helping move him from 72nd to 56th in points. It’s the third time in his career that he’s gone from outside the bubble to inside, after the first playoff event.
"Yeah, I feel like I keep doing this, so it's good,” said Varner, who finished T-11. "But I'd like to come here and be automatically there. It is what it is. I feel like I'm playing well. Just got to drive it a little better."
At the BMW Championship, Varner is looking to play his way into the Tour Championship for the first time in his career.
"But, yeah, a good week. Had to have it," he said. "I'm glad the season is not over, but obviously want to play well next week and give myself a chance to get into East Lake."
Of course, there is a flipside to the coin. Seamus Power, the Barbasol Championship winner in July, was a projected 69th in the standings playing his 72nd hole at Liberty National. But he missed a 13-foot par putt to end his season. The Irishman still managed a smile after his round.
"It what is it is," Power said. "I gave it my best. Bogey at the last [is] disappointing, but in a few days I'll be feeling better about it."
Power has never advanced to the second round of the FedExCup playoffs, however, just being here means he’ll be on the PGA Tour next season and not fighting for a card at Korn Ferry Tour finals.
"[Being in the playoffs] was great,” he said. "It was my second time in the playoffs, and really first time with a chance to advance to the penultimate one. So, it was different for me. These are the fields you want to be playing in. I wish I had my best game coming in here, give yourself a chance, but I was able to hang in there. Solid week, nothing special, but something to build on for next season."
Phil Mickelson, meanwhile, can breathe a sigh of relief. After missing the cut, he finished on the cut line, at 70th, and is on to the BMW.
However, with six players moving into the top 70, that means six players moved out and they now have some extra time on their hands.
Matthew Wolff, like Mickelson, missed the cut at Liberty National. But unlike Mickelson, Wolff’s season is over after he dropped from 59th to 71st in the standings.
Likewise, Englishmen and former Ryder Cuppers Tyrell Hatton and Matthew Fitzpatrick missed the cut at Liberty National, which ultimately knocked them out of the playoffs.
The same can be said for Martin Laird, Troy Merritt and J.T. Poston. All three missed the cut and now all three are done – at least for a few weeks, until the new season begins.