With four majors and the first Olympic gold medal in over 100 years in golf’s 2016 rearview mirror, it’s time for the richest competition in the sport.
First played in 2007, the FedEx Cup was birthed out of the PGA Tour need to keep top players on the course and your eyeballs tuned to tour events once football came back on the calendar in the late summer and early fall. Staged over the last month of the season, the earliest editions of the event got plenty of side-eye from players, fans and media. For a sport where the largest events on the schedule have at minimum 80 years of history, it’s often hard to create prestige in a new event — heck, a new Olympic gold medal wasn’t compelling to some players, and others roll their eyes at the 40-year-old Players Championship.
But, like everything, money eventually won out. Olympic gold medals are nice, but they aren’t able to keep generations of your family comfortable for quite some time. The $10 million winner’s bonus at stake over the course of four tournaments can do exactly that, and that comes on top of giant $5.3 million tournament purses per event.
That’s a lotttttttttttttttttttttttt of cash.
Schedule and Format
The FedEx Cup Playoffs always entail four tournaments, each set in four different locales, over the course of the final five weeks of the season. It’s a demanding stretch of golf for the world’s top players, especially in 2016 with the Olympics sandwiched between the majors and the FedEx Cup and the Ryder Cup coming the week following the awarding of the $10 million prize.
The Playoff schedule always opens with the final full-field event of the 2015-2016 PGA Tour season at The Barclays in the New York City area. After that, the remaining contenders head to the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston over Labor Day Weekend and then the following week to the BMW Championship in, generally, the Midwest. Following a bye week, everything finishes up with the winner's check handed out at the Tour Championship in Atlanta.
And this year, players will be tested on two major championship venues — alongside the regular two stops at TPC Boston and East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
The Barclays, Aug. 25-28 -- Top 125 in FEC Standings
The Barclays is back in Black. Or rather, should we say, at The Black. The highest-ranking 125 players in the FedEx Cup standings after the Wyndham Championship will take to Bethpage Black — site of the 2002 and 2009 US Opens, as well as the future site of the 2019 PGA Championship — to try to tame the New York metropolitan area’s most famed track. Nick Watney won the the event the last time it was at the golf course, but he won’t be defending his title; he’s been out since January with a herniated disk in his back. The Black should still be a major-esque challenge for players. It stretches out to nearly 7,500 yards — a modern bomber’s course that should favor the stronger players off the tee like Jason Day and Rory McIlroy.
The older (read, those watching 10 years ago) might remember The Barclays as the event known as the Westchester Classic or Buick Classic. Long held at Westchester Country Club, the tournament was a regular stop on the PGA Tour dating back to 1967, when Jack Nicklaus won the initial event.
Day won the event last season, when it was held at Plainfield Country Club in Edison, New Jersey.
At this year's edition, Rickie Fowler stumbled down the stretch after an opportunity to play his way onto the Ryder Cup roster passed him by and Patrick Reed took home the title.
Deutsche Bank Championship, Sep. 2-5 -- Top 100 in FEC Standings
The Top 100 after the Barclays stay in the northeast for the second week of the Playoffs, heading to TPC Boston in Norton, Massachusetts. And while the lengthy track might give some shade of Bethpage, that’s about the only place where the tournament reflects the previous week — except for the loud, boisterous Northeastern galleries.
Opened in 2002 and hosting its first pro tournament a year later in 2003, TPC Boston was built with the intention of bringing a PGA Tour stop back to the Boston area after the old New England Classic (CVS Charity Classic) ceased to exist in 1998. Designed by Arnold Palmer and altered by Gil Hanse, Boston plays as you’d expect a TPC not named Sawgrass to play. It’s gettable for players, and we’ve seen many get into the low 60s and approach 59 here in recent years.
Rickie Fowler won the event in 2015, but failed to follow up his stumble at The Barclays with a rebound. It was Rory McIlroy that stole the show in the second event of the FedEx Cup playoffs with a final round 64 -- en route to his first worldwide win since the Irish Open in June.
BMW Championship, Sep. 8-11 -- Top 70 in FEC Standings
After a long, 44-year absence in the city, the PGA Tour returned to Indianapolis when the BMW Championship ventured down from its traditional Chicago home. Now just four years later, the highest level of pro golf is back in the Circle City.
The 2012 edition of the FedEx Cup’s second-to-last event drew wide praise from the Tour. Indianapolis turned out massive crowds for the week, and the Tour awarded the Western Golf Association (the event’s organizers, along with BMW) the Tournament of the Year Award for the showing.
But things weren’t all rosy on the course. Wet conditions leading into the event led players to tear up the Pete Dye design and host of John Daly’s famous 1991 PGA Championship win. With a winning score of 20-under, Rory McIlroy forced players and media members to wonder out loud if the course was difficult enough to be in the BMW rotation. The course’s membership and Dye have responded, reworking portions of the golf course to suit the game’s long-bombers playing in 2016, rather than Daly and company in 1991.
The BMW Championship is the modern incarnation of the WGA’s Western Open, which was known as a major in the earlier days of American golf and played 103 times before halting in 2006.
Jason Day won the tournament last year when it was held in Chicago.
Tour Championship, Sept. 22-25 — Top 30 in FEC Standings
Once upon a time, the Tour Championship could be likened to something closer to the Grand Slam of Golf or Kapalua Tournament of Champions than a big time tournament on the PGA Tour. Held at East Lake Golf Course in Atlanta since 2004, the event was once a throw-away, fun-money event for the top players on Tour come November. Now moved up to late September as the finishing event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, a player could leave the tournament nearly $12 million richer than when he landed at Hartsfield if things shake out properly.
Given the way the points are structured for all four events, the FedEx Cup title can’t be decided until the leaders are off the course at East Lake, and it makes for great drama down the stretch. After a stumbling start to the four-week stretch, Jordan Spieth won the no-cut, 30-man event last year en route to hanging onto his first FedEx Cup title ever.