ATLANTA – Jim Furyk is among the top five seeds at the Tour Championship, meaning he doesn’t have to do any math to figure out how to collect the $10 million bonus for winning the FedEx Cup. All he has do is win at East Lake.
For the last two years, that hasn’t been easy.
Furyk is getting a lot of attention at the Tour Championship for all the wrong reasons. Because the points have been reset going into the final playoff event, he can win the $10 million prize without ever having won a tournament this year. One scenario would be for Furyk to finish second and Tiger Woods to finish fourth or worst.
How would he feel about that?
Furyk is tired of the possibilities that have been mentioned ad nauseum over the last week, ever since his tie for second at the BMW Championship – seven shots behind Woods – moved him up to the No. 3 seed. He can’t wait to stick a tee in the soggy turf of East Lake on Thursday and play 72 holes over the next four days against a 30-man field that represents some of the hottest players on the PGA Tour.
Good play takes care of everything. Furyk understands that better than most. Even so, he sees the possibility
of him winning the FedEx Cup without a tour victory as a potential problem.
“I don’t think that someone should be able to win the championship without winning a golf tournament,” Furyk said. “Obviously, it would be a testament to a good, solid season. You’ve played well, but if you’re going win a championship, you’re going to have to win something along the way.
“It’s not supposed to work out that way.”
It wouldn’t be Furyk’s fault if that’s how it transpired. He wouldn’t offer a refund. He also realizes the best way to end the debate that might follow is to win the Tour Championship.
“I come to every event trying to win the golf tournament,” he said.
In that respect, his goal is no different from Woods.
With so many scenarios, so many good players, so much money on the line, Woods is keeping it so simple.
“You always have the same approach and same attitude that you try and win every tournament you enter,” Woods said. “Whether it’s a regular tour event, a playoff event, World Golf Championship, Players, whatever it may be, it’s the same intensity. You bring the same attitude to play. … You win it, and you take care of everything else.”
Woods is the No. 1 seed by virtue of his five PGA Tour victories that put him atop the standings, and a sixth victory in a playoff event two weeks ago at the BMW Championship.
The next four seeds – Steve Stricker, Furyk, Zach Johnson and Heath Slocum – don’t have to look at a leaderboard. If they win the Tour Championship, they win the FedEx Cup.
The points can get confusing, and there are a couple of wild possibilities.
– Marc Leishman can win the FedEx Cup provided Woods finishes 10th or worse, and the next four seeds finish fifth or worse.
How did Leishman get in this position? Furthermore, who is Leishman?
The PGA Tour rookie from Australia was on the verge of being eliminated from the playoffs outside Boston three weeks ago until making an eagle on the final hole. His only way into the Tour Championship was to finish third in Chicago, and he played bogey-free in the final round with Woods at his side to tie for second.
– Slocum could win the FedEx Cup by winning the Tour Championship. He wasn’t even sure he would make the 125-man field at the start of the playoffs until his wife did the math and realized he qualified at No. 124 by two points. A week later, he won The Barclays over a world-class cast of runner-ups – Woods, Harrington, Stricker and Ernie Els.
– And the most bizarre scenario of all? There could be two sudden-death playoffs on Sunday – one to decide the Tour Championship, another to decide the FedEx Cup. It might even be the same two players. Imagine Furyk and Scott Verplank tied after 72 holes. They would have a playoff for the Tour Championship. If Verplank were to win, that would leave them tied in the FedEx Cup standings, and they would return to the par-3 18th for a playoff with a much bigger payoff.
No matter what happens, the Tour Championship is significant again.
It had become golf’s version of an All-Star game, bringing together the top 30 players from the money list to celebrate their season. Now, it likely has its strongest field ever, even if that might not show up in the world ranking or the money list.
The top 30 represents the best players of the season, and the hottest players of the last month. No one missing at East Lake can make a case that he belongs at the Tour Championship. Of the top 20 in the world, four PGA Tour members did not make it to East Lake – Vijay Singh, Sergio Garcia, Camilo Villegas and Ian Poulter. None has won a tournament this year.
“They might not be the best-ranked players, but they are the best performers,” Retief Goosen said. “It’s nice to see this come down to the very last event, which is what it’s supposed to do. It used to be for the guy leading the money list. It was just another event. Now, this means a lot more. It’s a high-profile event.”