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How Tiger can make the FedEx Cup playoffs

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Tiger Woods was asked last week at Congressional if he expected to play in the July 17-20 Open Championship.

“Yeah,” he replied. “I’m just trying to get in the (FedEx Cup) playoffs somehow.”

That goal became more difficult to achieve when he missed the cut at the Quicken Loans National. 

It required some advanced-level math, but after crunching the numbers on our FedEx Cup calculator, one thing is clear: Woods needs to play well – very well – in his next three starts to have any chance of playing in golf’s postseason.

If he sticks to his usual schedule, Woods will have three more starts during the regular season (Open, Bridgestone, PGA). After four events this season, Woods has accrued 43 points and currently sits No. 208 on the FedEx Cup points list – behind Champions Tour player Mark Calcavecchia and world No. 333 Alex Prugh.

The cutoff man entering the Greenbrier Classic is Nick Watney, who is 125th on the list at 346 points. projects that, at the end of the wraparound regular season, No. 125 will have somewhere between 410-415 points. 

Complete FedEx Cup points rankings

Woods, then, will need to make up about 370 points in three events to be safe – or an average of 123 points per start.

All majors award 600 FedEx Cup points to the winner, with 330 to the runner-up, 210 to third place, 150 to fourth and 120 to fifth. 

The Bridgestone Invitational, a WGC event, awards 550 to the winner, with 315 to the runner-up, 200 to third place, 140 to fourth and 115 to fifth. 

What’s that mean for Woods? Well, he likely has to average at least a fifth-place finish in his next three starts. If he finishes fifth at the Open (120), fourth at the Bridgestone (140) and fifth at the PGA (120), he would have 423 points at the end of the regular season. That’d likely put him in the playoffs, or at least right on the cut line.

Let’s say he places 30th at the Open, a finish worth of only 41 FedEx Cup points. That would leave him with about 330 points to make up, and although the projections would change based on what he does at the Bridgestone – a no-cut event in which he’s guaranteed points – he’d likely need to average a top-3 finish in his last two starts to advance.

If he misses the cut at Hoylake, he’d also likely need a pair of top-3s at the Bridgestone and PGA to move on. 

Of course, winning takes care of everything, as Woods has been known to say, and that’s certainly true in the case of the FedEx Cup. A victory in any of his next three starts would give him either 550 (WGC) or 600 points (majors) and put him in position to at least make a few playoff starts. A runner-up or third-place finish at the Open would obviously help his cause, as well. 

Woods’ appearance in the FedEx Cup playoffs would impact not just fan interest and television ratings, but it’d also help shape the direction of the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Captain Tom Watson reiterated Tuesday that he wants Woods (currently 69th in points) on the 12-man team if “he’s healthy and playing well.” It’d be a tough sell to select Woods, however, if he can’t play his way into the playoffs and then sits on the sidelines for another month and a half after the PGA.