‘There’s only one way to get there’: Playoff bubble boys pressing at BMW
WILMINGTON, Del. — Keegan Bradley was grinding over a par putt on the 8th hole in the opening round of the BMW Championship like his season depended on it.
That’s because it did.
Bradley, who entered the week 44th in the FedEx Cup standings, drilled the 9-footer to stay bogey free on his front nine. He birdied the next hole to go out in 29 on his way to a sparkling seven-under 64 to take a one stroke lead. The PGA Tour projects Bradley as the third-ranked player in the standings if the leaderboard remained unchanged, safely putting Bradley into top-30 who move on to the Tour Championship next week in Atlanta.
But even after his quick start in Delaware, Bradley is keeping his calendar open.
“I don’t have any plans,” Bradley said. “My plan is I’m going to go home and see my kids no matter what on Sunday night. I’m going to be home on Sunday night regardless of what happens here. … I’d love to go to Atlanta. Obviously that’s everyone’s goal to start the year.”
In a similar situation was Bradley’s playing partner, Adam Scott, who is No. 45 in the FedEx Cup (as the pairings this week are done based on FedEx Cup standing this week). Scott, too, played well Thursday, opening with a six-under 65 to hold second alone, one back of Bradley. Scott is now projected 13th in the standings, which would send him to his first Tour Championship since 2019.
“One of the beauties of the Playoffs is that there is enough volatility that you can have a couple good weeks and get yourself right in the mix,” Scott said. “No matter where, if I was at East Lake starting 10 back or five back or six back, I’d be there thinking I’ve got a chance to win the whole lot.”
Scott played his way into the field this week thanks to a tied for fifth finish last week at the FedEx St. Jude Championship. He entered the FedEx Cup Playoffs at 77th in the points standings.
The leaderboard is filled with players in Bradley’s and Scott’s position. Eight of the top-12 players on the leaderboard entered the week outside the top-30 on the FedEx Cup.
Shane Lowry started the week 37th in the FedEx Cup standings, but after an opening 66, he’s projected 22nd and onto next week.
“I was actually thinking about that on the course today,” Lowry said. “I think I just need to focus on trying to win this tournament and trying to do well in this tournament. Look, I’d love to get to East Lake, but I also want to get to East Lake with a chance to kind of do something special. If I wanted to do that, I need to do something very good this week, so I need a really good finish this week, and hopefully that will put me not too far off the leader going into next week, and then you never know what could happen.”
Other than Bradley, Harold Varner III saw his projected standing increase the most thanks to his own opening 66 at Wilmington Country Club.
“I’m pretty determined to make it to East Lake, and there’s only one way to get there, and that’s to play well,” Varner said.
Even after solid opening rounds, the math says some players may need to play even better. That includes rookie Christiaan Bezuidenhout. After a four-under 67, leaving him in a tie for sixth, Bezuidenhout still finds himself on the outside looking in to the field at East Lake, projected 44th in the standings after the first round.
The Tour says the absolute worst finish Bezuidenhout can have and still move on to the Tour Championship is solo 8th, but that also depends on what guys in front of and behind him in the standings do.
“I just came out here to give myself a chance,” he said. “I’m just going to play my game. If I make it, great; if I don’t, I’m really pleased with a good rookie season on the PGA TOUR to have made it to this point.”