Two former world No. 1s! Two Olympic medalists! Season may end for big names
A former world No. 1 and a Masters champ. Another former world No. 1 and a U.S. Open winner. Two of this year’s three Olympic medalists. And fan favorite Rickie Fowler.
The PGA Tour’s first-ever “super season,” with six major championships and 50 events total, is playing the last week of its regular season, and with it, a few of golf’s bigger names may be playing the last week of their season, period. The Tour’s three-week playoff system begins next week, when the top 125 golfers in the season-long FedEx Cup standings tee it up at the Northern Trust, and it ends with 30 players competing at the Tour Championship over Labor Day weekend.
The top 125 also are guaranteed their Tour cards for next season, though many of the aforementioned stars are exempt through other means. To note, players ranked 125 to 200 can attempt to win back full-time Tour status through the three-week Korn Ferry Tour finals, which begin next week.
A look, then, at the stars who are playing this week’s Wyndham Championship — and then possibly might not play again on Tour until the next season begins with the Fortinet Championship next month:
The former Masters champ and world No. 1 is No. 121 in the standings, and according to projections from the Tour, he likely needs to finish 51st or better this week to advance. Scott is exempt through the 2023-24 season thanks to his victory at the Genesis Invitational in February of last year.
Scott, who has never missed the playoffs in its 14 years of existence, has missed just one cut this season, but has played in only 17 events, with his highest finish a tie for 10th at the Farmers Insurance Open at the start of the year. During Thursday’s first round at the Wyndham, he shot a four-under 66 and is four shots out of the lead.
“Obviously the season hasn’t gone how I wanted, and I feel like I’m kind of playing with house money,” Scott said. “I mean, I’m not really thinking about it. I’m more interested in getting my game into the shape I feel it should be, and it’s getting closer. I would like to play well this week and get a chance to play next week and keep getting my game into place. It’s hard to improve your game when you don’t have a chance to play, so at the moment, my goal is to just keep playing week after week.”
Kuchar, a four-time member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team, is No. 124 in the standings, and according to projections from the Tour, he likely needs to finish 42nd or better this week to advance. Kuchar is exempt through the 2022-23 season.
Kuchar, who also has never missed the playoffs, has made 11 cuts this season and been cut 11 times. On Thursday, he also shot a 66.
Fowler, one of the biggest names in golf, is No. 130 in the standings, and according to projections from the Tour, he likely needs to finish 21st or better this week to advance. Fowler is exempt through the 2022-23 season thanks to his victory at the Players Championship in 2015.
Fowler, who has never missed the playoffs in his career, tied for eighth at the PGA Championship, but he has no other top 10s and has missed eight cuts this season. On Thursday, he shot a 71 and is nine strokes out of the lead.
“It’s kind of right out there laid out in front of me; I know exactly what needs to be done,” Fowler said. “So in a way, it’s just go play solid golf and that’s all I can control or do to control what’s — if I’m moving forward or not. Yeah, it’s pretty simple. Back up against the wall, go make some more birdies than I do bogeys and get a tee time next week, and if not, you don’t. Yeah, it’s kind of just all on me, that’s about it.”
Fleetwood, a 2018 Ryder Cup star, is No. 136 in the standings, and according to projections from the Tour, he likely needs to finish 11th or better this week to advance. Fleetwood is no longer exempt after this season, but he’s 35th in the world golf rankings and could work his way into events through that route.
On Thursday, Fleetwood also shot a 66.
“It’s not going to make or break my year,” Fleetwood said of the playoffs. “Like I think I’ve had a long enough season, I’ve had enough events to be doing a lot better and I haven’t, so I’m not going to like, I’m not going to come into this week and overload myself with pressure thinking I need to get into the playoffs.
“Fact is, I’m not there. I really want to be there, and I also, I mean I just said it, I could still win the FedExCup. Like I could still have a great run and go to Atlanta and win the FedExCup and I’m not going to lose sight of that.”
Rose, a U.S. Open champion and a former world No. 1, is No. 138 in the standings, and according to projections from the Tour, he likely needs to finish 10th or better this week to advance. Rose is exempt through the 2023-24 season thanks to his victory at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in 2018.
Rose, the 2018 FedEx Cup champion, finished in the top 10 at the Masters and the PGA Championship — but those are his only top 10s this season. On Thursday, Rose shot, you guessed it, a 66.
“The playoffs isn’t something you want to miss and it’s something I haven’t ever missed and it’s something that you don’t want to make a habit of,” he said. “Obviously I do have exemptions and this and that — that’s nice to be able to rely on — but from a pride point of view, I think it’s really, really important to make a run into the playoffs. The playoffs are designed to give someone an opportunity to make up for what hasn’t been a good season.
Molinari, an Open Championship winner, is No. 140 in the standings, and according to projections from the Tour, he likely needs to finish sixth or better this week to advance. Molinari is exempt through the 2024-25 season thanks to his Open win.
On Thursday, he shot a 67.
Rory Sabbatini and C.T. Pan
Pan is 120th in the standings, and according to projections from the Tour, he likely needs to finish 60th or better this week to advance. Pan is also exempt for next season after winning the 2019 RBC Heritage.
Sabbatini, however, is not exempt, though he could use a one-time exemption for being in the top on the Tour career money list. And he is 141st in the standings, likely needing a fifth-place finish or better to advance. On Thursday, he, too, shot a 66, while Pan fired a 68.
“Obviously this is a huge week. I’ve got a big job to do,” Sabbatini said. “… I know I’ve got a tough job, it’s a good field, a lot of good players, so I’ve just got to keep my head down and keep trying to move forward and hopefully make it to next week.”
Then there’s Zalatoris. His name is nowhere to be found in the standings. And the only way he can play next week is if he wins this week. But he’s ranked No. 29 in the world and finished second at the Masters and eighth at the PGA.
As described by GOLF’s Jessica Marksbury here, Zalatoris is playing this season as a special temporary member, and he’d have to gain his Tour card through a Wyndham victory to move on to the playoffs. He has, however, accumulated enough points to play next season.
On Thursday, he shot a 68.
“Even if he’s ahead of me in the FedExCup playoffs, I think he deserves to be in the playoffs,” Webb Simpson said on Wednesday. “Nothing that the Tour has done wrong, I just think it’s a tool that really needs to be looked at and revised. He’s played long enough now and in enough events and played well enough, he deserves to be there. The only reason he’s not there is because of the way the rule is written, but I feel like I speak for pretty much all the players that I’ve talked to at least that Will should be in New York next week and it stinks that he won’t be unless he wins.”