This weekend’s Barclays tournament in New York marks the beginning of the lucrative FedEx Cup playoffs, and Ernie Els is in the lead. Can the Big Easy hang onto first place and claim the $10 million prize.

Unfortunately with the way the tournament has been structured it isn’t a massive help to be leading going into the playoffs, but it’s still better than being 125th.

How it works

The playoffs consist of four tournaments, the Barclays, the Deutsche Bank Championship, the BMW Championship and the final, the Tour Championship.

Points that are accumulated during the regular season do carry over into the playoffs, which is the small amount of help Ernie will get. The problem for Els is that points for playoff events are worth five times as much as regular season tournaments.

For example, after the entire season, Els leads the FedEx Cup table on 1 846 points, but there are 2 500 points available for winning a playoff event, so Els and all the other guys at the top will still need to play well to remain in the FedEx Cup.

Staying alive

To make it into the playoffs you need to be in the top 125 and ties in order to be a part of the first event, the Barclays. After Barclays, the field is cut down to the top 100 and ties in the FedEx Cup standings for the Deutsche Bank Championship, it is cut again to the top 70 and ties for the BMW Championship and then there is a big cull for the final, the Tour Championship, where only the top 30 and ties are eligible to compete.

The only way to make the FedEx Cup playoffs is to be inside the original field at the beginning of each event. If a player drops out due to injury or decides not to play, no alternates are called up. The field for that event is just one player light.

As a result of the decreasing field sizes, only the Barclays and Deutsche Bank Championship events have cuts.

Tiger Woods will have to play better than he has been to qualify for the Deutsche Bank Championship next weekend. He is currently 112th in the FedEx Cup points standings and needs to get to 100th or better to remain in the playoffs.

Reset

After the BMW Championship, the top 30 players in the FedEx Cup standings will have their points adjusted according to their position for the Tour Championship event. The adjustment means the top five players in the standings have the best chance to win, and effectively control their own destiny. If one of them wins the Tour Championship they will win the FedEx Cup. Players ranked six to 15th have a decent chance of winning, but need the top five to perform poorly even if they win the final event. All the players have at least a mathematical chance of winning, but outside the top 15 it becomes very unlikely.

For example, last year Phil Mickelson started the playoffs in sixth place, but after some poor performances, dropped down to 14th going into the Tour Championship, and even though he won the final tournament, he couldn’t catch Tiger Woods, who ended up winning in 2009. It is vital to be in the top five going into the final if you don’t want to rely on the results of others.

If there is a tie in FedEx Cup points at the end of the Tour Championship there is a sudden-death playoff immediately event to decide the winner.

The prize

There has been quite a lot of talk this year about European players turning their collective noses up at Ryder Cup qualification in favour of the FedEx Cup playoffs, and it isn’t hard to figure out why.

The winner of each of the playoff events earns a cool $1 350 000, and the overall winner of the FedEx Cup nets a scarcely-fathomable $10 million out of the bonus purse of $35 million. Every player who competes in the playoffs receives a piece of the bonus purse in accordance with their final position.

History

Tiger Woods won the first-ever FedEx Cup title in 2007 and again in 2009. Vijay Singh won the 2008 title before the Tour Championship even began, which prompted a change in the rules to make sure the winner was decided at the Tour Championship.

European Tour

This weekend is also the last chance for European players to grab qualification points for the Ryder Cup team, but with most of the players in contention entering the FedEx Cup playoffs instead, most of the focus will be on New York this weekend.

Peter Hanson has admitted that he is quite shocked by the lack of commitment shown by other European players, something the Mole has been saying for a while.

If you were Padraig Harrington or Paul Casey which option would you take? The potential to win $10 million or try qualify for a tournament you might play anyway, depending on the captain’s picks.

TV Schedule:

THURSDAY

Euro PGA: Johnnie Walker Championship At Gleneagles Day 1

16:30 – 19:30 – SuperSport 6

16:30 – 19:30 – SuperSport HD

US PGA: The Barclays Day 1

21:00 – 00:00 – SuperSport 6

21:00 – 00:00 – SuperSport HD

21:30 – 00:00 – CSN

FRIDAY

Euro PGA: Johnnie Walker Championship At Gleneagles Day 2

16:30 – 19:30 – SuperSport 6

US PGA: The Barclays Day 2

21:00 – 00:00 – SuperSport 6

21:25 – 00:00 – CSN

SATURDAY

Euro PGA: Johnnie Walker Championship At Gleneagles Day 3

16:30 – 19:30 – SuperSport 6

US PGA: The Barclays Day 3

21:00 – 00:00 – SuperSport 6

21:25 – 00:00 – CSN

SUNDAY

Euro PGA: Johnnie Walker Championship At Gleneagles Day 4

14:00 – 18:00 – SuperSport 6

US PGA: The Barclays Day 4

21:00 – 00:00 – SuperSport 6

21:25 – 00:00 – CSN

Betting:

The Barclays

Favourites:

12/1 – Rory McIlroy
12/1 – Phil Mickelson
13/1 – Tiger Woods
16/1 – Steve Stricker
25/1 – Jim Furyk
25/1 – Paul Casey

Southern Africans:

30/1 – Ernie Els
40/1 – Retief Goosen
70/1 – Tim Clark
100/1 – Brendon de Jonge
100/1 – Rory Sabbatini

Underdog:

300/1 – Kevin Stadler

Johnnie Walker Championship

Favourites:

16/1 – Ross Fisher
16/1 – Robert Karlsson
18/1 – Francesco Molinari
20/1 – Peter Hanson
20/1 – Simon Dyson
20/1 – Edoardo Molinari
20/1 – Miguel Angel Jimenez

South Africans:

200/1 – Hennie Otto
200/1 – George Coetzee
200/1 – Anton Haig

Underdog:

500/1 – David Orr