Essential Golf: A passion for the Game

The FedExCup Playoffs – What Happens Next?

The FedEx cup consists of three tournaments. The Northern Trust, The BMW Championship and The Tour Championship make up the playoff series that concludes at East Lake (seen above) on August 29th.

The Northern Trust Open will be played this week at Liberty National Golf Course. A par 71, 7410-yard course boasting spectacular views of The Statue of Liberty and Downtown New York. Liberty National is a Tom Kite and Bob Cupp collaboration, famous for its bent grass fairways.

Five of the 11 par 4s on the course measure longer than 450 yards, and they play 5 of the most challenging six holes on the course. Holes 9 and 15 are both ranked inside the 50 toughest holes on tour. In 2019 only Kevin Tway shot a bogey-free round over the weekend at this event.

There is absolutely no doubt that Liberty National Golf Course is a tough course.

Dustin Johnson’s 30-under par, 11-shot triumph at last year’s Northern Trust was the most significant margin of victory on the PGA since Phil Mickelson won by 13 strokes in 2006 at TPC Sugarloaf. If Johnson can defend his trophy, he will be the first golfer to defend the FedEx Cup; neither of the only two men to have won the FedEx Cup twice, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, claimed back-to-back victories.


Fifty-five golfers will be eliminated from the FedEx Cup following this weekend’s play, with only the top 70 in the standings following The Northern Trust Open moving onto Caves Valley Golf Club in Maryland next week to the BMW Championship.

The BMW Championship is the second stop on the PGA Tour playoff series and one of the younger championships on the PGA Tour. Known until 2007 as the Western Open, both the name and the invitational criteria changed. The BMW Championship, as it then became known, has been named tournament of the year four times: in 2008, 2012, 1013 and 2014

Following the name change in 2007, the tournament restricted amateur golfers from entering and became the then third stop on the FedEx Cup series.

This year’s event will be held at Caves Valley Golf Club in Baltimore. A par-71 course measuring 6974 yards and designed by Tom Fazio. A scenic course that plays through the rolling hills of Maryland.

Oddly, the course has never before hosted a PGA Tour event with the U.S Senior Open in 2002, the closest it has come.

John Rahm won last year’s BMW Championship with a sensational 65-foot birdie putt that rolled from one end of the 18th green to the other before dropping into the cup on the first playoff hole.


Rahm had a wonderful Sunday, a 6-under-par 64 to finish the week at 4-under and go to a playoff against Dustin Johnson, who came into the final day as the 54-hole leader for the third straight tournament.

With only 70 players in the field at the BMW, there is no 36-hole cut. The top 30 participants of the BMW Championship will advance to the final playoff event – The Tour Championship – where the FedEx Cup will be presented.

East Lake Golf Club in downtown Atlanta became the permanent home of the PGA Tour Championship in 2004; in 2019, however, the format changed, and the 30 players who advanced from the BMW Championship are seeded based on their FedEx Cup standings and all start with certain handicaps.

Seed 1 – 10 under par
Seed 2 – 8 under
Seed 3 – 7 under
Seed 4 – 6 under
Seed 5 – 5 under
Seeds 6-10 – 4 under
Seeds 11-15 – 3 under
Seeds 16-20 – 2 under
Seeds 21-25 – 1 under
Seeds 26-30 – even par

The handicapped format, giving the advantage to the players who have done well throughout the year, was introduced in 2019 and continues to be controversial. Rory McIlroy was the first tournament winner in its current handicapped form in 2019, with Johnson winning it in 2020.

The par-4, 14th hole at East Lake is the most challenging hole in the Tour Championship year after year. The 526-yard hole is staring right back at the players as they take the tee but poses a tough tee shot to a very narrow landing zone with the added difficulty of a long approach onto a green, heavily bunker-protected.

As always, the final three events of the season will be filled with drama and excitement. There are several past winners and some very on form players in the mix this year, who will all be fighting till the very end in Atlanta, Georgia.

Previous FedEx Cup Winners.

2020 – Dustin Johnson
2019 – Rory McIlroy*
2018 – Justin Rose
2017 – Justin Thomas
2016 – Rory McIlroy
2015 – Jordan Spieth
2014 – Billy Horschell
2013 – Henrik Stenson
2012 – Brandt Snedeker
2011 – Bill Haas
2010 – Jim Furyk

*In 2019, the FedEx Cup reformatted, meaning the Tour Championship winner and FedEx Cup winner are one and the same.