Who’s hot? Our take on the Tour’s hottest players heading into the first round of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
1. Jason Day – 515.67 points
The Aussie took a week off after securing his first major victory at Whistling Straits and will get back to work at the Barclays in hopes giving Jordan Spieth a run for Player of the Year honors. That may seem like a stretch, but if Day manages to win the FedEx Cup—and, say, three of the four playoff events—that would put him on equal footing with Spieth in the eyes of many voters. And winning three of four may be within his reach—his game is red hot right now and he seems to get better with every round. Plus, the Barclays will be played at Plainfield CC in New Jersey, a course that requires finesse as well as precision, so hitting greens and making putts will be key. While Day ranks T22 in greens in regulation and ninth in strokes gained putting, what puts him over the top is the fact that he is sixth in scrambling and second in overall rankings.
2. Justin Rose – 428.33 points
Despite just one victory on the year, Rose is in the midst of a stellar season, getting into contention in a half dozen tournaments since the Masters. He ranks eighth in greens in regulation and fifth in strokes gained tee-to-green but his putter has been holding him back all year (T79 in strokes gained putting.) Davis Love III managed to overcome a balky flat stick in his win at Wyndham so there’s no reason Rose can’t do the same in Plainfield, where he finished T6 in 2011.
3. Jordan Spieth – 410.67 points
Winning the FedEx Cup would be the perfect ending for Spieth’s storybook season, but he’ll have to contend with recent history to do it: no points leader entering the playoffs has gone on to win the Cup since Tiger Woods in 2009. Spieth will need at least one win to ensure an overall victory, and all of his stats point to him having a great week at the Barclays. Despite ranking 47th in greens in regulation, he is sixth in strokes gained putting, second in strokes gained tee-to-green and third in scrambling. And clearly his performance in all four majors—where he set the all time record of 54-under par—is proof enough that he contends when it counts.
4. Brooks Koepka – 364.66 points
With his T6 at Wyndham, Koepka has now finished in the top-25 in his last eight starts, and based on his stats this year, he has what it takes to continue that streak at Plainfield. The 25-year-old is ninth in greens in regulation, eighth in strokes gained putting and 20th in strokes gained tee-to-green. Another edge is his play on par 4s, where he ranks sixth scoring average, a big plus at Plainfield.
5. Bubba Watson – 317.67 points
After coming in hot off runner-up finishes at the RBC Canadian Open and WGC-Bridgestone, Watson had to be disappointed with his 21st place finish at the PGA Championship. But Bubba just might be the owner of the biggest highs and lows of anyone in golf—you just never know how he’s going to play and so much of his game seems dependent on the course he’s playing. Tracks like Augusta National, Riviera and TPC River Highlands seem to bring out his best, but it’s unclear how he’ll fare at Plainfield, where he missed the cut in 2011. Plus, in nine Barclays starts, his best finish is T10 in 2012. Statistically speaking, he should do well as he is 32nd in greens in regulation, 37th in strokes gained putting and first in strokes gained tee-to-green. So the real question is: which Bubba Watson will show up to the first tee Thursday?
6. Robert Streb – 273 points
On paper, Streb—who ranks 11th in greens in regulation, 22nd in strokes gained putting and 27th in strokes gained tee to green—should be another contender at Plainfield. The Oklahoma native doesn’t have much experience on courses in the east, but he’s improved his performance this season—clearly his best to date—finishing T4 at Wells Fargo, T18 at Memorial, T2 at Greenbrier and fifth at Bridgestone.
7. Branden Grace – 269.17 points
His PGA Tour year came to a close with a T47 at Wyndham, and despite having enough points to qualify for the playoffs, he isn’t a full member of the PGA Tour so will have to sit this year out. On the upside, he did earn enough points—and dollars—to secure his card for next year and will become a full-fledged member when the new season kicks off with the Frys.com Open in October.
8. Jim Furyk – 255 points
Furyk, 45, would love to cap off this year like he did in 2010 when he won the FedEx Cup. The big difference is that in 2010, he ranked third going into the playoffs, while this year he is 18th. As for stats, Furyk is T28 in greens in regulation but 126th in strokes gained putting, so despite being fourth in strokes gained tee-to-green, he will need to be better with the flatstick if he hopes to make a run for the Cup.
9. David Lingmerth – 246 points
Lingmerth returns to the playoffs after a 134th-place finish last year. He enters this year’s playoffs ranked 21st, but will likely struggle at Plainfield. He is T123 in greens in regulation, 56th in strokes gained putting and has struggled on Northeast-style courses until he won at Muirfield Village. Since then, he’s finished T6 at Greenbrier and sixth at Bridgestone, indicating that he’s starting to feel more comfortable on that type of layout.
10. Zach Johnson – 231.5 points
The British Open champ might also face a challenge at the Barclays. Johnson hasn’t broken par since his final round 66 at St. Andrews. The stats don’t paint a rosy picture either as Johnson is 55th in greens in regulation and 133rd in strokes gained putting. Plus, he missed the cut at Plainfield in 2011. His best finish at the Barclays was T22 in 2014.
Inside the rankings:
*Off the GOLFstats player rankings, we determine the hottest players based on the last nine weeks on the PGA Tour. Keys to the system:
*132 points for regular tour win. All finishers in top-50 get points via a declining scale.
*198 points for a win in WGC events and the Players Championship, 264 points for a major win.
*Points are lost for missed cuts, DQs or WDs: 10 for regular events, 15 for WGC and Players, 20 for majors
*All points get degraded 1/3 after weeks 4, 5 & 6, and by 2/3 for weeks 7, 8 & 9