A Guide to the FedEx Cup

FedEx Cup contenders Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh
John Biever (Furyk); Fred Vuich (Singh); Robert Beck (Mickelson); Wireimage.com (Cup)

The first PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedEx Cup are upon us, and despite what you may have heard, the format is not as complicated as quantum physics. For those who have not been sweating the details, here's all you need to know.

1. REGULAR-SEASON POINTS
Players who make the cut in any of the 36 events in the season's first 33 weeks earn FedEx Cup points, although the amount of points available differs in events such as the majors.

2. PGA TOUR PLAYOFFS
After the last regular-season event, the Wyndham Championship, the top 144 players on the regular-season points list advance to a four-week, four-tournament playoff.

3. THE RESET
At the start of the playoffs the points list is reset with each player seeded according to his regular-season finish. The reset gives the players who earned the most points during the season an advantage going into the playoffs but bunches the entrants, guaranteeing that anyone in the 144-man field has a mathematical chance of winning the FedEx Cup. Still, coming from far back won't be easy. In the Tour's mock trials no one seeded lower then 13th in the playoffs won the cup.

4. PLAYOFF POINTS
In each of the four playoff events 50,000 points are up for grabs. At each tournament a predetermined number of players who have accumulated the fewest points are eliminated, so week by week the field shrinks.

5. PRIZE MONEY
Each of the four playoff events has its own purse. In addition, the top 150 players on the regular-season points list will split a $35 million FedEx Cup pot, with the winner getting $10 million, second place claiming $3 million and the 144th-place fi nisher taking home $32,000. Yes, oddly, six players who don't even qualify for the playoffs will get paid.

6. PRIZE MONEY — THE CATCH
The players win money at each playoff event, as usual, but the FedEx Cup money is deferred. It goes into their retirement accounts, and they can't access it until they turn 45. The player can choose to invest the money, so it can grow over time. Once a player elects to begin collecting, he'll get monthly payments for five years. Players can defer payment until they turn 60 or play in fewer than 15 events in a year.

Now you know how the playoffs work. We've also come up with six ways to make them better. (For starters, dump a truckload of cash on the first tee.)

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