Forty of the top 70 players in the FedEx Cup standings will go home or to the less lucrative Fall Series after this week's BMW Championship at Chicago's Cog Hill Golf & Country Club. This week also will determine who makes the U.S. Presidents Cup team on points, and who will have to rely on a captain's pick to make the squad that will play at Royal Melbourne Golf Club Nov. 17-20.
A tournament marked by three capital letters will be all about the numbers, and the biggest number of all, the $10 million prize for winning the FedEx Cup, is staring the leading contender, Webb Simpson, square in the face. "A ridiculously large amount of money," Simpson said at his press conference at Cog Hill on Tuesday. A month ago, the pride of Raleigh, N.C., was just another promising pro working toward his first career victory. Now he's won twice in his last three starts, and leads the 2011 money list with more than $5 million.
That's the way it's been on the PGA Tour, where the old narrative — Tiger Woods marches toward history — no longer applies. One week changes everything.
Indeed, until a month ago Simpson's most defining trait was his unusual first name, which harkens back to his mother's father, James Fred Webb. In fact, Webb is legally James Frederick Webb Simpson, but that might not fit on a Tour bag.
"My parents, as much as they loved me, wanted to confuse me," he said.
The 26-year-old explained that he owes his recent transformation to a realization he had while missing the cut at the PGA Championship at Atlanta Athletic Club last month. Although he took his time lining up his putts in practice, he came to the conclusion that he was rushing in competition. A minor adjustment led to huge success, most recently a series of one-putts that won him the Deutsche Bank Championship in sudden death over Chez Reavie.
Simpson spent a few days at home in North Carolina last week before taking a buddy trip to Pinehurst for yet more golf last weekend. He pronounced himself rested and ready to go at his press conference Tuesday. He said he has no idea what he'd do with $10 million — "More diapers?" — but it may be a moot point. Parity has taken hold on the PGA Tour and at the top of the professional game in general, so that every time we think we've identified a dominant player — Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, Nick Watney — that player's subsequent results immediately cast doubt on our assumptions.
"We might have a few years of spreading the wealth," Geoff Ogilvy said.
Johnson would seem to have the best chance to overtake Simpson atop the FedEx points list. He won the BMW on the par-71, 7,386-yard Dubsdread Course at Cog Hill last year, he's coming off a victory at the Barclays three weeks ago, and he's in second place on the FedEx points table.
Several men will have to play their way into the 30-man Tour Championship next week, among them No. 35 Jim Furyk, a past winner at Cog Hill, and No. 37 Rickie Fowler. Again, one week changes everything.
As for the race to get on Fred Couples's Presidents Cup team, Simpson, currently sixth in points, is probably assured a spot, but Couples, who already has committed to picking Tiger Woods as one of his wildcards, will have plenty of guys to keep an eye on as he contemplates who's most deserving of pick number two.
Fowler is 14th qualifying points; Furyk is clinging to ninth. Bill Haas, son of assistant captain Jay Haas, is 12th, and Brandt Snedeker is 11th. Amazingly, Keegan Bradley, a two-time winner in 2011 and shoe-in for Rookie of the Year, is lingering at 20th — he didn't earn any Cup points in 2010 — and would need not only a victory this week but also some help from the current top 10 in order to make the team outright.
Short game: Simpson said he is currently signed off of his Twitter account because of too many negative comments. ... Harris English, who became just the third amateur to win on the Nationwide Tour at the Children's Hospital Invitational at Ohio State University in July, will make his pro debut at next week's Soboba Golf Classic in San Jacinto, Calif. ... J.J. Killeen leads the Nationwide money list with seven events remaining, starting with this week's Albertsons Boise Open. Mathew Goggin, who has played six fewer events, is less than $16,000 behind. ... Fred Funk, who lost in sudden death to Russ Cochran at last year's Songdo IBD Championship in Korea, will miss the Songdo this week because of injuries to his right knee and left thumb. ... Tom Lehman leads the Charles Schwab Cup race with 1,985 points, followed by Boeing Classic champ Mark Calcavecchia at 1,578.