Rory McIlroy is up against it.
The sixth-ranked player in the world needs a strong performance at this week’s BMW Championship in order to advance to the following week’s Tour Championship. McIlroy will likely need at least a fourth-place finish at Conway Farms to earn enough FedEx Cup points to crack the top 30 and advance to the finale at East Lake.
McIlroy’s up-and-down season has earned him 881 FedEx Cup points, his smallest tally at this point in a season since 2009, when he wasn’t even a PGA Tour member.
In order for him to qualify for the season-ending Tour Championship, a top-five finish would earn him enough points to make it interesting, while a top-four finish would make it much more likely and a third-place finish almost a sure thing.
The 28-year-old needs to jump at least 21 spots this weekend, so if he doesn’t finish in the top two, he’s unfortunately at the mercy of the performances from other players who have been much more consistent this season; players like Webb Simpson, who has played twice as many events. McIlroy won the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup last season.
McIlroy is not the only headliner sweating it out this weekend, either. Phil Mickelson (No. 36) and Sergio Garcia (No. 34) both need to play their way into the top 30. Jason Day (No. 28) is currently inside the cutline for the Tour Championship, but a rough weekend in Chicago could end his season one week early.