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7 burning questions entering the FedEx Cup Playoffs


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August 24, 2016

The 10th edition of the FedEx Cup Playoffs might be the most anticipated yet. On the line in the PGA Tour's postseason are plenty of Ryder Cup points, millions of dollars and even player-of-the-year honors. With all that in mind, let's take a look at seven burning questions entering the closing stretch of what has already been an exciting campaign.

1. Who will win the PGA Tour Player of the Year Award?
This race is as wide open as ever, making these final four events crucial in determining who takes home the hardware. Obviously, the conversation starts with the four major champs: Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Jimmy Walker. Should any of those guys win the FedEx Cup, it would be hard to deny them POY (We can pretty much rule Willett out, though, since he is skipping the first two playoff events and probably won't qualify for the third). However, there are other challengers in Jason Day (three wins, including a WGC and a Players) and Jordan Spieth (two wins) as well. Spieth would probably need at least two playoff wins and the FedEx Cup to win a second consecutive POY, but a FedEx Cup might be enough for Day, despite the Aussie coming up short in the four majors. For both, that $10 million bonus would help ease the sting of not winning a 2016 major. But for now, DJ looks to be the leader with his U.S. Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational titles and his tour-leading 12 top-10s in 18 starts.

2. Who will make the U.S. Ryder Cup team?
The Barclays is the last chance for players to make the Hazeltine-bound squad on points. Four players -- Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson and Jimmy Walker -- have mathematically wrapped up spots. Brooks Koepka at No. 5 is basically a lock, but then it becomes much hazier. No. 6 Brandt Snedeker is less than 400 points clear of No. 11 Matt Kuchar and only the top eight will qualify after this week. If you're outside of the top 11, you basically need to win at Bethpage Black to get into the top eight. For those who don't make it on points (currently, Patrick Reed is No. 8 and J.B. Holmes is No. 9), the final three playoff events will still serve as auditions for captain Davis Love III. He'll make three captain's picks after the BMW Championship and a final pick after the Tour Championship.

3. Who will fill out the European Ryder Cup team?
Captain Darren Clarke already knows who nine of his players will be, but there are still three spots to fill following the Barclays. The four names being talked about the most? Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Russell Knox and Shane Lowry. With five rookies already qualifying for the team, it seems likely that Clarke will go with veterans Westwood and Kaymer. If so, choosing between Knox, who has won twice on the PGA Tour this season, and Lowry, who won last year's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and was runner-up at this year's U.S. Open, will be tough. Although, curiously, Lowry is skipping the Barclays. Hmm.

4. Who is the favorite to win the FedEx Cup?
That would be Jason Day, according to Westgate Las Vegas Superbook. The World No. 1 is the only man to win three times on tour this season and he enters the playoffs at No. 1 on the FedEx Cup points list and at 7-to-2 odds to claim his first FedEx Cup. Dustin Johnson (5/1), Henrik Stenson (7/1) and defending champ Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy (10/1) round out the five biggest betting favorites.

5. Who are the most unlikely players in the FedEx Cup? There are 125 players who qualified for the Barclays, but only three are teeing it up at Bethpage Black despite not having a single top-10 finish this season: No. 113 Mark Hubbard, No. 115 Michael Kim, and No. 116 Kyle Stanley. But all should enter with at least a shred of hope. Remember Heath Slocum? In 2009, he entered the playoffs at No. 124 and won the Barclays. Guys outside the top 100 don't need to win to advance (the top 100 make it to the Deutsche Bank, the top 70 advance to the BMW, and the top 30 move onto the Tour Championship in Atlanta), but they need to play well. As for the most unlikely golfer to win the FedEx Cup? That would be Billy Horschel, who entered the playoffs at No. 69, but finished runner-up at the Deutsche Bank before winning the BMW and Tour Championships. No. 69 this year? Billy Hurley III.

6. Can Bubba and Rickie get back on track? It's incredible to think that these two Americans, who were both mentioned in "Big 4" discussions earlier this year, have combined for ONE top-10 since April. As a result, both have fallen out of the top eight in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings. Despite the recent poor play, it would be a shocker if either doesn't make the trip to Hazeltine. However, for the Americans to have a shot at winning the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2008, they're probably going to need these guys back in their early-season form.

7. Will we finally see a two-time winner not named Tiger?
It's almost as if tour pros are trying to spread the wealth. This is the 10th year of the FedEx Cup Playoffs and yet Tiger Woods (2007 and 2009) remains the only golfer to take home the $10 million bonus twice. Woods, obviously, isn't playing this week, but the seven one-time winners are all participating. Of those guys, Henrik Stenson, the 2013 champ, has the best odds (7/1), followed by Jordan Spieth (10/1). And factoring in recent form, our money is on the the man with a claret jug and a silver medal.