To casual golf fans, the Wyndham Championship might seem like any ordinary PGA Tour stop. But for quite a few players in the field this week at Sedgefield Country Club there is no more important tournament of the year. It’s the last chance for tour pros to secure their place inside the top 125 on the FedEx Cup points list, retain their tour card for the 2019-’20 season and grab a spot in the FedEx Cup Playoffs. In other words, it offers the potential for arresting drama that is usually limited to major championships and “The Bachelorette.”
Much of the narrative then, this week, will focus on players hovering around the No. 125 spot on the points list: Who will move inside the bubble and who will move out? Last season, Nick Taylor and Harris English, tying for eighth and 11th respectively at the Wyndham, did the moving in. Taylor jumped from 129th to 119th and English moved from 132th to 124th. In turn, Martin Piller and Tyrone van Aswegan were the victims of Taylor and English’s late theatrics. There’s certainly going to be heartbreak to pair with the heroics.
But how drastically can the rankings change? And how much chaos can we really expect this year in Greensboro, N.C.? We’ll let history help answer these questions.
Crunching the numbers, it turns out that since 2007 and the start of the FedEx Cup era, 32 players have entered the Wyndham Championship outside of the top 125 and played their way inside to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs. That is an average of between two to three golfers making the bubble jump each year. In other words, there should be some shuffling, but the amount of movement is actually fairly limited.
Here’s a complete list of the movement by year.
When looking at this list, the most in any given year has been five players making the leap--which has happened in 2008, 2009 and 2015. In other words, the idea that a dozen or so golfers will be playing PGA Tour musical chairs is a bit presumptuous, yet one should likely expect to see a few seats get swiped on the final day of the PGA Tour’s regular season.
Conversely, only once—in 2013—has there been no movement in a given year since this new system began.
This year’s Wyndham Championship sees Alex Noren resting uncomfortably in the potentially dangerous No. 125 spot. He’s not above or below the bubble. He is the bubble. With an impressive T-12 finish at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, the European Ryder Cupper has set himself up to clinch the last playoff spot as long as he plays relatively well.
Others who are a bit lower in the rankings, such as Richy Werenski, Martin Trainer and Daniel Berger, will need to place high and grab a little luck. Errant shots by the golfers ranked ahead of them couldn’t hurt, either.
Along with the bubble drama around the top 125, make sure to keep a lookout into the cutoff at 200. Those who make that marker will at least clinch a spot in the Korn Ferry Finals to try to earn a PGA Tour card for the next season and be assured of status in the 2020 developmental circuit.
Winning Wyndham is certainly an impressive feat, but some of the biggest moments and hopefully the best celebrations will most likely come out of a seemingly random 11th-place finish. With the regular season winding down, all that matters now is making sure you’re playing again in 2020.