By Norm Elrod
The FedExCup Playoffs continue this week with the Dell Technologies Championship, which tees off Friday, August 31 at TPC Boston. The field is down to 100 players, with Bryson DeChambeau leading the point standings (3617) after his win at The Northern Trust. Familiar names dot the top 10, including world #1 Dustin Johnson (2969), last year’s Dell Technologies and FedExCup winner, Justin Thomas (2954), and the ever-present Phil Mickelson (1750).
But 41 players have at least 1000 points, and the point distribution is elevated in the playoffs. The top three finishers are awarded 2000, 1200 and 760 points respectively, so the FedExCup leaderboard could look a little different come Monday.
With a lot of golf to be played between now and then, here’s what you need to know about the Dell Technologies Championship and the FedExCup going forward.
TPC Boston, actually located in Norton, Massachusetts, about 40 miles south of the city, has hosted a PGA Tour event annually for the last 15 years. That’s a pretty good run for a course that first opened in 2002. But, the streak ends this year. The PGA Tour shortened the FedExCup Playoffs from four events to three starting in 2019, eliminating the Dell Technologies Championship. Going forward, The Northern Trust will alternate between New York/New Jersey and Boston, with TPC Boston first hosting the event in 2020.
The course was originally designed by the legendary Arnold Palmer and more recently updated by Gil Hanse and eight-time Tour winner Brad Faxon. The par-71, 7,216-yard layout invites low scores. The course record is 61, held by Vijay Singh (2006) and Mike Weir (2008), while the tournament-winning score averages 17.5-under par. So look for lots of birdies from the PGA Tour’s best, along with the occasional eagle, since all three of the course’s par-5s can be reached in two shots. Top players tend to do well at TPC Boston, with 10 of the 15 winners ranking in the top 10 at the time of their win.
The Dell Technologies Championship welcomes the top 100 in the FedExCup point standings, though only 98 will be on hand. Unsurprisingly, that includes many of the world’s best golfers. As with majors, it’s actually more informative to look at who won’t be in the field. Out of the world’s top 25 golfers, only Francesco Molinari (#6) and Rickie Fowler (#8) will sit this one out. Molinari feels that rest rather than a chance at more points will better help him make it to East Lake and the Tour Championship. Fowler, who skipped The Northern Trust with a lingering oblique injury, is taking the week off as well. Both golfers are reasonably assured of advancing to the next round given their point totals.
The field features every winner from the tournament’s history, except Fowler (2015), Steve Stricker (2009), Singh (2004, 2008), and Olin Browne (2005). And that includes Rory McIlroy (2012), who skipped last week’s Northern Trust to reflect and regroup before heading into maybe the most difficult part of the season.
This year’s biggest comeback story, Tiger Woods, will also be on hand. Grouped with Marc Leishman and Chez Reavie for the opening rounds, Woods is hoping to rebound from a T40 showing last week. In the midst of his first FedExCup Playoffs appearance in five years, he is currently ranked 25th in the FedExCup standings with 1,212 points. A top-three finish could, at least mathematically, catapult him into the top 10.
Woods has been playing well of late, so a strong showing wouldn’t be that farfetched. Over his last 36 rounds, he’s the top-ranked golfer in strokes gained on approach. Putting remains an issue, where he’s ranked just 59th. The Big Cat has never missed a cut in this event and has finished in the top 10 five times, including his 2006 win. Woods faces 18-1 odds this weekend.
The favorites are just who you would expect going into the second round of the FedExCup Playoffs: Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas — the top three golfers in the world.
Johnson is still the top-ranked player in the world — for now — and has four top-20 finishes on this course. He is coming off a T11 at The Northern Trust. Koepka, the second-ranked golfer and possibly the Tour’s best ball-striker, has already won the U.S. Open and PGA Championship this year. He finished T8 last week, continuing a season that could end with being crowned PGA Tour Player of the Year . Thomas, the defending Dell Technologies and FedExCup champion, is the world #3.
DeChambeau and Tony Finau, last week’s winner and runner-up respectively, both improved their chances at making the U.S. Ryder Cup team, and have momentum going into Friday. Finau, in particular, has four top 10s in his last seven starts. Both are worth keeping an eye on.
Historically, Dell Technologies Championship winners have positioned themselves nicely to take the FedExCup. DeChambeau leads in points and can likely control his fate on the final weekend with strong showings in the next two rounds. The rest of the top five — Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, and Brooks Koepka — are all easily within striking distance.
The point awards for the top-five finishers at the Dell Technologies Championship are as follows: 2000, 1200, 760, 540 and 440.