Since their inception in 2007, the FedEx Cup Playoffs have been evolving.

During the first few years, US PGA Tour brass tinkered with how many points golfers received for regular-season events versus playoff events. For 2009, they made sure players couldn’t clinch the FedEx Cup before the end of the Tour Championship (as Vijay Singh had done in 2008). In 2015, points reset when golfers got to the Tour Championship, ensuring that every player in the final field had a mathematical chance to win the FedEx Cup. However, as the 13th edition of the Playoffs begin in 2019, the changes set to play out over the next three weeks – beginning with the Northern Trust at Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey, followed by the BMW Championship at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago and the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta – are more than subtle tweaks but rather a dramatic overhaul to the end-of-the-season event. To break it all down, here are some answers to questions you might have that will help you understand what’s in store as the tour decides its next FedEx Cup champion.

When are the FedEx Cup Playoffs played?

The three tournaments will span from August 8 to 25. It will all begin on Thursday in New Jersey with the Northern Trust.

Wait, three tournaments. Haven’t there always been four tournaments? What’s going on?

Yes, you’re right. One of the big changes for 2019 is that the Playoffs have been decreased from four to three events, which will help allow the season to come to a close the week before Labor Day in America.

How many golfers will play in each of the three events?

The top 125 players off the FedEx Cup points list are in the field at this week’s Northern Trust. That number decreases to 70 for the BMW Championship. The top 30 will then advance from Medinah to Atlanta for the Tour Championship, the traditional conclusion of the season.

Is that it for the changes? I could have sworn I read something about the scoring system getting overhauled.

It did, actually. (Good memory!) Specifically, for the Tour Championship. Instead of all 30 players starting with the same score, this year players will be staggered by strokes based on where they stand in the FedEx Cup points list. The No.1-ranked player will start the final tournament at 10-under par, with the No.2 player at eight-under, and then seven-under, six-under and five-under for Nos.3-5. Nos.6-10 will be at four-under; Nos.11-15 start at three-under; Nos.16-20 start at two-under; Nos.21-25 start at one-under; and Nos.26-30 start at even-par. The individual with the best score after the stroke adjustment, not merely the best 72-hole score, will be the winner of the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup.

So there won’t be separate winners of the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup anymore?

Nope… that’s why the change was made, to help eliminate the confusion of somebody winning the tournament at East Lake but not being the actual FedEx Cup champion. In fact, there is no longer a separate purse for the Tour Championship.

Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele
Photo: Stan Badz

Were there two winners a lot?

In the first 12 years of the Playoffs, it happened four times, including the past two seasons. Remember Tiger Woods’ win at last year’s Tour Championship? Well, it was Justin Rose, however, who took home the FedEx Cup. Similarly, Xander Schauffele became the first rookie to win the Tour Championship in 2017, but Justin Thomas took the FedEx Cup title. Given how frequently this was happening, tour officials decided they needed an alternative to simplify the race for the FedEx Cup title.

Will winning the Tour Championship count for a player’s victory total?

Yes. It still counts for the PGA Tour’s records.

How is the world ranking handling these changes to the Tour Championship?

OK, so much for avoiding confusion. The world ranking will actually keep the same approach as in years past. The Official World Golf Ranking board approved a proposal in April from the PGA Tour that bypasses the staggered start and instead looks at where the players would have finished without the new rules for the FedEx Cup. So the winner of the Tour Championship according to the world ranking might not be the person crowned the FedEx Cup champion but rather the player who shoots the lowest score over 72 holes at East Lake.

Who are the players in the lead for this year’s event?

Entering the playoffs, world No.1 Brooks Koepka is the FedEx Cup points leader with 2,887 points. He holds a 572-point edge on second-place Rory McIlroy (2,315 points). Matt Kuchar (2,313), Xander Schauffele (1,858) and Gary Woodland (1,795) complete the top five. The leading Australian is Marc Leishman in 12th spot.