The cadence of the US PGA Tour’s regular-season finale has always has been a little off-pitch. Chalk it up to post-Major languor, that most stars watch from the sidelines or that the playoff field has mostly been set, but the importance of what’s at stake has not resonated to the common fan. It’s a shame, because, for a host of players, the Wyndham Championship means a heck of a lot. With the Greensboro event the last chance for players to make their way into the FedEx Cup Playoffs, here are 10 notable names on the postseason bubble.
Note: Joaquin Niemann, due to his special temporary member status, is not eligible for the playoffs despite earning enough points to advance. He can, however, gain entry with a win this week.
It’s been seven years since the former prodigy found the winner’s circle, although he did finish second at the Valero Texas Open. Unfortunately the 36-year-old comes in ice cold, his most recent top-60 finish coming back in April. O’Hair, who advanced to the third event last postseason, should be OK to make next week’s Northern Trust, starting the week at 119th in points. But a missed cut, coupled with surges from a number of ‘bubble boys’, could put O’Hair on the outside looking in.
Saunders, who’s never reached the tour’s postseason, is in a solid position to make his playoff debut, starting the Wyndham in 120th. It won’t be easy, though, as Sedgefield – a shorter course predicated on accuracy and scrambling – doesn’t play to Saunders’ strengths. He does have a T-14 to his credit at the tournament, and as long as he makes the weekend, Saunders will secure his tour card for 2019.
He’ll have status next season thanks to his 2017 RBC Canadian Open victory, yet Vegas has been on the struggle bus since March, posting just one top-30 finish in his past 14 events. Vegas has a bit of a mixed track record at Sedgefield, owning a T-8 in 2014 but missing the cut in his other two appearances. If Vegas, 122nd in the FEC standings, hopes to make it to Ridgewood he’ll need to straighten out a shaky short game, ranking 153rd in strokes gained: putting on the campaign.
Garcia’s woes on the big stage – missing every Major cut since winning the 2017 Masters – are well-documented. Those issues extend to the rest of the calendar as well, with the Spaniard making just one weekend (excluding the no-cut Bridgestone Invitational) since the WGC–Match Play. Garcia’s 133rd in the FEC, noteworthy as he’s never missed the postseason since its inception in 2007. Earning a playoff berth holds extra incentive, as Garcia needs a handful of promising showings to merit a captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup.
This will be a storyline to watch. Lowry received, in his estimation, a poor ruling from officials at the US PGA Championship that likely cost him a few shots at Bellerive. Shots that could ultimately effect his tour status. He’s currently 139th in the FedEx Cup, and with his exemption from the 2015 WGC–Bridgestone Invitational over, Lowry needs a strong showing at the Wyndham Championship to retain his card. On the bright side, Lowry’s had success at this tournament, recording a T-7 at the tournament last August, and has three top-15 finishes in his past three outings.
Forget age; that he’s even in this discussion with only 11 starts is astonishing. The 51-year-old [above] hasn’t played the event since 2006, and at 141st in points, will need a serious push, coupled with slides from those in front of him, to reach next week. Conversely, sound in both irons (35th in approach) and around the green (12th in strokes gained: around the green), don’t be surprised if Stricker makes some noise in North Carolina.
It wasn’t long ago – 2015-’16, to be exact – that G-Mac logged three top-five finishes, including a win, to start his season. But it certainly feels like it, as the 2010 US Open champ is poised to miss his second consecutive postseason. McDowell has logged a lone top-20 in 2018, and is living proof that the strokes gained metric is not a be-all, end-all barometer (the Northern Irishman ranks 43rd on tour). Like Stricker, McDowell would need some magic, in his game and others, to make it to New Jersey.
The former FedEx Cup champ was involved in a deadly car accident the week of the Genesis Open, and, understandably, his game hasn’t been right since, missing the cut in eight of his past 13 starts. At his current standing (150th), would need to grab the outright win.
Mahan has showed signs of life coming down the stretch, and had a chance to win the alternate-field Barracuda Championship before a final-round 71 torpedoed his aspirations. Mahan, who owns six tour wins and made the Ryder Cup as recently as 2014, has been good off the tee (28th in strokes gained: off the tee) and on the greens (strokes gained: putting) this year. It’s the areas in between that have caused nightmares, ranking 149th in approach and 202nd around the green. He posted a T-16 at Greensboro last summer, although likely needs a win to regain his tour card.
Not in danger of losing his card, his 2017 Hilton Head victory keeping him afloat. Currently battling yips off the tee, ranking 204th with his tee-shot performance. Bryan was disqualified at the RBC Canadian Open for signing an incorrect scorecard, and missed the cut in his two previous starts. Like Mahan, needs a win at the Wyndham to stay alive.