ATLANTA (AP) — This is one year that FedEx Cup math might be easier to figure out than who wins PGA Tour player of the year.
The Tour Championship, the finale of the FedEx Cup playoffs, gets under way at East Lake with 30 players who either had a good season (Tiger Woods, Adam Scott), played well in the playoffs (Nick Watney, Sergio Garcia) or did a little of both (Luke Donald, Roberto Castro).
All of them have a mathematical chance to win the FedEx Cup and its $10 million bonus. The top five seeds, starting with Woods at No. 1, only have to win the Tour Championship to win the cup. The lowest seed to ever win the $10 million was Bill Haas at No. 25.
But there’s more.
The Tour Championship could go a long way toward determining who wins player of the year. If nothing changes, Woods and his five wins is the likely vote of players. But if Scott or Phil Mickelson win at East Lake, that would give them three wins with a major and the FedEx Cup. Then, it becomes complicated.
Here are five things to consider on the eve of the final tournament of the 2013 PGA Tour season:
1. SHOW THEM THE MONEY: The $10 million for the FedEx Cup is the largest payoff in golf, though no one really sees the money. The tour has dismissed half-serious suggestions that they have either an armored truck with the cash parked behind the 18th green, or a glass case filled with the money next to the 18th green.
The winner gets $9 million in cash, and $1 million is deferred.
Working against Woods is that the No. 1 seed has not won the FedEx Cup the last three years. Working in his favor is that he did twice before that.
The points have been reset so that the top five — Woods, Henrik Stenson, Scott, Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar — will claim the cup by winning the Tour Championship no matter what anyone else does.
The Tour Championship winner has won the FedEx Cup the last three years, leaving East Lake with $11.44 million from both.
2. PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Tiger Woods had his 10th season of at least five wins, and it stands out because no one else on tour has more than two wins this year. Even though he didn’t win a major, Woods is the favorite to win PGA Tour player of the year for the 11th time.
If he wins, it’s a landslide.
Majors mean something to the players, however, and they vote on the award.
Mickelson won the British Open with one of the great closing rounds in major championship history. He also won the Phoenix Open and was runner-up in the U.S. Open. Adam Scott won the Masters and The Barclays. If either were to win the Tour Championship — and the FedEx Cup — that would be three wins, plus a major.
That might be enough to trump five wins and no majors.
3. ON POINT: Steve Stricker is in the kind of spot that makes the PGA Tour nervous.
It’s not too far-fetched that Stricker could go back to Wisconsin with $10 million and his name on the FedEx Cup trophy without ever having won a tournament this year. All he has to do is finish alone in second, have Woods finish 16th or lower and the other top seeds finish out of the top 10.
Paul Casey was in that position a few years ago until the final few holes of the tournament.
Think the odds are against Dustin Johnson? As the No. 30 seed, the only way for him to win the FedEx Cup is to win the Tour Championship and have Woods finish last.
4. STENSON DEBUT: Henrik Stenson, one of the hottest players in golf this summer, is the No. 2 seed and has the second-best odds to win the FedEx Cup.
What makes this remarkable is that the Swede is making his debut in the Tour Championship.
Stenson says he has watched the Tour Championship at home the last couple of years. He remembers Furyk saving par from a bunker to win in 2010.
No one has ever won the FedEx Cup the first year they were in the Tour Championship.
5. END OF THE ROAD: Thirteen players have yet to win on the PGA Tour this season, and unlike the last six years, this is their last chance. The PGA Tour season officially ends on Sunday — or Monday if there’s rain, and don’t bet against that the way this year has gone.
The PGA Tour is going to a 2013-14 season that starts in two weeks in California. In previous years, there were six more tournaments as the “Fall Series.” Most of those are now part of “next season.”
What does that mean? Fans will only have to wait two weeks to find out who wins player of the year.