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Dublin: 4°C Wednesday 21 April 2021

In the Swing: FedEx shootout is golf at its finest

Rory McIlroy will have to be at his best to fend off golf’s top names and take home the $10m bonus this weekend, writes Neil Cullen

Image: Charles Rex Arbogast/AP/Press Association Images

SO IT’S A shoot-out for the FedEx Cup. Even though Rory McIlroy holds the lead in the points race, such are the rules of the FedEx Cup that any of the 30 remaining players can take the $10 million bonus.

That inevitability is dependent on McIlroy’s performance. As leader of the race, if he has a good performance this weekend, the players behind him will be out of it.

Even if Rory comes second, only the top five in the current FedEx Cup standings are guaranteed to leapfrog him by winning the tournament, taking home the $10 million bonus fund.

It makes for a thrilling contest full of combinations and permutations, and every ball hit from Thursday to Sunday will alter the formula, change the equation and ultimately have a bearing on the end result.

That’s what makes the Tour Championship – even at the final hurdle it’s still all to play for.

Clearly Rory McIlroy has had the best season of anyone in the field. Tiger Woods follows closely behind. But nobody wants to see these guys get an armchair ride and turn the tournament into a victory procession.

On the contrary, this is their chance to prove that they are indeed the best player out there at the moment and have been all season and deserve the massive $10 million bonus.

The names at the top of the standings are stacked and read like a real who’s who of golf: McIlroy, Woods, Watney, Mickelson, Snedeker with the likes of Johnson (both Zach and Dustin), Oosthuizen, Westwood, Dufner, Watson… I could keep going.

Having the top players battle it out for such a huge prize really is a privilege to behold. You know they are all going to be giving it everything to win. Sure, the do so at every event, particularly the Majors, but only at this point of the year is there such a big prize on the line for such a small field.

The players know that there is only a handful of them out there, that every roar from the crowd they hear has a bearing on their position, that every player they see on an adjoining fairway or a nearby green could be making the birdie or the bogey that will determine the destiny of a serious amount of money.

These are the kind of moments that the game of golf really needs. Naturally, the Majors will always be the biggest draw, but the game needs other moments to rally around and gain publicity from and we’re lucky that with this coming weekend and the Ryder Cup later this month, we have two in a very short space of time.

These are the moments that make the game appealing beyond the obvious draw of the likes of Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods.

Last year, for examples, who can forget the drama of Bill Haas as he made a recovery shot out of the water to ultimately land him the title.

YouTube Credit: pgatour

Haas is an example of how we can’t rule anybody out, even if we do have the star names at the top of the billing. Haas started the final event in 25th of 30 places and there were probably very few people out there that gave him a chance.

And yet he triumphed, albeit with a little help of the players at the top of the list who didn’t manage to produce the goods when it mattered. But it gives hope to the likes of Scott Piercy, John Senden, Ryan Moore and others who just managed to scrape in to the final 30.

You’d have to make McIlroy a strong favourite, but golf is an unpredictable game. That’s one of the things that makes it so appealing.

And everything else that makes the game appealing will be on show this weekend, magnified and multiplied by the amount of money on offer, there for us to enjoy and savour as we mark the point of the year where the regular season climaxes and the real hype around the Ryder Cup commences.

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