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From Rahm’s return to Spieth’s resurgence to the Ryder Cup, everything you need to know as the FedEx Cup playoffs begin

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JERSEY CITY, N.Y. — It’s playoff time, golf style. And there is not much time to get settled and take it all in.

The FedEx Cup playoffs begin this week at the Northern Trust, continue next week with the BMW Championship and conclude a week later with the Tour Championship.

At the end, a PGA Tour player will have earned a $15 million bonus. The last-place player in the 30-man field at the Tour Championship will get paid, too. That is worth $395,000.

This is the 15th year of the FedEx system, the third under a format that has three tournaments, down from four, and featuring a single FedEx Cup champion as opposed to the possibility of a tournament winner and FedEx winner at the Tour Championship.

Here’s a look at what is ahead:

Now things get interesting

The Northern Trust at Liberty National features the top 125 players off the regular season FedEx Cup points list, with no alternates. The tournament has a cut to the top 65 and ties and will offer four times the number of points as players competed for in regular PGA Tour events. So instead of 500 points, the winner gets 2,000, which creates the possibility of volatility and the ability for players who are way back to advance. The top 70 in points following the tournament will advance to the BMW Championship.

The return of Rahm

For the first time since he tied for third at The Open, No. 1-ranked Jon Rahm is playing. It has been a wild summer for the Spanish golfer who twice has contracted COVID-19 and played some of his best golf in the meantime. He was a 6-shot leader after 54 holes at the Memorial when he tested positive and had to withdraw; he then came back to win the U.S. Open, birdieing the final two holes. He finished tied for seventh at the Scottish Open and then made a last-day run at The Open. Then he tested positive again, missing the Olympics. Rahm enters the playoffs fifth in the FedEx Cup standings.

How quickly things can change

Open champion Collin Morikawa is No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings, but that doesn’t mean much with so many points now at stake. He leads No. 2 Jordan Spieth by just 32 points and is just 450 points ahead of No. 10 Sam Burns. There can be quite the shake-up depending on results.

Jordan says … I’m back

It has been a solid year for Jordan Spieth, who regained his form after a couple of years of struggling, winning the Valero Texas Open and contending several more times. It’s now to the point where Spieth himself believes another victory — or two — is possible. Spieth has not made it to the Tour Championship since 2017.

Back to where Brooks vs. Bryson began

Back where it all started. Well, at least where it escalated. The feud between Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau actually began early in 2019 when Koepka noted DeChambeau’s pace of play at a tournament in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It went to another level when DeChambeau had his issues at the Northern Trust, with Koepka calling him out, words between their caddies, an agreement — allegedly — to not mention each other’s names in such tussles … and then it blowing up big time at the PGA Championship in May this year. And so here we are. DeChambeau is seventh in FedEx points and Koepka is 15th.

Trying to figure out DJ

Dustin Johnson hasn’t been awful — he just hasn’t been as great as he was a year ago at this time, when he won the Northern Trust, lost in a playoff at the BMW, then won the Tour Championship to capture the FedEx Cup.

He is a rather pedestrian 17th in the standings heading into the playoffs and most of it is based on his tie for sixth at the U.S. Open and his victory at the Masters — in November 2020. Remember, this is a six-major season, and Johnson missed the cut in two majors in 2021. He did tie for eighth at the Open, which is his best finish since a tie for eighth at the Genesis Invitational in February.

What about Phil?

Phil Mickelson is proof that all it takes is one good week to position yourself nicely for a FedEx run. Sure, he’d love to be higher than 58th in points. But that number basically assures him of qualifying for the first two playoff events. He has work to do to make it into the top 30 and the Tour Championship. As it stands now, he is 396 points out of 30th. You figure he’ll probably need at least 500 more points to make it. Two top-12 finishes would possibly take care of it. Mickelson, who has made the playoffs every year, was the only player to make it to the second-to-last playoff event every year until the streak ended in 2020.

JT’s quiet year

A strong final round at the Players Championship led to victory for Justin Thomas, but otherwise, this has mostly — by his own admission — been a frustrating year. Since that victory, Thomas has no top-10s on the PGA Tour and didn’t contend in any of the major championships. He enters ninth in the FedEx Cup and can perhaps salvage something by pushing through in the playoffs. He won the FedEx in 2017.

The ongoing Ryder Cup questions

This will be the backstory during the playoffs. The U.S. team’s six automatic qualifiers will be decided following the BMW Championship. U.S. captain Steve Stricker then has six picks following the Tour Championship.

Morikawa, Johnson, DeChambeau, Koepka, Thomas and Xander Schauffele are the six automatic qualifiers at the moment, with Spieth, Harris English, Patrick Reed, Daniel Berger, Patrick Cantlay and Tony Finau holding down the seventh through 12th spots.

Webb Simpson, Scottie Scheffler, Phil Mickelson, Max Homa, Billy Horschel, Will Zalatoris and Kevin Kisner will be other names mentioned — perhaps more — for the at-large spots.

While Stricker will soon know who his automatic team members are, he’d undoubtedly like to see some form out of players in the mix. Reed, Cantlay and Finau have been quiet of late. Mickelson said he needs to have some solid results to be considered. Homa and Horschel would seemingly need to do something in the playoffs.

And it wouldn’t hurt if locks such as Johnson, DeChamabeau and Thomas started playing better, too.

The European team will be decided following the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, which concludes on Sept. 12.

The Ryder Cup is Sept. 24-26.

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