Six South African golfers including Open champion Ernie Els will over the next five weeks bid for glory in the PGA Tour’s lucrative end-of-season FedExCup play-offs, starting with The Barclays from on Thursday at Bethpage State Park in New York.
The top 125 in the 2012 FedExCup standings – which equates to the PGA Tour moneylist – tee it up this week in The Barclays, then the field is reduced to the top 100 for next week’s Deutsche Bank and the top 70 for the BMW.
After that, with a week’s break in between, only the top 30 progress to East Lake for the Tour Championship.
There’s a points re-set at the start of that week to spice things up a bit, and each tournament has a purse of $8-million so there’s plenty to play for.
Tiger Woods currently tops the standings, followed by Jason Dufner, with US PGA champion Rory McIlroy next, Zach Johnson fourth and Masters champion Bubba Watson completing the top five.
Els, in 11th spot, is the best placed South African followed by Louis Oosthuizen (34th), the 54th-placed Tim Clark who was runner-up to Sergio Garcia in the Wyndham Championship last Sunday, Rory Sabbatini (73rd), Charl Schwartzel (90th) and Trevor Immelman (114th).
“This time last year I was writing about my FedExCup campaign being a case of survival because I was on the 125 borderline at the start of the play-offs,” Els wrote on his website this week. “It felt like a kind of desperation and, in a sadistic sort of way, it was almost good for me to feel those emotions. I’ve always been a fighter, but that kind of situation really makes you dig deep and I think it’s one of the factors that contributed to me working so hard this past 12 months and turning my game around.”
Now he’s 11th, and because of the way the FedExCup is structured, with massively increased points on offer through the play-off series, things can change quite dramatically. “Still, I feel my current position gives me a decent platform to make a good run at this thing.
“The first three years we played the FedExCup it kind of came and went without me making much of an impression on things. Then in 2010 I came into the Barclays in the No1 spot but didn’t perform that well in the play-offs. By the time we got to the Tour Championship I was out of the hunt.
“Of course I want to do much better this year. My win at Lytham has given me a new lease of life. It’s great to have that Major in the bag, but I don’t want to take my foot off the gas. It’s the opposite in fact, and I feel motivated to keep pushing and try to play my best golf.
“The Barclays this year is at Bethpage Black. This is a great venue and being on Long Island it gets some big crowds. New Yorkers are a great sporting crowd. I just love their attitude. It makes for a great buzz.”
Clearly, Schwartzel in 90th place and the 114th-placed Immelman will need to play well this week to make sure they get into the Deutsche Bank.
American Dustin Johnson is the defending FedExCup champion. – The Star