2019 FedEx Cup Playoffs format, odds: Brooks Koepka the favorite, but Tiger Woods has a chance

It’s time to crown a season-long champion on the PGA Tour. The 2019 FedEx Cup Playoffs have arrived and with just three weeks instead of the typical four, things are more fast-paced than ever before as the season draws to a close.

The Northern Trust this week kick-starts the festivities before the BMW Championship bridges the path to a revamped Tour Championship to end August and the new condensed schedule. There are plenty of differences between last year’s playoffs and this year’s playoffs, and we should dive into a few of them before discussing who could walk away with the $15 million bonus at East Lake.

Format changes

FedEx ponied up some extra dough for the ending to the PGA Tour’s season, which sweetens the pot for everybody. But that’s not the only benefit for players. They also don’t have to play as much as they used to as one week of the playoffs has been sliced off. Here’s a list of the changes with the strangest, most curious one at the end.

2018 Playoffs 2019 Playoffs

Events

4

3

Field

125 cut to 70*

70 cut to 30*

Bonus money $35 million $60 million
Winner’s purse $10 million $15 million

* The field is cut after the first event, The Northern Trust.

The field of 30 at the Tour Championship starts with pre-determined score (leader of FedEx Cup at -10, second place at -8 and so on all the way down to the bottom five, who will start at even par). Nobody really knows how it will play out. Who cares, though?! If I can watch Justin Thomas start six in the hole down to Brooks Koepka and try to run him down from behind for $15 million, I say we’re all winners.

Handicapping the field

There are really three groups here contending for the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup. Only two golfers have ever started outside the top 20 going into the FedEx Cup Playoffs and still gone on to win the FedEx Cup. With fewer events, it will now be even harder to make up ground.

Golfer FedEx Cup Rank Odds

Brooks Koepka

1

2-1

Rory McIlroy

2

6-1

Dustin Johnson

7

9-1

There’s a pretty clear and easy top three here. McIlroy and Johnson have played better overall golf for longer periods of time this year, but Koepka is also the best player in the world when all the players in the world are playing at the highest level. His 2-1 number is a little ridiculous, though, and I actually think D.J. is a better bet here. Still, this feels like Koepka’s playoffs to lose.

Golfer FedEx Cup Rank Odds

Matt Kuchar

3

14-1

Xander Schauffele

4

14-1

Justin Rose

11

16-1

Patrick Cantlay

6

16-1

Justin Thomas 17 20-1
Rickie Fowler 13 20-1

Jon Rahm

10

20-1

Gary Woodland

5

30-1

Webb Simpson

9

40-1

Paul Casey 8 50-1

It won’t be all that difficult to catch Koepka early on because of how much a win is worth over the next two weeks. Koepka has 2,887 points going into the playoffs, and winning an event is worth 2,000. If Koepka does his usual “this kinda matters but kinda not” thing for too long, somebody like Rahm, Cantlay or Rose could run him down in a hurry. Couple of interesting notes here: Woodland’s wife just gave birth to twins, and Casey is actually sitting out the first event this week at Liberty National.

Golfer FedEx Cup Rank Odds
Tiger Woods 28 25-1

Bryson DeChambeau

18

30-1

Tony Finau

16

40-1

Tommy Fleetwood

19

40-1

Adam Scott

21

60-1

Tiger is complicated because he’s been pretty lousy since the Masters, but he also won the Tour Championship last year. He’s the lowest guy in the FedEx Cup standings currently on my list, and I’m mostly just including in him out of fear that he found a little inspiration after the Open Championship. Scott is my favorite sleeper. He’s currently No. 4 in strokes gained, hasn’t won and is the last golfer to win a PGA Tour event at Liberty National (site of the first playoff event).

What to expect from Tiger Woods

Here are Tiger’s finishes following his win in April at the Masters: MC, T9, T21, MC

Any combination of any of those over the next three weeks, and he’ll struggle just to make the Tour Championship, much less contend for it. His struggles have been myriad and well-documented, but maybe a return to the U.S. and some warmer weather will benefit him. He’s really only played one warm-weather event this summer, and that was The Memorial Tournament where he finished T9. That’s overly simplistic, surely, but it might not be as much of a reach as you think. 

Regardless, Woods has played just one Tour Championship in the last five years, and that was last year when he won it over Rory McIlroy in the final pairing of the final round of the season. If the Tour Championship started today, though, he’d start 10 strokes down to Koepka, which in his prime would have been a difficult to obstacle to overcome. Now? It’s a wild improbability. So for Woods, there is much work to be done over the next few weeks to get himself in a better position for East Lake.