This week’s Wyndham Championship, played August 14–18 in Greensboro, North Carolina, is the last full-field regular Tour event of the season. More significantly, it is the last chance players have to make a cut and rack up points for the opportunity to continue play beyond this weekend and make a run at the $10 million prize awaiting the FedEx Cup Champion. For two of five top PGA Tour players who hail from Northern California, it’s their last opportunity to make a run at that payday.
It hasn’t been a boon 2013-2014 season for the five PGA Tour players who are NorCal natives. Kevin Chappell, Ricky Barnes, Nick Watney, and Derek Ernst—all of whom are originally from the Central Valley—and James Hahn, who grew up in Alameda, have just six Top 10 finishes between them (none in the Top 3), and 15 Top 25 finishes, with the bulk of those—eight, to be exact—to Chappell’s credit.
This time last year the picture was a little different. The five could count ten Top 10 finishes between them, including a remarkable rookie-year win by Derek Ernst, at the Wells Fargo Championship in May; Chappell’s second-place finish at the Memorial Tournament; and Hahn’s T3 finish at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. Winnings in 2013 between the five, up to the Wyndham Championship, were nearly 29% higher than this year, and all but one, Stockton’s Ricky Barnes, were slated to advance to the FedEx cup playoffs.
The good news for local golf fans is that all five of these men made the cut to play the weekend. The bad news is that only three of them—Chappell, Watney, and Barnes— are certain of a spot in the field at The Barclays, the first of four FedEx Cup playoff events, next week in Paramus, New Jersey. Chappell, with 723 points, is in good shape in the #66 spot; Watney, with 483 points, is 110th; and Barnes, in a reversal of last year’s fortunes, is #112 with 474 points.
Hahn sits uneasily on the bubble with 445 points, and was positioned at #121 on the list going into the Wyndham Championship. A somewhat knee-wobbling Friday round saw him to the weekend on the cut line, when he matched Thursday’s 1-under 69, making just one more birdie than he did bogeys. His current projected FedEx Cup ranking is #125 – last man in.
Derek Ernst is currently on the outside looking in as far as the FedEx Cup playoffs go, and though he has a mathematical chance of advancing to The Barclays after making the cut today, with one stroke to spare, it would take a performance of the magnitude of the one he put up last May in Charlotte—a win—to advance beyond this week.
At 188 points and 172nd place, the 500 points awarded to the winner of the Wyndham Championship would shoot Ernst well up the FedEx Cup tote board to somewhere in the neighborhood of #77 or 78. A second-place finish, awarding 300 points, would most likely slip him over the line with a few places to spare, but at this point it would take a Cray supercomputer to crunch all the possible finish variations and determine the level of surety of that scenario.
Even Hahn’s position, though listed on the Tour’s summary as “Likely In” is somewhat at risk. An unlooked-for strong finish by any one of the two or three players closest behind him in the rankings could drop him below the line and out of the playoffs.