With one tournament left before the FedExCup Playoffs conclude with the Tour Championship at East Lake, a number of Georgians were either just inside the top 30 on the points list or were within striking distance of getting into the top 30 before the 2013 season ends in Atlanta Sept. 19-22.
Three Georgians – Roberto Castro, Zach Johnson and Harris English were 25, 27 and 28 respectively on the points list following the Deutsche Bank Championship. Charles Howell was just outside the top 30 at 31, with Chris Kirk, Bubba Watson, Russell Henley and Patrick Reed within range of qualifying for the Tour Championship with a strong showing in the third Playoffs event outside Chicago.
The only Georgian assured a spot in the 30-player field that will tee it up at East Lake is St. Simons resident and former Georgia Tech standout Matt Kuchar, who was 4th coming into the BMW Championship.
The top 20 or so coming into the BMW Championship have all but clinched a berth in the Tour Championship, with most of the players in the 20s likely to make it to East Lake barring strong showings from a host of players just outside the top 30.
Castro, like Kuchar a former Georgia Tech All-American, had a chance to secure an invite to the Tour Championship, as well as the 2014 Masters, but slipped to a tie for 9th in the Deutsche Bank Championship after briefly holding the outright lead early in the final round.
The second year PGA Tour member from Alpharetta is still in strong position to qualify for East Lake after an outstanding run of play that began at the Players Championship in May.
Castro tied for 19th at TPC Sawgrass after a sensational opening round 63, and since then has three top-10s, including a runner-up finish in the AT&T National at Congressional, along with three other top 25s, highlighted by a tie for 12th in the PGA Championship.
Both Johnson and English, also a St. Simons resident and a recent member of the UGA golf team, will need strong showings in Chicago to remain in the top 30.
Johnson, who missed the Playoffs opener to attend his brother’s wedding, came into the Playoffs with five straight top 10s, including the British Open, PGA and WGC Bridgestone, beginning with a playoff loss to Jordan Spieth in the John Deere Classic. Johnson narrowly held on to the final qualifying spot for the U.S. Presidents Cup team, and will join Kuchar on the squad.
English is in the top 30 largely on the strength of his victory this season in Memphis, but followed it with three straight top 15s, including the British Open and WGC Bridgestone.
Like Castro, this is his second year on tour.
Howell, an Augusta native, seems on the verge of another disappointment unless he can gain at least one spot in the standings at the BMW Championship. Howell has narrowly missed qualifying for several majors, including the Masters in his hometown and WGC events, both this year and in the recent past, and that could happen again. He was 24th coming into the Deutsche Bank Championship, but after shooting 3-under on his first nine in the final round of that event, shot 3-over on his final nine to fall 23 points behind Lee Westwood for the 30th spot in the standings.
Charl Schwartzel was 29 coming into the BMW Championship, with Nick Watney (34) and Rickie Fowler (36) the most prominent players within 100 points of 30th place. A 50th place finish in a Playoffs event is worth 105 points, so there is a lot of opportunity for volatility the final week of the Playoffs before the points are reset prior to the Tour Championship.
Kirk moved up 10 spots to 37 after a T16 finish in Boston, and the Woodstock native and St. Simons resident will be looking to qualify for the Tour Championship for the first time in his third season.
Watson, like Kirk a former Georgia Bulldog, is 40th in points, moving up in the standings with a tie for 13th in the Barclays. But he plummeted from 27 to 40 despite making the cut in Boston.
Macon’s Russell Henley, a teammate of English at Georgia, was 24th at the end of the regular season, but a missed cut and a tie for 62nd in the first two Playoffs events has dropped him to 43rd, and he will need at least a top 10 finish in Chicago to regain his spot in the top 30.
After ending the season 22nd in points, recent Augusta State golfer Patrick Reed has fallen all the way to 47th after a missed cut and near last place finish in the first two Playoffs events. Like Henley, Reed won as a PGA Tour rookie, but his recent victory in Greensboro has been negated by his poor Playoffs performance.
Also making it through the first two Playoffs events were former Georgia Tech golfers Nicholas Thompson and Bryce Molder, who were 59 and 66 in the standings going to Chicago.
Fellow Tech golfers Stewart Cink and Cameron Tringale were eliminated after Boston, along with ex-Bulldogs Brian Harman and Erik Compton.
The points will be reset after the BMW Championship, with the top five in the standings assured of claiming the FedExCup Championship if they win at East Lake. That has not applied any of the last three years, as Brandt Snedeker, Bill Haas and Jim Furyk have all come from outside the top five to win both the Tour Championship and FedExCup.
Off his recent stretch of torrid play, Henrik Stenson was No. 1 going to Chicago following his impressive victory in Boston. Tiger Woods slipped to 2nd after a forgettable week, with Barclays winner Adam Scott 3rd, Kuchar 4th and Canadian Graham DeLaet vaulting from 34 to 5 after tying for 2nd in the Barclays and for 3rd in the Deutsche Bank. DeLaet also played his way onto the International squad for the Presidents Cup.
An interesting group held down the 6-10 spots including two-time Tour Championship winner Phil Mickelson, U.S. Open champion Justin Rose, Steve Stricker, defending FedExCup and Tour Championship winner Snedeker, and the red-hot Spieth, who closed with a 62 at TPC Boston.
Others who will make it to East Lake include Keegan Bradley (11), Jason Day (12), Jason Dufner (13), Furyk (15), Haas (17) Hunter Mahan (18), Boo Weekley (19) and Webb Simpson (20). Billy Horschel (22), Dustin Johnson (23) and Sergio Garcia (24) are all in good position to advance.
Topping the list of players outside the top 40 with one tournament left before East Lake was Rory McIlroy, who is within striking distance at 41. Others of note include Graeme McDowell (48), Ian Poulter (52), Luke Donald (54), Rory Sabbatini (60), Ryan Moore (65), Angel Cabrera (68) and Ernie Els, who barely advanced at No. 70.
Ryan Palmer, Freddie Jacobson, K.J. Choi and Martin Laird played themselves out of the top 70, as did Cink, who birdied four of his first six holes in the final round but settled for a 2-under 69. The most heroic finish was turned in by Brendan Steele, who birdied his last four holes in Boston to slip in at 69.