A significant Sunday: Repercussions of FedEx St. Jude finale to be felt well into next season
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The most reactionary Sunday in professional golf lived up to the hype.
The duality of cause and effect was on full display at TPC Southwind as the first FedExCup playoff event followed a predictable script with players moving into and outside the coveted top 50 on the postseason points list with entertaining regularity.
On the plus side of the ledger was Cam Davis, who climbed from 62nd on the regular-season list to 45th thanks to a three-birdie, no-bogey effort on a scorching Sunday at the FedEx St. Jude Championship. Davis’ closing 67 left him tied for sixth place and, more importantly, in the field for next week’s BMW Championship.
Full-field scores from FedEx St. Jude Championship
It’s been three weeks of clutch Sunday’s for the Australian, starting with the 3M Open, where he closed with a 65 to move from 77th on the points list to No. 69, followed by a final-round 66 to finish tied for seventh at last week’s Wyndham Championship to jump to 62nd.
“I would say the last three Sundays in a row have all been about the same level of stress and the same level of achievement for me,” Davis said. “I’ve managed to put really good, clean rounds together when the pressure has been on to keep moving forward, and yeah, it’s really satisfying to be able to know that I’ve got a tee time next week, so I can start looking forward to that.”
Hideki Matsuyama also scratched his way from the wrong side of the top-50 bubble, but his Sunday was not nearly as clinical.
Fifty-seventh on the points list to start the week, Matsuyama was well outside the projected top 50 following a lackluster start to the week (67-69-70), and when the weather warning horn suspended play for more than an hour on Sunday, he had three holes to play.
“During the suspended play, I looked and saw what I needed to do on the final three holes,” Matsuyama said. “I knew I had to birdie them all. Especially at 18, I looked up and saw I was 47th on the FedExCup list, which made that approach shot [on No. 18] really difficult. I’m just happy that I was able to get it up-and-down.”
Matsuyama, who has qualified for the Tour Championship every season since 2014, eagled the 16th hole, birdied No. 17 and scrambled for par at the last for a closing 65 and a tie for 16th place to move to 47th on the points list.
But the deal with cause-and-effect relationships is that for every Davis and Matsuyama there’s a Mackenzie Hughes and Nick Hardy.
Hughes’ rollercoaster started with a 1-over opening nine to drop to 51st in projected points, but he birdied the 12th and 15th holes and moved to 49th in projected points when he chipped in for birdie at No. 16.
“I grinded my ass off,” sighed Hughes, who started the week ranked 47th on the points list. “Obviously, I knew all the stuff going in, I knew all the stuff all year, and like my wife said, I’m a big procrastinator, and it seems like I leave it to the last minute all the time no matter what I’m doing, whether it’s dishes or golf. Here we are, waiting it out.”
Nick Hardy began the week on the bubble at No. 50 but struggled to weekend rounds of 71-70 to tie for 49th place.
But the most emotional of the players who came up short on Sunday was Taylor Montgomery — a Tour rookie who started the year strong but closed out the regular season with four-consecutive missed cuts to drop from 40th on the points list on June 18 to 53rd to start the postseason. On Sunday, he moved to 49th on the projected list with a birdie at the par-5 16th hole but sent his drive wildly right on No. 18 and finished with a bogey to tie for 37th place.
“I’m normally pretty good in those situations, but it’s really hard when you have no confidence over the ball, like tee-shot-wise, and I was fine with my tee shot, at least gave myself a chance,” Montgomery said. “This week, I felt like I was playing almost Bubba [Watson] golf, where I was aiming way right and way left because, wherever I was aiming, it wasn’t going there. I’m happy with the way I kind of fought back after the start that I had and gave myself a chance at least.”
When the computer finally stopped churning out projections, Hughes was 51st, Hardy 52nd and Montgomery 53rd, just outside the top 50 and arguably the most significant cut off in PGA Tour history.
Starting next year, the circuit transitions to signature events (formerly designated) with limited fields that will primarily be filled with the top 50 players from this year’s points list. There will be other avenues into the signature events for the likes of Hughes, Hardy and Montgomery (including current season points, the world ranking and sponsor exemptions), but the cause and effect of Sunday’s outcome will last well into next year.