Justin Thomas wins at Medinah ensuring a number one starting spot in the Tour Championship
MEDINAH, Ill. – Justin Thomas was already nervous. He had probably lingered too long on his phone, reading the good-luck and you-got-this texts from well-wishers who assumed that closing out a six-shot lead on Sunday is a mere formality. JT hadn’t even arrived at the course yet for his final round at the BMW Championship.
When he did, some friendly advice was waiting for him from the locker room attendants at Medinah, who evidently decided that a guy who’s won a FedExCup, a major, and multiple PGA TOUR events needed help on how to close out a tournament. OK, it has been a year since Thomas has won. People like him and want him to succeed. But still …
Their advice? Talk to your caddie. A lot. Make sure you keep talking.
“OK, as long as you stop talking, it’s fine with me,” JT thought to himself.
Thomas knows all too well that large leads do not come with guarantees. Sure, six-shot leads seem safe – since 1928, just seven 54-hole leaders in PGA TOUR history have lost such a lofty lead. But Thomas remembered the 2017 Sentry Tournament of Champions, when he led by five shots after 13 holes but saw it whittled to one by Hideki Matsuyama before JT closed it out.
Matsuyama was at it again on Sunday, going out in 5-under 31 en route to his second 63 of the week. Matsuyama’s first 63, on Friday, had set the course record – one that lasted for 24 hours until Thomas eclipsed it with a magnificent 61 on Saturday that set him up with the huge advantage.
Matsuyama was too far away from posing any real threat, but one of Thomas’ playing partners, future Presidents Cup teammate Patrick Cantlay, was offering some high heat. When Cantlay produced his fourth consecutive birdie at the par-5 10th while Thomas bogeyed the hole after an errant second shot with a 3-wood – “Just a bad shot,” JT said – the lead was reduced to two shots.
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Cantlay had the momentum. “I knew I had to make birdies,” he said.
But that’s when Thomas flipped the switch. The game was officially on – and that got the competitive juices flowing. In fact, his nervousness to start the day with a six-shot lead was now replaced with the bravado and fearlessness of a closer.
“If I have a two-shot lead with eight holes left,” Thomas said, “I feel confident I can pull it off.”
Established in 2007, the FedExCup is a season-long points competition offering unprecedented bonus money and culminating with the FedExCup Playoffs in August. Players vie to become the FedExCup champion, which distinguishes the one player who not only performs well during the PGA TOUR Regular Season, but also excels through the pressure of the FedExCup Playoffs. Tiger Woods won the inaugural FedExCup in 2007 and won again in 2009. Others to hoist the FedExCup trophy include Vijay Singh (2008), Jim Furyk (2010), Bill Haas (2011), Brandt Snedeker (2012), Henrik Stenson (2013), Billy Horschel (2014), Jordan Spieth (2015), Rory McIlroy (2016), Justin Thomas (2017) and most recently, Justin Rose (2018).
The PGA TOUR Regular Season includes 43 events played over 38 weeks beginning in October 2018, with the Safeway Open, and ending in August 2019 at the Wyndham Championship. TOUR members earn FedExCup points based on their finish at each tournament, with an emphasis placed on wins and high finishes. Points are awarded at four levels:
• Official PGA TOUR events played during the PGA TOUR Season each award 500 FedExCup points to the winner.
• THE PLAYERS Championship, Masters Tournament, PGA Championship, U.S. Open and The Open Championship award 600 FedExCup points to the winner.
• World Golf Championships events award 550 FedExCup points to the winner.
• Additional events (played the same week as other tournaments) award 300 FedExCup points to the winner.
Limited-field events during the FedExCup competition will not redistribute the points for places that do not play. Those points are not awarded to the field and the total points distributed will be slightly less than the total points as defined above. For example, if the Sentry Tournament of Champions has a field of 30 players, the points awarded will be based on the points that would be awarded to each individual position in a full-field event from positions 1 to 30. This will result in the points that would have otherwise been awarded from positions 31-70 in a regular event not being awarded in the tournament.
Another example is the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, a 64-player field. In this limited-field event, points for positions 65 and beyond would not be awarded.
At the completion of the Wyndham Champion, $10 million in bonus money is awarded through the Wyndham Rewards Top 10 program. Sponsored by Wyndham, the Wyndham Rewards Top 10 recognizes the 10 players who earn the most FedExCup points through the Wyndham Championship, with the Regular Season champion earning $2 million.
At the conclusion of the season, the top 125 players in the FedExCup standings will be eligible to play in the FedExCup Playoffs, a series of three events over the month of August (from 2007 to 2018, the FedExCup Playoffs included four events). Points earned during the PGA TOUR Regular Season carry over to the Playoffs.
Players will compete in the FedExCup Playoffs for their share of the $60 million total in bonus money, which increased by $25 million in 2019. The FedExCup champion will receive $15 million, which increased by $5 million in 2019.
The FedExCup Playoffs events feature a progressive cut, with fields of 125 for THE NORTHERN TRUST (Liberty National Golf Club, Jersey City, New Jersey), 70 for the BMW Championship (Medinah Country Club, Medinah, Illinois) and 30 for the TOUR Championship (East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta, Georgia), where the FedExCup Champion will be determined. In the event an eligible player is unable or chooses not to play, the field will be shortened and no alternates will be added. Points from the missing positions will not be awarded.
THE NORTHERN TRUST will cut the field to low 70 and ties after 36 holes, while the BMW Championship and TOUR Championship are no-cut events.
The first two Playoffs events award 2,000 points to the winner (quadruple points of Regular Season events), while the Playoffs Finale, the TOUR Championship, features a strokes-based system (FedExCup Starting Strokes) instituted for the first time in 2019. The player with the lowest total score will win the FedExCup and be credited with an official victory in the TOUR Championship competition.
The FedExCup points leader after the first two Playoffs events will begin the TOUR Championship at 10-under par. The No. 2 player will start at 8 under. The No. 3 player starts at 7 under; the No. 4 player starts at 6 under; the No. 5 player starts at 5 under. Players 6-10 start at 4 under; players 11-15 start at 3 under; players 16-20 start at 2 under; players 21-25 start at 1 under; and players 26-30 start at even par.
At the TOUR Championship, the player with the lowest aggregate score over 72 holes when combined with his FedExCup Starting Strokes will win the TOUR Championship and also be crowned FedExCup champion. The TOUR Championship win will be considered an official victory and the FedExCup champion will also earn a bonus of $15 million and a five-year PGA TOUR exemption.