McIlroy and McDowell have it all to play for at Conway Farms
Getting to megabucks Tour Championship shindig next week still in their own hands
Rory McIlroy has his work cut out at the BMW Championship in Chicago this week if he is to make next week’s Tour Championship, the finale to the PGA Tour’s season. Photograph: Darren Carroll/Getty Images
The number-crunching which goes into the makeup of the sFedEx Cup rankings are probably best ignored by Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, who head into this week’s BMW Championship at Conway Farms, outside Chicago, with jobs to do if they are to progress into next week’s Tour Championship, the finale to the PGA Tour’s season.
Rather than engage in mathematical possibilities, both would probably be better served playing their own games, one shot at a time, knowing that qualifying for the megabucks shindig is still in their own hands.
If a year is a long time in politics, McIlroy – who 12 months ago won the BMW to go back-to-back having also won the Deutsche Bank championship – is still looking to find the spark to ignite his season.
And the 24-year-old Ulsterman heads into the BMW, the third of the FedEx Cup play-off series, in the knowledge he has to deliver and there is no safety net.
The long and the short of it is McIlroy, if he is to make it to the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, must finish inside the top eight to be guaranteed his place in the 30- man field for the tour finale.
Depending on other results, it is possible that anything from 11th to as high as a 20th place finish could be sufficient.
If McIlroy is to take destiny into his own hands, a top-eight has to be his goal.
A win would see him jump as high as fourth. McIlroy heads into the BMW in 41st position.
Likewise for McDowell, it is a case of delivering or missing out on Atlanta.
McDowell is currently 48th in the FedEx Cup standings and requires a top-five to be certain of progressing, regardless of how others perform.
The complexities, however, are such that even a top-15 could potentially be enough.
In effect, there are only 11 places up for grabs this week as the top-19 in the current rankings – from number one Henrik Stenson down to 19th-placed Bo Weekley – are set to advance regardless of how they perform this week.
Stenson moved past Tiger Woods into the top spot with his victory in the Deutsche Bank two weeks ago.
Woods, a five-time winner on tour this season, had held the top position since March.
Whilst McIlroy, seeking a first tournament win of the year, and McDowell, who has won three times this season on either side of the Atlantic, play in the 70-man event with the guarantee at least of playing four rounds, the KLM Open in Zandvoort on the European Tour will provide Kevin Phelan with his first taste of playing for pay.