Collin Morikawa sees FedEx playoffs as a three-week event in hunt for $15m pot

British Open champion goes into opening event at the top of the standings

British Open champion Collin Morikawa will aim to avoid "burn-out" as he bids to claim the $15 million prize for winning the FedEx Cup title.

Morikawa heads into the first of three playoff events on top of the standings, albeit with just a 32-point lead over former world number one Jordan Spieth.

The top 70 players after this week's Northern Trust at Liberty National will advance to the BMW Championship in Maryland, with the subsequent top 30 qualifying for the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.

Since 2019, the player with the most FedEx Cup points after the BMW Championship starts the first round of the Tour Championship on 10 under par, with the second-ranked player on eight under and so on, on a sliding scale down to the players in 26th to 30th who start on level par.


“Obviously, it’s great to start out number one going into the playoffs,” said Morikawa, who won the USPGA Championship in 2020 and lifted the Claret Jug at Royal St George’s last month.

“It means I was doing something right throughout the regular season. We had a couple wins, a couple top 10s. Overall, it feels good.

“I think the way I looked into the playoffs last year, I was so focused, especially after that PGA win, let’s go win, win, win, and I think I was almost burnt out by the time I got to that third week knowing I’d be there.

“Not everyone has the luxury of knowing where they’re going to stand coming to the Tour Championship, but I at least know I’m going to be there, I’m going to have a chance with four rounds no matter where I stand.

“So I think it’s just thinking about how do I rest up? How do I feel great about myself body-wise by the time I do get there? Because it’s a long three weeks.

“When you have the playoffs, this is everything. This is the finals for us.

“I think I’m going to kind of look at this a little differently throughout these next couple weeks leading up to the Tour Championship and just see if I can plot my way to really peak in that third week rather than burn myself out in the first few.”

Meanwhile, Patrick Cantlay will have Tiger Woods's longtime caddie Joe LaCava on the bag this week.

LaCava said he “ran it by” Woods before agreeing to the gig.

Cantlay’s usual caddie, Matt Minister, is out after testing positive for Covid-19.

“He’s going to have to put up with the scrub caddie this week,” LaCava joked.

Woods has not played golf since suffering serious leg injuries in a single-car accident in Los Angeles in February. He is still recovering and has provided few updates about when he might return to competition.

LaCava has remained sidelined in that time, too, except for two substitute gigs caddying for Fred Couples on the Champions Tour. He began caddying for Woods in 2011.

Cantlay has won twice during the 2020-21 PGA Tour season, most recently at the Memorial in June. He enters the playoffs third in the points standings.

Ruaidhrí Croke’s Northern Trust lowdown

Course: Liberty National Golf Club, New Jersey.

Prizemoney: €8.1 million (€1.5 million to the winner).

Length: 7,410 yards. Par: 71.

Defending champion: Dustin Johnson won by 11 shots, albeit at a different course – TPC Boston.

Course overview: This is the third time this course has hosted the event while it also held the Presidents Cup in 2017. Set on an old landfill site (it cost $300 million to build), the course presents spectacular views of the New York City skyline and the Statue of Liberty. One of the main challenges at Liberty National are the tiny greens which put a premium on good iron play while narrow fairways make driving difficult. Plenty of lakes and creeks also add to the challenge of a course which has seen winning totals of nine under, 11 under and 16 under on the three times it has hosted this event.

A look at the field: Jon Rahm comes in as the heavy favourite as he looks to cap a scintillating (and eventful) season with a FedEx Cup win. The world number one was forced out of the Olympics last month after another positive Covid-19 test but his previous form of tied-third at the British Open, seventh at the Scottish Open and a win at the US Open shows just how good he has been. This is the first of the three FedEx Cup playoff events with the top 125 players in the standings competing before it's whittled down to the top 70 for next week and then the top 30 for the Tour Championship. Collin Morikawa currently leads the standings with Rory McIlroy (26th), Shane Lowry (66th) and Séamus Power (73rd) all in the field this week.

Tips: It is extremely hard to look past Jon Rahm (10-1) whenever he tees it up these days and, given that after his first isolation period for Covid-19 he came back and won the US Open, no one would be surprised to see him repeat that trick here. However, Morikawa (18-1) comes in off the back of his win at Royal St George's and the small greens and premium on accuracy at this course will suit him down to the ground. For a bit of value, Power (125-1) has been in the form of his lift this last while and is in the playoffs for the first time after his maiden win at the Barbasol Championship.

Irish in action: Power (first round tee-time: 12.31pm), McIlroy (first round tee-time: 1.15pm), Shane Lowry (first round tee-time: 5.11pm).

Weather forecast: Thunderstorms are forecast for Thursday but warm and sunny conditions are set for Friday onwards.

On TV: Sky Sports Golf red button from midday, Sky Sports Golf from 6pm.