Rory McIlroy’s bucket list is getting smaller but one unfulfilled wish is to win the FedExCup Series and therefore be crowned the PGA Tour champion.
The 25-year-old, world number one, affirmed as much in the immediate aftermath of his US PGA Championship victory at Valhalla in Louisville, Kentucky.
“I think first and foremost, my priority is the FedExCup. I came close a couple of years ago but didn’t quite get the job done. I feel like my game’s in good enough shape that I can keep this run of golf going and try and win that.”
That process begins on Thursday when the Ulster man tees it up in the Barclays at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey, the first of four tournaments in the FedEx pathway to crowning a champion.
Ordinarily it is the top 125 players in the standings who earn the right to try and secure one of the 100 places on offer for next week's Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston but there are just 122 playing as Dustin Johnson (leave of absence), Jason Dufner (neck) and Steve Stricker (family reasons) will not be replaced in the field.
The FedExCup Playoffs consist of four events, The Barclays, Deutsche Bank Championship, BMW Championship and the TOUR Championship with 2,500 points, five times the PGA Tour regular season reward, up for grabs on a weekly basis.
After next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship the field is reduced to 70 players, no cut, in Chicago, with Atlanta hosting the tour championship finale for the top 30 players.
There is a points reset ahead of the Tour final.
McIlroy leads second-placed Jimmy Walker by 89 points but with such a glut of points on offer the world number one will need a high finish to retain his pre-eminence.
Each tournament will have an $8 million (€5,988.000) purse – the winner’s share is $1,440,000 (€1,077,840) – in addition to the $35-million (€26,194,000) FedExCup bonus pool, which offers a cool $10 million (€7,484,000) for the champion.
McIlroy's pursuing a fourth successive win to supplement a victory streak that includes two Majors, the British Open and the US PGA and the WGC Bridgestone Invitational.
Run of success
The last player to win four-in-a-row was Tiger Woods, a run of success that straddled 2007 and 2008.
McIlroy didn't play in the Wyndham Championship, preferring instead to take a week off, that included a trip to his beloved Old Trafford last Saturday – he is a season ticket holder at Manchester United and occasionally forces his dad Gerry (a Man City fan), to accompany him for the derby matches – where he paraded the Claret Jug before an approving audience.
McIlroy displayed disparate virtues in each of his three most recent wins but one constant was his driving.
If he continues in that vein this week, he'll nearly be unplayable. The world number two, Adam Scott, is the defending champion at the Barclays, and the Australian is in fine fettle, with five top 10s in his last six starts.
Rickie Fowler’s run in the Majors this year, tied fifth (Masters), tied second (US Open, British Open) and tied third in the US PGA Championship requires no elaboration to underline his candidature.
Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, the defending FedExCup champion, Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson, to name but four, are others who'll fancy their chances this week and beyond.
Graeme McDowell is on the bubble, occupying the last qualifying position on the world points list in the European Ryder Cup standings.
He'd dearly love to be more securely ensconced in Paul McGinley's team after next weekend. His closest pursuer, Luke Donald, is also playing over a Ridgewood course that was last used in 2010 when Matt Kuchar won.
The Ryder Cup race continues simultaneously on the other side of the Atlantic with the European Tour returning to the Czech Republic this week for the first time since 2011, with the Albatross Golf Resort on the outskirts of Prague the backdrop for the inaugural Czech Masters.
It's the penultimate qualifying week for the European Ryder Cup team – the Italian Open is the last counting event – and Welshman Jamie Donaldson, currently occupying one of the slots, Scotland's Stephen Gallacher (11th) and Dutchman Joost Luiten (15th) will be hoping for a win that would help propel them to Gleneagles next month.
Ireland's representation in Prague comprises Simon Thornton, Damien McGrane, Gareth Maybin, Peter Lawrie, Kevin Phelan, David Higgins and Ruaidhri McGee. Pádraig Harrington, who lost his US Tour card at the weekend, has played eight of the mandatory 13 tournaments required by the European Tour but should return to competitive action at next week's Italian Open.
Meanwhile the GUI announced the Ireland team to compete in the Eisenhower Trophy at Karuizawa Golf Club, Japan, from September 10th-13th will be Paul Dunne (Greystones), Gary Hurley (West Waterford) and Gavin Moynihan (The Island).
The team captain is Pádraig Hogan (Elm Park).