In mid-August, Bo Van Pelt entered the Wyndham Championship, the last event of the regular PGA Tour season, 114th in the FedEx Cup standings. While Van Pelt was comfortably inside the top 125 who qualify for the season-ending playoffs, his chances of advancing past the first leg of the four-event series looked very bleak.
Then at the Wyndham he finished in a tie for 14th to jump to 104th in the rankings. And last week at the Barclays, he shot an opening-round 65 and coasted to a tie for 13th, vaulting to 73rd in the rankings.
This week outside Boston at the Deutsche Bank Championship, he has a chance to secure his place in the BMW Championship at Cherry Hills in Denver, one stop from the playoff finale in the Tour Championship in Atlanta.
"I've been very fortunate to have two of my best tournaments of the year the last two weeks," said Van Pelt, who has only one top-10 finish this season. "The great thing about the playoffs is that a player can get on a run and play [himself] into a tournament, week after week, like playoffs you see in other sports."
Van Pelt needs to finish in the top 70 at the Deutsche Bank to move on to Denver.
Meanwhile, Henrik Stenson, the 2013 FedEx Cup champion, is trying to not play his way out of the playoffs this week. Stenson won the Deutsche Bank last year on his way to his triumph in Atlanta. But this year he is entering the tournament ranked 66th and fighting to just remain in the playoffs.
In a perfect world, Stenson said on Thursday, he might take a week off in the playoffs to rest for the buildup to the Ryder Cup in late September. But his standing in the playoff race doesn't give him that luxury.
"For me, I'm playing as long as I'm in it," said Stenson, who will represent Europe for the third time when the Ryder Cup begins in Gleneagles, Scotland, on Sept. 26. "I need some sort of a result this week to carry on to Denver.
"I don't need any miracles, but if I want to make it to Atlanta, [I need to] have a good showing either this week or next week. And I'd rather do it this week than wait until the last minute."
Stenson isn't the only former FedEx Cup playoffs champion on the bubble at the Deutsche Bank, which begins on Friday and concludes on Labor Day. Brandt Snedeker, the 2012 FedEx Cup champion, is 71st in the playoff standings.
"Everything can change out here in one week," Snedeker told a PGA Tour reporter on Wednesday. "So that's the good thing about this. It gives me a chance if I play well on a golf course I like. I've got a good history here."
Geoff Ogilvy is just glad to be at the Deutsche Bank after missing the cut last week at the Barclays. The 37-year-old Australian earned the 100th and last spot into the field this week. According to the tour's projections, he will need at least a 13th-place finish to advance to Cherry Hills.
"I'm here thinking this is a kind of bonus for me," Ogilvy said. "When I missed the cut last week, I was pretty sure I was gone. So I flew home and was mentally starting my vacation. But then it became apparent with about a few hours to go in the Barclays I had a chance to finish in the top 100.
"I guess I'm here, if I can really have a good week and move in the right direction in the points, you never know what might happen."
Perhaps Ogilvy would be the unlikeliest FedEx Cup champion in the event's eight-year history, but the PGA Tour would welcome a Cinderella story as it tries to build excitement with the playoffs. A former U.S. Open champion, Ogilvy has missed 10 of 23 cuts this season. His only top-10 finish this year was last month, when he won the Barracuda Championship in Reno.
"The [playoffs] were going to be four weeks off," he said. "It's a bonus. It doesn't really matter, I can't finish any worse than 100 in the FedEx Cup this year."
Van Pelt isn't taking this opportunity so lightly.
"I'm just trying to see if I can keep going," he said. "It feels good to know that you're in a race and that you can control your fate by playing well."