Win $10 million without a win? It's possible for Furyk, Harrington and more

Updated: September 23, 2009

ATLANTA -- Here is the PGA Tour's nightmare scenario come Sunday night at the Tour Championship:

Jim Furyk wins the FedEx Cup ... without winning the tournament and without -- gasp -- winning a tournament all year.

Padraig Harrington

Chuck Rydlewski/Icon SMI

Padraig Harrington is one of several players with a shot at winning the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus who haven't won on the PGA Tour in 2009.

It could happen, and it's not that far-fetched.

Let's say Geoff Ogilvy wins the Tour Championship. The Aussie has won twice previously this year, is ranked 10th in the world and 13th in the FedEx Cup standings.

In a stirring duel, he edges Furyk, with Steve Stricker finishing third and Tiger Woods fourth.

Depending on how close things get down the stretch, that could make for a very compelling Sunday afternoon at East Lake Golf Club.

But if it comes down that way, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem would be handing over the FedEx Cup trophy and a $10 million bonus to a player who failed to win a tournament anywhere on the PGA Tour.

Call it a fluke or a flaw, but it certainly offers up a scenario that would be less than fun for the PGA Tour brass to explain.

"Well, I'd be like Sylvester; I just swallowed a Tweety bird and that would put a big smile on my face," Furyk said. "But obviously that probably wouldn't be good for the system. ... I don't think that someone should be able to win the championship without winning a golf tournament. It would be a testament to a good, solid season. You've played well, but if you're going to win a championship, you're going to have to win something along the way, in my opinion."

This is no knock on Furyk, who has not won but positioned himself beautifully by tying for eighth at the Deutsche Bank Championship and then tied for second at the BMW Championship. Those points pushed him to third in the FedEx Cup standings -- behind Woods and Stricker, both of whom have won Fed Ex playoff events. Anyone in the top five automatically wins the FedEx Cup with a victory here.

But the system was not designed to crown a champion who never won all year. And Furyk is not the only player to whom that applies. Padraig Harrington is also in position to claim the $10 million bonus without winning.

For Furyk to do it, he would have to finish second with no player ranked in the top eight winning and Woods finishing no better than fourth. (Worse, he could finish third and still win the FedEx Cup if nobody in the top 10 wins, with Woods finishing no better than seventh and Stricker no better than fifth.)

For Harrington, it would be more complicated to win the FedEx Cup by finishing second. Nobody in the top 15 could win, and various other outcomes would need to occur, including Woods finishing 10th or worse.

For both Furyk and Harrington, the ultimate goal is to win the Tour Championship. And the scenarios outlined might not come close to occurring. But you never know.

"The only thing I'm sure of, or generally certain of, is it will probably work out in some way that we haven't talked about yet," Finchem said. "Tiger won't win by 10, somebody in the top five won't win and win it. There will be a three-way playoff with someone that hasn't won [or] somebody came from nowhere. It'll be interesting to see but it'll be fun."

Playoffs, playoffs ... and more playoffs?

Just like at any PGA Tour event, if the Tour Championship ends in a tie on Sunday, there will be a sudden-death playoff to decide the winner -- just as there was last year when Camilo Villegas defeated Sergio Garcia.

But if the FedEx Cup playoffs end in a tie, there will also be a playoff to decide the $10 million winner.

And there are several scenarios in which there could be multiple playoffs.

Follow along.

If Scott Verplank, who is eighth in the standings, and Jim Furyk, who is third, finish the tournament tied, they would go to a sudden-death playoff that would begin at the par-3 18th hole, then continue to the 17th and again to the 18th until there is a winner.

If Furyk wins the tournament, he also wins the FedEx Cup.

But what if Verplank wins the tournament? He gets 2,500 points for winning the Tour Championship, added to the 1,000 he has going in. Furyk gets 1,500 for finishing second, added to the 2,000 he has going in. They both would have a total of 3,500. Then what?

Another playoff.

They'd go back to the 18th hole and start again.

A look at this week's venue

East Lake Golf Club is the site of the Tour Championship for the ninth time and sixth year in a row as the PGA Tour has anchored its FedEx Cup season-ending event at the Atlanta course that was home to Bobby Jones in his youth.

The par-70, 7,304-yard course was designed by Donald Ross in 1913 and retains many of the notable qualities for which the famous architect was known, including greens that slope away around the edges. The course runs through a neighborhood that has undergone a transformation in the past decade as the venue was also upgraded.

Two years ago, when the course was in tough shape because of drought conditions, Tiger Woods romped with a score of 257, 23 under par. The course played considerably tougher last year when Camilo Villegas was just 7 under, winning a playoff over Sergio Garcia. What remains to be seen is how days of steady rain in the Atlanta area will impact the course.

East Lake has two par-5s -- the fifth and the 10th -- that have been converted to par-4s for the Tour Championship. And the course has the distinction of ending with a par-3, a 235-yard hole with a two-tiered green that could be the site of a $10 million putt on Sunday.

The Tour Championship dates to 1987, when it was originally called the Nabisco Championships of Golf. Tom Watson won the inaugural season-ending event at Oak Hills Country Club in San Antonio. The tournament then moved around the country, to places such as Pebble Beach, Hilton Head, Pinehurst, Olympic Club and Southern Hills, before settling into a rotation of Champions in Houston and East Lake -- which has been the permanent home since 2004.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.


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Birdies and bogeys

Birdies

1. Tiger Woods. His third-round 62 at the BMW Championship was nearly 9 strokes better than the course average at Cog Hill and set up an easy victory, putting him in the position we always expected: No. 1 heading to the Tour Championship in the FedEx Cup.

2. Amy Mickelson. The popular wife of PGA Tour star Phil Mickelson made a public appearance at Torrey Pines last week -- site of the LPGA Tour's Samsung event -- her first since beginning cancer treatment in July. The hope is that she will be able to join Phil at the Presidents Cup in two weeks.

3. Rafael Cabrera Bello. The Spaniard shot a final-round 60 at the European Tour's Austrian Open to come from 8 shots back to win his first tour title. He had an eagle putt on the final green for what would have been the European Tour's first 59.

Bogeys

1. The Race to Dubai. It finally became official: The European Tour's season-ending Dubai World Championship and money list bonus both took a 25 percent hit, although a $7.5 million purse and $7.5 million bonus pool still aren't bad.

2. The LPGA Tour. Another tournament was lost this week, and it's a big one: the Michelob event at Kingsmill. It was one of the tour's best. That brings to seven the number of tournaments the LPGA has seen go away heading into 2010.

3. Lorena Ochoa. What has happened to the LPGA's No. 1 player? Since winning her second tournament of the year in April, Ochoa has not won again, and has just a single top-five finish -- at the limited-field Samsung, where she was fourth on Sunday.

Playing with house money

John Senden is very fortunate to be in the Tour Championship with even a remote chance of winning the FedEx Cup. He finished just .492 points ahead of Ian Poulter for the 30th and last spot and got into the field only when Brandt Snedeker botched the final hole at the BMW Championship to fall out of the top 30.

Senden did post five top-10 finishes this year, but entering the FedEx Cup playoffs at No. 31 in the standings, he didn't distinguish himself to the point of securing a position at East Lake. He tied for 64th at The Barclays, tied for 11th at the Deutsche Bank and then tied for 20th with a final-round 77 at the BMW, where he was out of the Tour Championship until Snedeker four-putted the final green.

Snedeker's loss is Senden's gain. Not only does Senden have a spot secured in the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open due to being here, but he's assured of a minimum of $295,000 in prize money and FedEx bonus money. And that's if he finishes dead last in both.

Notables

• Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker are the only players who have competed in all 44 rounds of the FedEx Cup playoffs over three years and are qualified for the Tour Championship.

• Furyk and Stricker are among six players who have made it to the Tour Championship in all three years of the playoffs. The others are Phil Mickelson, Stewart Cink, Ernie Els and Hunter Mahan.

• Seven players in the field played their way in during the playoffs after starting outside the top 30, led by Heath Slocum, who barely qualified at 124 and then won The Barclays. Rookie Marc Leishman started 78th, while Padraig Harrington was 66th, Scott Verplank 61st, Ernie Els 47th, Jason Dufner 42nd and John Senden 31st.

• That means that seven players who were in the top 30 starting the playoffs were bumped out. Rory Sabbatini was the highest at 17th. Paul Casey was 18th but didn't play any events due to injury. The others were Charley Hoffman, Tim Clark, John Rollins, Anthony Kim and Ryan Moore.

Quotable

"I could stand here and tell you, no, it won't affect me, I won't think about it at all. But I'd be telling you lies."
-- Padraig Harrington on the possibility of having a putt on the 18th green Sunday that could be worth more than $11 million if he were to win the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup.

Catching up with last year's champ

Camilo Villegas is not in Atlanta because he did not qualify for the Tour Championship. The winner of last year's tournament in a playoff over Sergio Garcia -- as well as last year's BMW Championship -- Villegas failed to advance despite a tie for eighth two weeks ago at the BMW. He simply had too much ground to make up and finished 42nd in the FedEx Cup standings.

That alone made this somewhat of a disappointing year for Villegas, who expected great things after getting the first two victories of his career in 2008. Although it's hard to complain about a season in which you made more than $1.8 million, Villegas was an infrequent contender, with just four top-10s and a tie for third way back in February at the Buick Invitational as his best finish.

Villegas is not alone. Defending FedEx Cup champion Vijay Singh is not here either. He didn't even make it to the BMW this year after winning two playoff events a year ago.

Tour Championship picks

Birdie Buster. Tiger Woods. He comes into the Tour Championship having played his last five rounds of golf in 27 under par, including scores of 63 and 62.

Horse for the Course. Stewart Cink. The British Open champ considers this a home game, although his best finish is a tie for 11th in 2007.

Super Sleeper. John Senden. He's only here because Brandt Snedeker made a mess of the 18th at Cog Hill, so perhaps Senden feels he has nothing to lose.

Winner. Jim Furyk. Let the sniping begin. Furyk hasn't won all year, but can claim the $10 million FedEx bonus with a victory at East Lake.