Previewing the 2015 FedEx Cup playoffs

The 2015 FedEx Cup playoffs begin Thursday. Here are the top things to know about the field and the playoff format heading into The Barclays.

Defending champion Billy Horschel became the seventh different player to win the FedEx Cup. Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, Bill Haas, Brandt Snedeker and Henrik Stenson are the others. Horschel missed the cut at The Barclays but rallied by tying for second place at the Deutsche Bank Championship and winning both the BMW Championship and Tour Championship.

Thanks to four wins this year, including two in majors, Jordan Spieth has 4,169 FedEx Cup season points, the most ever by a player entering the first round of the playoffs. Tiger Woods’ 3,431 points in 2009 is the next-closest total. Woods won the FedEx Cup that year.

Barring a disastrous run of play, Spieth is a lock to shatter the PGA Tour's single-season earnings record of $10.91 million, currently held by Vijay Singh. Spieth enters the playoffs at $10.40 million in earnings this season.

For some perspective, that is almost twice what Jack Nicklaus made in his entire career ($5.73 million).

Spieth will likely add the single-season money title to a pair of other monetary records. He became the youngest to win $1 million in a year while topping the rookie money list.

Jason Day is enjoying by far the best year of his PGA Tour career. He has three wins, including the PGA Championship, after totaling two wins since the start of his first full season on the Tour in 2008. Day and Spieth are the only golfers to win more than twice on the PGA Tour this season.

Hunter Mahan is the only golfer to play in all 32 FedEx Cup playoff events. Last year was his best career FedEx Cup finish (sixth). Mahan is the only player to reach the Tour Championship in all eight years since it became the finale of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Playoff format

This is the ninth year for the FedEx Cup playoffs, the culmination of a season-long points competition. The winner will receive $10 million from an overall bonus pool of $35 million. Between the bonus pool and the $33 million in tournament purses at the playoff events, a total of $68 million is available over the next four weeks of competition.

Players accumulated points during the PGA Tour season, which began in October at the Frys.com Open, and ended last week at the Wyndham Championship. Regular-season point totals determined the seeding for the FedEx Cup playoffs. The four playoff events will have maximum fields of 125, 100, 70 and 30 players, respectively.

Each of the four playoff events offers 2,000 points to the winner, four times that of a normal regular-season tournament. Up until the start of the Tour Championship, a player’s point total will be the sum of his regular-season point total and any playoff points earned.

At the start of the Tour Championship, all players will begin with a reset point total based on their standing through the first three playoff events. The reset ensures that all 30 players in the Tour Championship field will have a mathematical shot at winning the FedEx Cup. A win by any of the top five seeds will guarantee the FedEx Cup title outright.

No player has won the FedEx Cup without winning at least one event in the playoffs, and four of the eight, including Horschel last year, have won twice in the postseason.

Winning at The Barclays isn’t everything

Playing well at The Barclays has not been the key to success for past FedEx Cup champions. Last year’s champion, Horschel, missed the cut. Three of eight FedEx Cup champions did not play all four rounds at The Barclays (DNP, disqualified or missed cut).

The only FedEx Cup champion who also won at The Barclays was Vijay Singh in 2008.