Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas are working to separate themselves from the FedEx Cup pack, while jockeying for prime positions.
Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas are locked in a gentleman’s battle for the FedExCup, and in truth, none of the three is a total lock to win it. They are just jostling for position right now, all trying to remain in the top five places. Johnson leads the points race, followed by Spieth and then Thomas. Even Hideki Matsuyama, now 4th, Jon Rahm, 5th, remain in good shape.
“You can’t win them all if you don’t win the first one, right?” Johnson, winner of the Northern Trust, said when asked at his pre-tournament press conference if it was possible for someone to win all four of the playoff events. “Yeah, it’s definitely possible. Is it going to happen? I have no idea. I’d love to say, yeah, I’m going to win all four, but the odds are not in my favor.”
He noted that last week’s victory means he will be in the top five for certain.
"“Where you want to be is in that top five going into Atlanta because you win the tournament (Tour Championship), you win the FedExCup championship,” he added. “That’s the biggest thing for me.”"
Jordan Spieth is a close second to Johnson, trying to chase him down.
“I think with the second-place points (from Northern Trust), I essentially got enough points that would be equivalent to two regular season wins, something like that,” Spieth explained at his pre-tournament press conference. He said no matter what happens, he’s likely to stay in the top five, which takes a lot of pressure off his game.
What did put pressure on his game last week was an errant ball at the 6th hole. He got technical in explaining what happened.
"“The shot I hit in the water on 6, my ball speed was the fastest ball speed clocked in the last ten groups on that hole. Yet, it went the shortest, which just tells me it was a wind gust,” Spieth said. “My ball speed was faster than Dustin’s, who hit right after me, and his carried the water. He chipped a 7, so the spin rate was down, and he had similar wind. But he was able to learn from mine. He wouldn’t have hit that club had mine not gone in the water.”"
In case you wondered, while players can’t ask or tell each other what club they hit, there’s nothing to stop them from looking to see which club goes back into a competitor’s bag. One presumes Austin Johnson, Dustin’s brother and caddie, and Dustin Johnson took note.
As for Johnson’s victory, Spieth said, “I went up against another guy I consider the best in the world, and we had a good battle. And it went his way. I think there’s a couple times he’s battled against me he wished it went his way.”
They texted each other afterward. According to Spieth he sent a text that said:
Man, congrats, that was a good battle, let’s do it again next week.
And Johnson sent one back to Spieth that said:
Absolutely. I had a good time. That was my turn.
As far as any rivalry between Spieth and Johnson, Spieth downplayed that aspect.
"“I’ve been asked about five different players if I have a rivalry with them,” he noted. “It’s always a what-has-happened-recently that creates this maybe-it’s-a-rivalry scenario.”"
He said right now Johnson is the best player in the world over the last two years.
"“That’s why he’s No. 1 in the world and he’s somebody, it’s pole position that I’m envious off and would like to get back to,” Spieth added."
While Spieth and Johnson slugged it out last week, Thomas has been working on his own plan to capture the FedExCup.
"“I know that I don’t have to win to get in the top five. I don’t have to win to get in the Top-10 or whatever it may be,” he said before the Dell Technologies event started. “As long as I can stay, obviously inside the top five for Atlanta, I mean, that’s all you need to be. It’s crazy, but it’s true.”"
He added that this week and the BMW are important, but not as much for him as for someone who is currently in 10th of 15th place in points.
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“They have to have a top two or three to get in the top five,” he added.
But that doesn’t mean he’s not trying to win. He just understands the points and his position.
When asked about Johnson’s chances to win all four Playoff events, Thomas said, “It’s still really, really hard to win golf tournaments. It’s really hard to win them consecutively. And this is getting that time of year where, you know, there’s obviously less people to beat, but the fields are, I guess you could arguably say, stronger, because the better — the people that are playing the best are continuing to move on.”
He added that he hoped Johnson didn’t win the next three, but of course, he can only control his own play.
As Labor Day weekend approaches, all top five players will work to maintain or improve their positions, with the ultimate goal of being in the top five headed into the Tour Championship. All the points reset after the third playoff event, so it’s a matter of maintaining a particular slot for the Tour Championship.
Who will come out on top in this battle of golf’s top stars?