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PGA Tour players feel pressure to qualify for the revamped FedEx Cup playoffs

SILVIS, Ill. – Hundreds of players tee it up each season on the PGA Tour.

But of the 237 who have made money in official events so far over the 2022-23 campaign, only 70 players will advance to this year’s first leg of the three-event FedEx Cup Playoffs – the FedEx St. Jude Championship at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Aug. 10-13 – down from 125 players in previous years.

This week’s John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run marks the 38th of 44 regular-season events on the PGA Tour schedule, meaning it’s crunch time for players who need to make a move inside the top 70 of the FedEx Cup standings.

“It’s just that time of year where guys are trying to push and push and push because there aren’t as many tournaments left,” said defending champion JT Poston, who entered the week No. 85 in the standings and finds himself back in contention after the first two days. “Every playoff event that you make it through and on to the next is going to be a huge bonus, whether it’s going from Memphis to BMW or BMW to Atlanta.”

“Now it’s the end of the season, so it’s important to peak now,” echoed Adam Schenk, who finds himself safely in 26th in the FedEx Cup standings. “It’s important to peak in Memphis and Chicago because those are the ones that I think they’re worth four times the points if I’m not mistaken. Top 10 at either of those two events is going to get you to East Lake.”

Players inside the top 50 of the standings after the St. Jude Championship advance to the BMW Championship, Aug. 17-20, at Olympia Fields Country Club outside Chicago. The top 30 after the BMW will advance to the season finale, the Tour Championship, Aug. 24-27, at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

As part of the Tour’s eligibility adjustments for 2024 that were announced in March, players who finish outside the top 70 will compete in the Fall to stay inside the top 125 to earn exempt status for all full-field events in 2024.

“So it is a little different kind of end of the year push. I don’t know if desperation is the right word,” added Poston. “I think for me I’m lucky enough with the win last year I know I’m — if I don’t get it done, I can still work hard in the fall and get some momentum going into next year no matter what. “

The change in eligibility impacted the thought process for a lot of players when it came to planning their schedule for this season to project into next, and some are still making tweaks to their plans. Poston was looking forward to a week off before the Wyndham Championship and the playoffs, but he’s since added the 3M Open to his schedule because, as he stated, “I have to make sure I’m in the playoffs.”

“Yeah, it’s a little different with it being 70 this year,” he explained. “Usually being 85th and the playoffs being 125, you obviously want to make a nice push, but there wouldn’t be as much stress on whether or not I was going to make the playoffs.”

While players like Poston are feeling the stress to find some form late in the season, others like Jonas Blixt and Lucas Glover – who are both in contention entering the weekend – are playing stress-free.

“At this point when you don’t have that much confidence in your game and you find something, you just kind of go out and see where you swing at it, and that’s what happened,” said Blixt, who fired a 9-under 62 in Thursday’s first round. “I kind of came to the point in my season where it’s so late that I don’t feel any pressure anymore really and just kind of go out and swing at it.”

Ranked No. 210 in the standings, Blixt was projected to jump all the way to No. 70 after he led following the first round. The 39-year-old Swede has missed more cuts than he’s made over the last three years following a back surgery in 2019, and his time lost in the pro golf wilderness has given him a unique perspective on where he stands and what it takes to compete. Same with Lucas Glover, No. 130, who joined the mix in the Quad Cities on Friday with a 6-under 65.

“Until now I wasn’t even in a position to pay attention (to my FedEx Cup standing), I had been playing so poorly,” he said. “But after a good finish last week and seeing some putts go in finally and continuing that this week, yeah, I like the way I’m trending anyway.”

There’s still time for players to make their move like Glover, but the window is closing. Fixed. The FedEx Cup bartender hasn’t made last call just yet, but he’s walking to the bell to give it a ring.

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Story originally appeared on GolfWeek