Who’s in and who’s out of the FedEx Cup Playoffs: Chesson Hadley’s great day is rewarded

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Chesson Hadley had two plane tickets: One was headed to New York for the start of the FedEx Cup Playoffs and the possibility of a bounty of riches afforded to the top 125 finishers in the regular-season points standings. The other was headed to Boise, Idaho for the start of the Korn Ferry Tour playoffs where Nos. 126-200 would have to battle with 75 KFT players for one of 25 PGA Tour cards.

“Man, I would love not to have to get on that flight,” Hadley said of the trip to Boise.

For proof look no further than his final round at the Wyndham Championship. Hadley made his first career hole-in-one, celebrated in grand style, went out in 29 at Sedgefield Country Club to tie the low nine-hole score of his career, and birdied the last for 62. None of it surprised Brice Garnett, who locked up his card by finishing No. 122 in the standings.

“Guys are told they’re going to get their job taken from them,” he said, “and they do miraculous things out here. Nobody wants to leave out here. It’s the greatest job in the world.”

And yet for all of Hadley’s miraculous efforts, it didn’t look as if it would be enough. He stood at No. 126, the proverbial biggest loser, when he finished.

When he was asked what the rollercoaster ride was like by CBS Sports reporter Amanda Balionis, Hadley, who blew a lead in the final holes at the Palmetto Championship in July that would have made his precarious position a moot point, broke into tears.

“It’s emotional because I care. I’m not just out here for fun. This is my job and I love it and I care deeply about it and that’s why I’m emotional,” he said, his voice cracking. “I’m about as pretty of a crier as this leap you’re about to see. Hopefully, Amanda can go ahead and bring me back to something positive because this is going downhill quick.”

When Hadley next met with the assembled media, he pulled himself together and called it what it was, “a good day,” but when asked to describe the difference between Nos. 125 and 126, he looked at the questioner as if asked to describe the difference between living and dying, and said, “That’s your question? How different is it? It would kind of suck, right? To have Congaree happen and then have today happen the way it did, that would suck.”

The difference between a great day and one that “sucks” turned out to be just over one FedEx Cup point. Hadley was left in a strange spot, needing someone still on the course to falter, and lamented that for him to succeed he’d likely have to leapfrog his good friend Scott Stallings, who missed the cut. That turned out not to be the case.

Hadley didn’t get any help from Roger Sloan, who started the week one spot ahead of him in the standings. Sloan made two late birdies and went from being in danger of losing full-exempt status next season to in a playoff for his first win. Rory Sabbatini did Hadley no favors by canning an 8-foot par putt that otherwise would have bumped Hadley to the right side of the cutline.

Wyndham ChampionshipWyndham Championship

Wyndham Championship

Justin Rose reacts to a par save on the ninth hole during the final round of the Wyndham Championship. Photo by Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

But Justin Rose, winner of the 2018 FedEx Cup, was feeling charitable. He missed a pair of 6-foot putts at the final two holes. The latter was for bogey and dropped him from No. 119 to No. 126. But it wasn’t over until the final group. Had Branden Grace and Tyler McCumber both bogeyed the last hole, Hadley and Rose would have flipped places. McCumber made a 3-putt bogey but Grace sank a 29-foot birdie putt to jump into the six-man playoff.

And so at the end of the day, Hadley received a call from PGA Tour executive Tom Alter to break the good news. Hadley already was in his car on his way home to Raleigh but he answered and screamed with glee when told that his ticket to the playoffs had been punched. Next stop: New York.

Who’s In, Who’s Out

Scott Piercy (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)

Three players entered the week outside the top 125 in the FedExCup standings and went on to qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs.

Player

Finish

Entering

Current

Roger Sloan

Lost in playoff

131

92

Scott Piercy

T15

126

116

Chesson Hadley

T15

132

125

Three players entered the week inside the top 125 in the FedExCup standings and failed to qualify for the FedExCup Playoffs.

Player

Finish

Entering

Current

Ryan Armour

MC

122

127

Patrick Rodgers

MC

123

128

Bo Hoag

MC

125

129

Rose’s costly bogey

Justin Rose (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)

Rose’s bogey at the last was the difference. «That’s kind of what the Playoffs is all about, right?» Rose said. «It’s a knife-edged moment.» It also ends his streak of playing in every FedEx Cup Playoff since the format’s inception in 2007.

«I wasn’t really playing for Top-125 for most of the day, I was playing to try to win the golf tournament and it’s hard to know exactly what you need to do out there, but you know each shot’s important,» he said. «Slightly surprised when I saw 15 under was tied for the lead there on 18, which is sort of even more gut wrenching really to finish 13 under and probably miss out on the FedExCup as well, so couldn’t be a worse result really on the day.»

Anirban Lahiri’s relief

Anirban Lahiri (Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports)

Anirban Lahiri was 3-over through six holes but rebounded to shoot 70 and finished No. 121 in the FedEx Cup standings. He said it was a great relief to know he’d be fully exempt next season after playing out of the Korn Ferry Tour graduates category in 2020-21.

«Anyone from the Korn Ferry category has pretty much played this whole year with a gun to his head just in terms of the number of starts most of us have got,» he said. «I’ve had pressure for a while now, so this is not something new.»

Sloan’s big move

Roger Sloan (AP/Chris Seward)

The Canadian Sloan tied a career-best with a playoff loss – he also finished second at the 2019 Puerto Rico Open – and jumped from No. 131 to No. 92 in the FedEx Cup points standings. “I’m very thankful that we were able to put enough points on the board this week to get into the Playoffs,” Sloan said. «I was in a good place this week. I was OK with no matter where the chips fell and I think that gave me a lot of power on the golf course.»

So, you’re saying they have a chance!

Alex Smalley (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)

While many of the players between Nos. 126-200 will be disappointed to have to compete in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, Kiradech Aphibarnrat and David Lingmerth are just happy to be there. They entered the week outside the top 200 in the points race but did enough – Aphibarnrat (196) and Lingmerth (199) – to crack the top 200 on the FedEx Cup points and qualify for the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, bumping Jim Furyk and Aaron Baddeley. Non-member Alex Smalley, who birdied the final four holes to shoot 66 and finish T-29, earned 109 non-members points to qualify. Chris Baker finished No. 200 with 94 points. «To have the opportunity to play for a PGA Tour card the next three weeks on the Korn Ferry Finals is huge. To have the opportunity to not have to go to Korn Ferry Q-School this fall is huge as well,» Smalley said. «But again, I have to not think about that, just like I did this week; not think about having the possibility to make it that far. I just have to go play like I know how to play.»

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