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PGA Tour playoffs begin Thursday

  |   Aug. 21, 2013 at 8:47 PM
JERSEY CITY, N.J., Aug. 21 (UPI) -- The PGA Tour playoffs open Thursday within sight of the Statue of Liberty with the leading 125 players on the circuit competing for a top prize of $10 million.

Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy, the first players in the world rankings, will be on hand at the start of the four-tournament series.

Also present will be Jordan Spieth, Russell Henley and Patrick Reed, all winners this year as part of a young wave of golfers who have demonstrated they are ready to challenge their famous colleagues for a spot in the upper echelons of the sport.

The playoffs begin with The Barclays at Liberty National Golf Club, a dazzling layout built on the site of a one-time toxic waste dump. Views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline are available from almost every inch of the property.

The 125 players in the field got there by earning points throughout the year and they will all be trying to earn more points this week so they can continue toward the ultimate prize. Only the leading 100 point earners qualify for the second playoff stop -- the Deutsche Bank Championship in suburban Boston.

After a week off, the top 70 who remain will play at the BMW Championship at Lake Forest, Ill. And then the leading 30 players go to Atlanta for the Tour Championship and a determination of the FedEx Cup title and the $10 million that goes with it.

In theory, any of the 125 who begin the journey on Thursday can win it all. In practice, no one from outside the top 20 has ever won the FedEx Cup in the six years of its history.

Eventual winner Brandt Snedeker was in 19th place when the playoffs began last year and the year before that Bill Haas was 15th when the competition began.

Large movements up the money chain can take place, however, in the lucrative four tournaments that make up the playoffs. Two years ago Chez Reavie climbed from 76th place to 10th and Geoff Ogilvy made it from 106th to 24th. Last year Nick Watney jumped from 49th to fourth.

Woods will take a 766-point lead over Matt Kuchar into the first tournament. Snedeker, British Open champion Mickelson and Haas take up the next three spots, followed by Billy Horschel, U.S. Open winner Justin Rose, Spieth, Henrik, Stenson and Keegan Bradley. Masters champ Adam Scott is 11th and PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner is 15th.

Woods is the only two-time winner of the FedEx Cup, having captured the title in 2007 and 2009. He was first in points heading into the playoffs both years.

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