Here’s the good news for Rory McIlroy heading into the playoffs: He is No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings.
Ah, but there’s bad news, too: No. 1 has only prevailed for the overall prize two times out of seven, and not since 2009.
No surprise, but Tiger Woods twice (2007, 2009) took the top spot in the regular-season FEC standings and rode it through the playoffs to walk off with the $10 million top prize. But in the other years, the overall champ has come from just off the lead.
In 2008, Vijay Singh started eighth but finished first. Jim Furyk went from third to first in 2010. Bill Haas won out of the 15th position in 2011, while Brandt Snedeker roared to victory out of the 19th slot in 2012. A year ago, Henrik Stenson started ninth, eight spots behind Woods, but the Swede won two playoff events and took the overall title.
Amid some poor defensive efforts, Stenson is hoping that he’s able to reverse some historical evidence working against him. Each of the first five FedEx Cup champions failed to make it into the Tour Championship the following year, a stunning skid that came to a halt a year ago when 2012 winner Snedeker qualified for East Lake.
But before that, it had been a rough ride for the previous year’s winner:
• In 2008, defending champ Woods was sidelined and didn’t qualify.
• Singh in 2009 didn’t play beyond the Deutsche Bank Championship.
• As defending champ in 2010, Woods was never a factor, his season ravaged by a personal-life meltdown.
• Jim Furyk in 2011 played through the BMW Championship, but didn’t make Atlanta.
• Bill Haas was three playoff events, but not four, in 2012.
Stenson would seem to be a prime candidate to fall to this curse or whatever you want to call it, because he sits 70th in the FEC standings and will need a lively playoff run to make the final 30.