Ranking the Hottest Players on the PGA Tour as 2014 FedEx Cup Playoffs Approach

Ben Alberstadt@benalberstadtFeatured ColumnistAugust 15, 2014

Ranking the Hottest Players on the PGA Tour as 2014 FedEx Cup Playoffs Approach

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    The FedEx Cup playoffs have appeared on the horizon. The Barclays are slated to begin at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey August 21. Among the top 125 golfers in the FedEx Cup standings who will fill out the field in the season's first playoff event, one golfer is hotter than Frank Nobilo and Brandel Chamblee during a discussion of Tiger Woods' golf swing. 

    While we can all agree that a certain Rory McIlroy is significantly, significantly hotter than any other professional club swinger at present, the golfers who are best approaching his searing pace can be debated.

    We'll use an assessment of each golfer's average finish from his last three starts to determine where he fits in this list. After all, we're talking about the playoffs here, and you need to know whom to invest your limited energies in rooting for. 

    Who are the golfers closest to tugging at Rory McIlroy's cape? Read on to see.


    +Stats courtesy of PGATour.com

Honorable Mention: Jimmy Walker

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    FedEx Cup: 2

    Last three starts: T7: PGA Championship, T26: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, T26: The Open Championship

    Average finish: 20

    Why he's here

    A three-time winner this season, Jimmy Walker receives an honorable mention in this ranking. His average finish across the last three events is the same (20) as the player at No. 8. However, the golfer in that spot did better for himself at the PGA Championship. 

    True, Walker hasn't approached his two-wins-in-three-starts form of January, but he's been strong in his last three starts. After a tie for 26th at the Open Championship, Walker again notched a near top-25 finish at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. He made the cut in his fourth straight major at the PGA Championship, and a superb final-round 65 vaulted him inside the top 10. 

    Walker, who was first in the FedEx Cup standings for most of the year, has made 20 of 23 cuts for the 2013-2014 season. Since the U.S. Openwhere he finished tied for ninthWalker has missed just one cut and hasn't finished worse than a tie for 26th. 

8. Henrik Stenson

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    FedEx Cup: 67

    Last three starts: T3: PGA Championship, T19: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, T39: The Open Championship

    Average finish: 20

    Why he's here 

    Henrik Stenson's final-round 66 nearly got the job done at Valhalla. However, the Swede simply didn't have enough birdies in him to chase down Rory McIlroy. Impressively, Stenson finished inside the top 15 in three of four majors this year as he continues his progress toward a major victory. 

    Stenson, who made 11 of 12 cuts on the PGA Tour this season, has averaged a 20th-place finish in his last three starts, the same average finish as Jimmy Walker. However, Stenson's tie for third at the PGA Championship bumps him ahead of Walker as his fire burns a bit brighter heading into the FedEx Cup playoffs. 


7. Justin Rose

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    FedEx Cup: 17

    Last three starts: T24: PGA Championship, 4: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, T23: The Open Championship

    Average finish: 17

    Why he's here

    Justin Rose won back-to-back tournaments at the end of July and the beginning of June at the Quicken Loans National and the Scottish Open (European Tour). He followed those tournaments with a respectable tie for 23rd at The Open Championship.

    Rose's tie for fourth at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and tie for 24th at Valhalla plus his performance at Hoylake yield an average finish of 17th for Rosie in his last three starts. When this is added to the two victories in his starts prior to the three mentioned, it becomes clear that the Englishman is still smoldering heading into the playoffs. 

    Rose has made 14 of 16 cuts on the PGA Tour this year with seven top-10s. 

6. Sergio Garcia

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    FedEx Cup: 7

    Last three starts: T36: PGA Championship, 2: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, T2: The Open Championship 

    Average finish: 13

    Why he's here

    After missing the cut at the Masters, Sergio Garcia finished third at The Players Championship then second in three consecutive starts. The Spaniard nearly caught Rory McIlroy at The Open Championship, firing a brilliant final-round 66. 

    Garcia cooled off a bit at the PGA Championship, and a final-round 73 didn't help his finish at that tournament. Still, his average finish his last three times out is 13th, which is four places better than Justin Rose, who is seventh on our list. 

    El Nino is playing high-quality golf and leading the tour in scoring average (68.85) as this wraparound season marches on. 

5. Phil Mickelson

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    FedEx Cup: 42

    Last three starts: 2: PGA Championship, T15: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, T23: The Open Championship

    Average finish: 13

    Why he's here 

    It's surprising that Phil Mickelson is one of the hottest players on tour right now since he didn't tally a top-10 finish until the PGA Championship. Lefty's three performances from The Open Championship through the PGA Championship indicated that the 44-year-old is finding his game late in the season. 

    Mickelson finished just a stroke behind Rory McIlroy at Valhalla, firing a torrid final-round 66 to nearly spoil the Ulsterman's fun. Lefty's average finish over the last three events is an impressive 13th, which is, again, even more notable as he didn't finish inside the top 10 until the PGA Championship. 

    Mickelson edges out Sergio Garcia in the ranking due to his superior performance at the PGA Championship (each player's most recent event). 

4. Adam Scott

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    FedEx Cup: 14

    Last three starts: T15: PGA Championship, T8: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, T5: The Open Championship

    Average finish: 9

    Why he's here

    Recently deposed as world No. 1, Adam Scott has been on a stellar run since his win at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. His worst finish from that point through the PGA Championship (where he tied for 15th) was a tie for ninth at the U.S. Open. 

    While Scott has just one win this season, he's been consistently very, very good, racking up eight top-10 finishes in 13 starts. While Scott wasn't a factor at Valhalla, he still finished inside the top 20.

    He's third on the tour in birdies and third in scoring average. All thisplus an average finish inside the top 10 in his last three starts—has Scott in fourth spot in our ranking and well-positioned heading into the playoffs. 

3. Jim Furyk

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    FedEx Cup: 5

    Last three starts: T5: PGA Championship, T15 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, 2: RBC Canadian Open

    Average finish: 7

    Why he's here:

    This year's frequent bridesmaid, Jim Furyk, has finished second three times. In his last three starts, he's averaged a seventh-place finish. The figure would be a bit better if the 44-year-old had managed to seal the deal at the RBC Canadian Open, which Tim Clark snatched from his hands. 

    Furyk tied for 12th at the U.S. Open and fourth at The Open Championship, which generated the wave of positive momentum the quintessential grinder is presently riding. He showed his mettle on Sunday at Valhalla with a closing 66 that suggested the 2010 FedEx Cup champion is prepared to make a serious run in the playoffs this year. 

2. Rickie Fowler

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    FedEx Cup: 15

    Last three starts: T3: PGA Championship, T8: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, T2: The Open Championship 

    Average finish: 4

    Why he's here

    Rickie Fowler has been playing brilliant golf. The best golfer on tour in the majors this year, Fowler was 32 under across golf's four most prestigious events during the 2013-2014 season. Were it not for the brilliance of Rory McIlroy, Fowler could conceivably have won the last two majors. 

    Fowler and the man at No. 1 (you may be able to guess who he is) have been the hottest duo in professional golf since the U.S. Open (where Fowler finished tied for second). The young Californian's average finish in his last three starts is fourth place. In other words: a top-five showing in every tournament he tees it up in lately. 

    Young Rickie is playing some phenomenal golf that's been overshadowed by the work of a certain Ulsterman. Still, he's scorching hot heading into the Barclays. And judging by the photos of Fowler playing casual rounds of golf with with friends on his Instagram account in recent days, he'll be relaxed and ready to go for the playoffs. 

1. Rory McIlroy

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    FedEx Cup: 1

    Last three starts: 1: PGA Championship, 1: WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, 1: The Open Championship

    Average finish: 1

    Why he's here

    There really was never any suspense in this ranking. When a golfer has won his three most recent starts and two of those victories are in major championships, he's the hottest golfer on the planet. Not much debating that fact. 

    McIlroy to taking two consecutive major trophies and a WGC event in order is a level of brilliance that hasn't been equalled recently. Certainly, McIlroy's magical play brings to mind the work of a legendary golfer who has been beset by back injuries this season.

    Mcilrou's worst round in his last three tournaments is a 71 in the closing round of The Open Championship. He's a combined 48 under for the stretch, which is...insane.

    McIlroy leads the tour in birdie average and is second in scoring average. Based on what he's been posting on Twitter, McIlroy is kicking back in New York City with friends, family and a pair of trophies.  

    After the brief battery recharge, the four-time major champ should be poised to resume his dominance at the Barclays.