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Breaking Down The Top 25-Ranked Players Entering The 2014 FedEx Cup Playoffs

FedEx Cup Playoffs Preview: Breaking Down The Top 25 Players

Rory McIlroy PGA Championship FedEx Cup Playoffs
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The FedEx Cup Playoffs begin on Thursday at The Barclays, and while 125 players enter with hopes of winning the season title and the million prize that goes with it, who are the players with the most realistic hopes of taking it all home?

Points are multiplied by five starting this week to open up the contest. However, in seven years, nobody outside the top-20 has won the FedEx Cup, so that's where we'll be focusing in this week's Top 25.

26. John Senden

John Senden PGA Tour
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26. John Senden

John Senden PGA Tour

43-year-old John Senden isn't a household name in the States, but the veteran has made the Playoffs each year since their inception in 2007, with three appearances in the TOUR Championship to his credit as well.

With four top-tens and a win in 2014, Senden enjoyed one of his best seasons on the PGA Tour, but he's struggled a bit lately, with three missed cuts in his last six starts. A strong finish at the Barclays will be key to his hopes.

25. Matt Every

Matt Every PGA Tour
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25. Matt Every

Matt Every PGA Tour

Matt Every overtook Adam Scott and Keegan Bradley at Bay Hill in March for his first career Tour win, and at the time it looked like he was in line for a pretty incredible year. However, since withdrawing from the Zurich Classic with an illness, Every's been reeling, missing five cuts in nine starts.

A third-place tie in Memphis was a bright spot, but he'll need to turn things around quick to get to Atlanta.

24. Bill Haas

Bill Haas PGA Tour
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24. Bill Haas

Bill Haas PGA Tour

Haas' 2011 win at the Tour Championship still stands as one of the most exciting highlights of the playoffs. His waterside pitch to save par in a playoff against Hunter Mahan will be replayed for years.

No, that doesn't help him this year, but Haas is a grinder who hasn't missed a cut yet this year. His experience and pedigree help make him one of my favorites from outside the top-20 to make a run this year.

23. Keegan Bradley

Keegan Bradley PGA Tour
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23. Keegan Bradley

Keegan Bradley PGA Tour

Bradley is a huge fan, and a friend of Michael Jordan, so perhaps it's only fitting that he enters the playoffs ranked No. 23 in both the FedEx Cup and the Official World Ranking. Coincidence? Probably.

Bradley is tough to peg. He's tinkered with his putting this year with some mixed results, but he finished the year ranked 22nd on Tour in scrambling and 21st in total putting. Look for him to make an impact next week at "home" in Boston.

22. Hideki Matsuyama

Hideki Matsuyama PGA Tour
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22. Hideki Matsuyama

Hideki Matsuyama PGA Tour

PGA Tour rules state that Matsuyama, who played in seven events last year as a non-member professional, doesn't qualify as a Tour rookie, but if he did, there's no doubt he'd be the runaway Rookie of the Year.

Matsuyama had some expected struggles this season, but he also acquitted himself well in some big events. He doesn't figure to be a major factor this year, but the learning experience can only help him grow.

21. Brian Harman

Brian Harman PGA Tour
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21. Brian Harman

Brian Harman PGA Tour

Harman, ranked 21st in the FedEx Cup points race, had a breakthrough year in his third PGA Tour season, and enters his third straight Playoffs in his best position yet. While he was boosted by his July win at the John Deere and some strong early-season play, he has just two top-25 finishes since May, and missed the cut at the Wyndham last week.

Harman's a solid putter, he just doesn't hit enough greens to win consistently.

20. Kevin Na

Kevin Na PGA Tour
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20. Kevin Na

Kevin Na PGA Tour

The oft-maligned Kevin Na came back from a season-ending back injury in 2013 to have one of his best years yet on the PGA Tour in 2014. He didn't win, but he was twice a runner-up and has proven that he can't be ignored. Ranked 13th in adjusted scoring and second in scrambling, Na has done well to mostly avoid blowup rounds even in tougher weeks. A win before Atlanta would make him a real threat.

19. Ryan Moore

Ryan Moore PGA Tour
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19. Ryan Moore

Ryan Moore PGA Tour

Moore opened the new wraparound schedule with a big win in Malaysia in October, and he closed strong as well with four top-12 finishes in his last five starts. Moore just seems to quietly go about his business and find his way to the top of Sunday leaderboards, and he'll be one of the guys who could clean up if one of the leaders slips over the next three weeks.

18. Justin Rose

Justin Rose PGA Tour
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18. Justin Rose

Justin Rose PGA Tour

With top-25's in each of this year's majors, nine in his last ten starts, and two worldwide wins in 2014, Rose doesn't get near the love he should. That'll happen when you have guys playing as well as a certain Northern Irishman recently, but still.

Rose has been a playoff machine over the last few years, and he could get things going at Ridgewood, where he tied for 15th at the 2010 Barclays. Look for him to get into the top-10 by Atlanta.

17. Harris English

Harris English PGA Tour
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17. Harris English

Harris English PGA Tour

English makes the Playoffs for a third straight year thanks to a strong first half of the year, but he's been reeling a bit lately. Since the Masters, he's missed six cuts with just one top-25 finish to try to balance things back out. Don't expect that downward trend to change anytime soon unless he seriously picks up his work on the greens.

16. Rickie Fowler

Rickie Fowler PGA Tour
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16. Rickie Fowler

Rickie Fowler PGA Tour

Dating back to Saturday at the U.S. Open, Fowler has posted nine of ten major championship rounds in the 60's, and the only real difference between the Oklahoma State grad being No. 16 instead of No. 1 is Rory McIlroy.

Other than McIlroy, there just isn't a hotter golfer on the entire planet right now. Now that Fowler has everything in line, he could easily be the one standing between McIlroy and the FedEx Cup.

15. Adam Scott

Adam Scott PGA Tour
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15. Adam Scott

Adam Scott PGA Tour

It speaks to just how high our collective expectations were for Adam Scott that this feels like a "down" year for the Aussie star. Just 12 top-25 finishes in 13 starts, with top-15's in each major and a win sprinkled in for good measure.

Scott really should be higher than 15th, but volume and majors have helped those ahead of him. He's defending his Barclays title, and finished ninth at Ridgewood in 2010, so a hot start could be in the cards.

14. Martin Kaymer

Martin Kaymer PGA Tour
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14. Martin Kaymer

Martin Kaymer PGA Tour

Two months ago, it was unthinkable that Kaymer would stumble to the finish he did this season. He won the U.S. Open and the Players Championship in convincing fashion, and then wound up fighting a sore shoulder through the British Open. He said he was healthy for the PGA, but he struggled there as well.

If he's healthy, there's no telling how Kaymer will do in his second Playoffs. If he isn't, then it could be a tough couple of weeks.

13. Webb Simpson

Webb Simpson PGA Tour
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13. Webb Simpson

Webb Simpson PGA Tour

Ten months ago tomorrow, Webb Simpson won the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, the second event of the PGA Tour season. Let that sink in for a moment.

After three straight top-tens to open the year, Simpson went through a mid-season slump before getting some momentum back with two top-fives in his last five starts. He could win this week, or he could miss the cut. I like his chances, but he's a total wild card right now.

12. Brendon Todd

Brendon Todd PGA Tour
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12. Brendon Todd

Brendon Todd PGA Tour

From May through early July, Todd found a rhythm that allowed him to rattle off five top-tens in six starts, including a win at the Byron Nelson Championship. That gives him some major cushion to work with in his first trip to the FedEx Cup Playoffs, but he can't coast for a minute if he's going to keep up with the top of the heap. One of the best putters on Tour in 2014, he'll have every chance to prove he belongs here.

11. Zach Johnson

Zach Johnson PGA Tour
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11. Zach Johnson

Zach Johnson PGA Tour

It's been a long summer of mostly middling finishes for Zach Johnson, who struggled most of 2014 to find any semblance of consistency. While the results haven't been great, however, Johnson is still one of the most accurate ball-strikers on Tour, and that talent will allow him to remain in the discussion all the way to East Lake.

10. Chris Kirk

Chris Kirk PGA Tour
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10. Chris Kirk

Chris Kirk PGA Tour

Volume of play has allowed Chris Kirk to keep his place in the top-10 of the FedEx Cup points race. He can be a bit streaky, but he missed just two cuts this year, and after three years of being eliminated from the Playoffs at the BMW Championship, Kirk is poised to head to East Lake with a chance to win the season title for the first time in his career.

9. Patrick Reed

Patrick Reed PGA Tour
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9. Patrick Reed

Patrick Reed PGA Tour

Two wins are a hard thing to ignore, even if triumphs at the Humana Challenge and the WGC-Cadillac were Reed's only two top-10 finishes before posting a T4 at Firestone earlier this month. Considering that Reed and his wife/caddie Justine welcomed their first child in May, that's understandable.

Now that Reed has secured his place in the Ryder Cup and the Playoffs, he'll look to erase memories of last year's playoff struggles.

8. Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth PGA Tour
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8. Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth PGA Tour

Jordan Spieth's 2014 campaign had a little bit of everything, including a bit of a late-season slump. However, don't let that fool you, as Spieth has proven to be a quick learner with solid bounce-back ability. He struggled in 2013's Open and PGA Championships, only to make a run to Atlanta that included a tie for second at East Lake. He'll be ready for the Playoffs.

7. Sergio Garcia

Sergio Garcia PGA Tour
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7. Sergio Garcia

Sergio Garcia PGA Tour

Three straight runner-up finishes including the British Open and WGC-Bridgestone, and some incredible performances in high-level fields make Garcia an instant favorite in these Playoffs. After years of struggling on the greens, not only is Garcia one of the most accurate players in the world, but he's converting on scoring chances with a revamped putting stroke. He doesn't have a win - yet. That could change very soon.

6. Dustin Johnson

Dustin Johnson PGA Tour
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6. Dustin Johnson

Dustin Johnson PGA Tour

Johnson's inclusion on this list is a mere formality. Technically, the Tour says that he isn't suspended, which means that he theoretically could return to action during the Playoffs and have a chance at the title.

Whatever the reason for his sudden departure, this stands to show just what a great season he had put together before his personal demons became too much to handle. Hopefully he comes back next year with that straightened out.

5. Jim Furyk

Jim Furyk PGA Tour
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5. Jim Furyk

Jim Furyk PGA Tour

Years go by, and Jim Furyk keeps finding ways to stay on top of the game. He finished in the top-ten in nearly half of his tournaments, and that can be attributed to the fact that he rarely puts himself in position to lose strokes. He doesn't have the volatility of some of the top young guys, and that will allow him to coast into Atlanta in good shape.

4. Matt Kuchar

Matt Kuchar PGA Tour
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4. Matt Kuchar

Matt Kuchar PGA Tour

Kuchar returns to action this week at Ridgewood, where he won the Barclays in 2010, the last time it was held here. He should roll into Atlanta fairly comfortably, perhaps even with the points lead if he can win one of the next three tournaments. If he can tilt the scales enough by then, a championship is easily within reach.

3. Bubba Watson

Bubba Watson PGA Tour
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3. Bubba Watson

Bubba Watson PGA Tour

Watson is the powder keg of the top five. Two wins, including his second green jacket, have him in one of the prime spots of the Playoffs, but if he gets off to a poor start, he could lose that advantage quickly. Two years ago he was in a similar place, but closed the regular season better on his way to three high playoff finishes. I love "Bubba Golf", but he'll need to channel every bit of focus if he's going to take the championship.

2. Jimmy Walker

Jimmy Walker PGA Tour
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2. Jimmy Walker

Jimmy Walker PGA Tour

Walker could be the "Cinderella" story of the 2014 Playoffs. He led the points race for the majority of the year before the freight train called Rory McIlroy took over in the last several weeks. Still in second place, he's on the fast track to the Tour Championship.

Only twice in the last five years has a top-two player not still been in position to win the FedEx Cup with a win in Atlanta, and Walker's consistency is a huge advantage.

1. Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy PGA Tour
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1. Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy PGA Tour

We're quick to fall in love with the flavor of the month in golf, but McIlroy's resurgence has the feeling of a long-lasting power run to it. He's been really good all year, now he's got the wins to prove it.

McIlroy is not just a clear favorite to win the whole thing, but he might win a couple more tournaments before it's all said and done. He won't talk about it, but we're likely just seeing the start of what McIlroy has in store.