Graeme McDowell will look to rid himself of the “sour taste” of the FedEx Cup play-offs by remaining in contention for the 10m US dollars first prize this week.
McDowell missed the Deutsche Bank Championship last week due to the birth of his first child, but had accumulated enough points to remain in the top 70 in the standings.
That means the former US Open champion has travelled to Denver for the BMW Championship at Cherry Hills, after which the top 30 players qualify for the Tour Championship in Atlanta. Sweden’s Henrik Stenson won at East Lake 12 months ago to claim the overall FedEx Cup title and the 10m US dollars (£6m) bonus.
McDowell has failed to qualify for the Tour Championship in three previous attempts, admitting he tends to shut down after the final major of the year.
“My previous three FedEx Cup play-offs have been fairly disappointing, shall we say,” McDowell told a pre-tournament press conference. “I felt like mentally and physically I wasn’t up for them.
“I still struggle with this sort of switch off that I have after the last major championship of the year. I feel like that run from the US Open through to the PGA Championship takes a lot out of me, both physically and mentally from a schedule point of view.
“It’s the real core of the season. When I come out the other end of it, I have a tough time packing my bag to go to New Jersey (for the first play-off event). I have had the last four years running now.
“Obviously, this is a unique set-up for me this year, not playing Boston for the right reasons, being at home last week. It’s nice to have that defined kind of challenge of a top-five finish to get me to Atlanta, depending upon who does what and we all know how volatile this system can be.
“The play-offs achieve what it’s supposed to achieve. It’s a sprint finish. If you don’t play well, you go home. It doesn’t reward consistency during the season because it’s not really supposed to. It’s supposed to give guys a shot to come from the back of the field to the front of the podium.
“It’s left kind of a sour taste the last few years for me, simply because I haven’t played well. I would love to get to the Tour Championship and give myself a chance to win what is the biggest prize in golf.”
McDowell starts the week 53rd in the standings, two ahead of Stenson and three above five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, who in contrast has never failed to qualify for the Tour Championship since the play-offs began.
Mickelson won the 1990 US Amateur title at Cherry Hills, adding: “I love that golf course. I have a picture of every hole painted in my mind from 24 years ago and I’m so excited to go back there.”
American Chris Kirk leads Rory McIlroy at the top of the standings after winning in Boston on Monday, and had no complaints about not receiving a Ryder Cup wild card the following day from US captain Tom Watson.
“I would really have loved to have gotten a pick, and would have loved to have been on the team, but I understand if he wants to pick guys with experience,” Kirk said on PGATour.com. “You can’t fault him for that.
“I wasn’t too worried about it. He was kind of starting to explain why he did what he did. When you don’t get picked, you don’t really care what the explanation is, to be honest. I just (thought), ’Hey, I just won the biggest tournament of my life yesterday, so it’s going to take me a lot more than this to get me in a bad mood.’ ”