Three scenarios that get Tiger Woods into the FedEx Cup Playoffs

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In 2013, Tiger Woods entered the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational leading the FedEx Cup standings. Fifty-two weeks later, he’s 215th!

There are only three events left–and just two for Tiger–before The Playoffs are set and Woods needs to jump 90 spots in that span to qualify.

He currently owns 45 FedEx Cup points, with position No. 125 possessing 403 points. The final Top-125 cutoff will probably come in around 450 points, meaning Woods needs 405 points in the next two events to qualify.

Woods missed the Playoffs in 2011. Here’s the scenarios and odds of avoiding that fate:

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Just Win, Baby

If Woods wins the Bridgestone, he receives 550 points. And it’s 600 for the PGA Championship. Either way, he is no doubt in the Playoffs.

A dream scenario for sure, but highly chimerical when looking at Woods in 2014. There’s little tape to go off of in 2014, as the 38-year-old has put in just 20 full rounds of work.

Despite the limited play, we can see that the golf is largely poor. Yes, injury hindered him early on, but in his two starts since returning from back surgery, Woods flashed one great display of 18 holes and five poor-to-abysmal rounds.

His game is in need of an insane turnaround if he were searching for a win at this week’s opposite field event, let alone a WGC or a major. (And it’s probably not helping that he went on vacationthis week.)

So, to be quite frank, the odds of this happening are perilously slim. Yes, Woods’ love affair at Firestone is no doubt strong with eight wins through the Bridgestone. He also previously won a PGA at Valhalla, where the major plays host again in two weeks.

But good vibrations can only go so far, which Woods proved when his struggling game in 2010 produced a rock bottom T78 showing at Firestone.

If you’re counting on Woods to win before the Playoffs, prepare to be disappointed.

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Consecutive Top-Three Finishes (Not Wins)

In regular PGA Tour events, consecutive solo thirds would net 380 points, short of the (admittedly, arbitrary) 405 threshold we have set for Woods.

For the Bridgestone and the PGA though, these same results add up to 410, which is just enough for Woods. And as for other top-three scenarios, a solo second at the Bridgestone and a solo third at the PGA gives 525 points, the opposite 530, and consecutive solo runner-ups 645.

In other words, back-to-back solo top-threes gives Woods a coveted top 125 spot.

Still, while this scenario is more likely than a victory, it’s only marginally so. If Woods’ game needs a miracle cure to be ready to win, counting on top-three level play is unwise too. A win also affords Woods a throw-away tournament, whereas consecutive top-threes means the 38-year-old can’t bungle a single round. And it’s highly advised the top-threes are solo, otherwise it gets dicey when points are divided up equally among tied finishers.

Plenty of pratfalls, but this way is overall slightly easier. The difference between a win and a top-three is sometimes minimal, other times quite significant. And while it’s unlikely Woods wins without fantastic form, his game may just need to be in a pretty good place for consecutive top-threes. Save the 2010 and 2011 nightmares, Woods has never finished outside the top 10 at the Bridgestone and just once outside the top four. And his one showing at Valhalla was a win.

Certainly some positives there, but because of the shattered state of Woods’ game at the moment, this scenario remains a pipe dream.

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A Solo Runner-Up and Another Top-10

We saved Woods’ most likely shot for last, and it’s probably the only scenario that is eminently plausible.

A solo second this week and any solo finish eighth or better at the PGA Championship nets the 405 points the 38-year-old needs. And if that solo runner-up is switched to the PGA, any untied top-10 finish at the Bridgestone breaks the 405 barrier.

Tied finishes are trickier. All you need to know is that finishing solo second is far more important than the other top-10 being untied.

Anyway, this is the most appealing option for a Woods fan. Unlike the consecutive top-threes scenario, Woods may only have to play well at all in one event to complete this task. The top-10 can be as back door as the 38-year-old wants it be, with the FedEx Cup standings omitting style points. As for the event where he must be on form, a solo second requires a high level of play, but not necessarily that close to a winning level in certain events (See: 2014 U.S. Open).

Really if Woods’ game shows any semblance of function throughout this week, he’ll pretty much finish in the top 10, leaving him a week to further progress for a solo second. And if his game is working quite well off the bat, that solo second at the Bridgestone won’t be too tough to attain, and that leaves a top-eight at the PGA.

I wouldn’t bet heavily on any of the three options, but I would keep an eye on this one. We’re still in the realm of “significantly unlikely” here, but this scenario gives him more than an infinitesimal chance of reaching the top 125.

Overall though, the picture looks bleak. Expect a 2014 FedEx Cup run without golf’s leading man.