PGA playoff fever, and all the math that comes with it

Michelle Wie, of the United States, takes part in the pro-am at the 2017 CP Women's Open of the LPGA Tour in Ottawa on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)
Michelle Wie, of the United States, takes part in the pro-am at the 2017 CP Women's Open of the LPGA Tour in Ottawa on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)
Brooke Henderson takes a shot as her sister and caddie Brittany Henderson, right, take part in the PRO-AM at the 2017 CP Women's Open of the LPGA Tour, in Ottawa on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)

OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. — The Northern Trust might be one tournament that can change a player's season without even having to win.

Sean O'Hair fits into that category.

A year ago at the FedEx Cup playoffs opener, O'Hair closed with a 66 at Bethpage Black and wound up in a tie for second. That shot him up from No. 108 to No. 15 in the FedEx Cup, and he did just enough to remain in the top 30 and get to the Tour Championship. More than picking up a $190,000 bonus, he got into all four majors.

The best example was Heath Slocum , who actually won at Liberty National after narrowly qualifying for the PGA Tour's version of a postseason. Winning what then was called The Barclays moved him up to No. 3, and he still was in the top 5 when he reached the Tour Championship.

Something along those lines is sure to unfold this week at The Northern Trust, which moves this year to Glen Oaks.

The top players — Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson — are thinking about $10 million at the end this lucrative month of golf. The ones in the middle — O'Hair starts this year at No. 54 — have reasonable hopes of contending, or at least getting to East Lake.

Those at the bottom have nothing to lose, and someone typically has a lot to gain.

It all starts on Thursday, when the PGA Tour becomes as much about math as birdies and bogeys.

The LPGA Tour is in Canada, where all but five players are taking one big exhale because they were in the Solheim Cup last week in Iowa. For anyone who doesn't have a U.S. or European passport, it will be just another week on the road to yet another major (the Evian Masters next month).

The rest of American golf is out west — the PGA Tour Championship outside Seattle, the Web.com Tour outside Portland.

THE NORTHERN TRUST

Geoff Ogilvy feels like the happiest player at The Northern Trust, mainly because there was no guarantee he would even be here. Just six days ago, he was at No. 125 in the standings and on his way to a missed cut when he birdied four straight holes, had a strong weekend at the Wyndham Championship and moved up to No. 116.

Does he have a chance? Ogilvy doesn't need to ask O'Hair or Slocum. He knows by experience. Three years ago, Ogilvy missed the cut in the playoff opener and faced elimination until Brendon Todd made a 15-foot putt on the last hole that assured Ogilvy slipped only to No. 100 and advanced to the next playoff event. Then, at the TPC Boston, he shot 65-65 on the weekend to tie for second. That sent him to the Tour Championship.

Besides, Ogilvy might not feel the most relieved. Floating on clouds is Martin Flores , who appeared certain to finish out of the top 125 last week until he made an ace on the 16th hole, a birdie on the 18th hole and moved to No. 118.

Now, everything is up for grabs.

The tournament has a new name (it used to be The Barclays) on a new course. Glen Oaks drops into the rotation because Liberty National is hosting the Presidents Cup.

The playoffs will help decide who gets to the Presidents Cup, too. The playoffs determine a lot of things.

Television: Thursday-Friday, 2-6 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday, 1-2:30 p.m. (Golf Channel); 3-6 p.m. (CBS); Sunday, noon-1:30 p.m. (Golf Channel), 2-6 p.m. (CBS).

CANADIAN PACIFIC WOMEN'S OPEN

It's not unusual for a tour to get back to business after such an emotional high as the Solheim Cup.

Think back to 2008, when the PGA Tour scheduled the Tour Championship after the Ryder Cup, which the Americans won at Valhalla. Anthony Kim summed it up best that week when he said, "A Ryder Cup hangover doesn't feel as bad as a college hangover."

The only Americans from the Solheim Cup who are not playing are Lexi Thompson , Gerina Piller and Lizette Salas.

Most of the top-ranked players are in the field at Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club, mainly because they weren't eligible for the Solheim Cup. The focus falls squarely on Lydia Ko, who has gone more than a year without winning. The Canadian Women's Open is where she first won at age 15. That made her the youngest winner in LPGA history. And that seems like a long time ago.

Television: Thursday-Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 3-6 p.m. (Golf Channel).

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