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FedEx Cup: The hunt for golf's biggest reward

By Tom Sweetman, CNN
updated 1:06 PM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
A cool $10 million is on offer for the winner of the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup this week, with only the top five golfers in the playoffs' rankings in control of their own destiny. A cool $10 million is on offer for the winner of the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup this week, with only the top five golfers in the playoffs' rankings in control of their own destiny.
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The hunt for golf's biggest reward
1. Chris Kirk
2. Billy Horschel
3. Bubba Watson
4. Rory McIlroy
5. Hunter Mahan
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Twenty-nine competitors will battle it out for the FedEx Cup this week
  • The Tour Championship leg of the playoffs takes place at the East Lake Golf Club
  • A prize fund of $10 million is on offer for the winner of the playoffs
  • The fourth and final tournament also offers its own $1.44 million prize

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(CNN) -- A $10 million payout is not bad for four days' work.

That's the potential prize on offer for one lucky golfer at the East Lake Golf Club course in Atlanta, Georgia in the final leg of the FedEx Cup.

After three grueling back-to-back playoff events -- the Barclays, the Deutsche Bank Championship and the BMW Championship -- 125 starters have been whittled down to a select few.

Just 29 now remain -- 30th-ranked Dustin Johnson is on a leave of absence -- going into Thursday's Tour Championship, but only one can hit the jackpot.

"Retirement would happen a lot quicker if I win the FedEx Cup," Masters champion Bubba Watson told the PGA Tour's official website.

Watson is one of just five men -- Chris Kirk, Billy Horschel, Rory McIlroy and Hunter Mahan are the others -- who are in control of their own destiny.

That elite quintet have earned their stripes after earning enough points in the earlier stages of the FedEx Cup, as well as over the whole of the 2014 PGA Tour season.

Due to the way the competition is structured, victory Sunday for one of the five would secure them the $1.44 million Tour Championship as well as the FedEx Cup, which brings with it that elusive $10 million jackpot, as Henrik Stenson managed to do last year.

That victory was made all the more sweeter for the Swede given that he'd reportedly lost several million dollars in Allen Stanford's $7 billion Ponzi scheme, which was uncovered in 2009.

A slip-up in Atalanta, meanwhile, will not discount them from golf's biggest prize completely, but they will be relying on their overall points tally for the season to ultimately prove superior to any of their rivals

Earning $3 million for a second-placed finish or $2 million for third would not be the end of the world, either.

"We're trying to challenge ourselves, and this is what we have to play, this is what we have to do if we want to improve on the FedEx Cup or win a golf tournament," Watson adds. "We have to play well."

Ryder Cup teams prepare for a tough battle
How the Ryder Cup rivalry began at Gleneagles
What does it take to win the Ryder Cup?

The rest of the field, however, will be left sweating on the performances of others even if they become the latest name to be inscribed on the Tour Championship trophy.

While sixth-ranked Jimmy Walker -- 1,100 points off leader Kirk -- could well come out on top with a win or even a second-place finish, 29th-ranked Gary Woodland -- 2,280 points behind Kirk -- would need something of a minor miracle.

Americans Mahan, Kirk and Horschel go into Thursday's opening round with confidence off the back of their respective Barclays, Deutsche Bank Championship and BMW Championship wins.

Likewise Rory McIlroy is still basking in his summer of success which brought with it the British Open and U.S. PGA Championship, as well as the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, in the space of four weeks.

The world No. 1's best finish in the playoffs was a tie for fifth two weeks ago in Boston.

It has been a relentless summer, not just for the Northern Irishman, but for all involved in the world of golf -- 13 weeks have passed since the U.S. Open began on June 12, and in that time three majors, a World Golf Championships event and three of the four FedEx Cup playoffs have all come and gone.

Of the field in Atlanta, Patrick Reed has teed up the most often in that period, starting 11 times.

This year's Ryder Cup, starting on September 26, has meant the FedEx Cup playoffs have had to take place back-to-back straight after the PGA Championship -- a schedule the U.S. tour's commissioner Tim Finchem admits has been something of a mistake.

"Four in a row doesn't really work," Finchem told the PGA Tour's official website. "So we understand that. We didn't like it this year. We're not going to do it going forward. So that's that."

But Watson, who topped the U.S. Ryder Cup qualification standings, professes to being unconcerned about the lack of a bye week in the playoffs schedule this year.

"It's just something that we have to deal with. Think about it; the money they are putting up, the money we are playing for, the retirement dollars, you make it work," he told reporters. "You'll figure out a way to show up on the tee."

Read: Bradley, Mahan and Simpson handed captain's picks

Read: Gallacher, Poulter and Westwood get wildcards

Read: Tiger Woods splits with coach Sean Foley

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