The FedEx Cup playoffs have been around as a concept since 2007, and the format and points system have been the same since 2009. (Can you remember how awful it was in 2008?!) However, since most PGA Tour fans really only think about how the FedEx Cup playoffs work in the four-event series itself, it's always helpful to have a refresher.
The entire PGA Tour regular season leads to the FedEx Cup playoffs, with each official PGA Tour event offering points to players who made the 36-hole cut based on a standardized system. For each regular PGA Tour event, the winner earns 500 FedEx Cup points. At the four majors and The Players, the winner earns 600 FedEx Cup points. At the four World Golf Championships, the winner earns 550 points. At opposite-field PGA Tour events -- that is, those played opposite the WGCs and majors -- the winner gets 300 FedEx Cup points. Even players who are subject to the MDF 54-hole, secondary cut rule earn 1 FedEx Cup point.
All of the points from regular season events are tallied together at the conclusion of the regular season, which reliably is the Wyndham Championship. The top 125 players in the FedEx Cup standings at the end of that tournament qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs. Those 125 players also lock up their PGA Tour cards for the next season (as do others, including those who finish in the top 125 in money earned during the regular season).
From there, the four FedEx Cup playoff events whittle a field of 125 down to 30 for the final event at the Tour Championship. The points are increased by a factor of four from the regular season events, with a winner picking up 2,000 FedEx Cup points. Points earned in each of the first three legs of the playoffs are added to a player's regular season tally, with the field for subsequent playoff events determined on the combined points.
The Barclays (soon to be The Northern Trust), which has a 36-hole cut, reduces the field from 125 to the top 100 players in combined FedEx Cup points.
The Deutsche Bank Championship, with a Monday Labor Day finish after a 36-hole cut, reduces the field from 100 players to the top 70 players in combined points.
The BMW Championship, which has no cut, then reduces the 70-player field to the top 30 in combined points for the Tour Championship.
It's at that point that the FedEx Cup points standings are reset ahead of the Tour Championship, giving all 30 players in the East Lake field a mathematical chance of winning the FedEx Cup. The scenarios for the top five in the standings are the most clear: Win the Tour Championship, and a FedEx Cup win is assured.
At the end of the Tour Championship, the FedEx Cup winner earns the $10 million first-place prize from the $35 million bonus pool. However, the top 150 players -- all of which are assured at least conditional status on the PGA Tour for the next season -- earn at least a piece of the bonus pool money.