Players outside the top-125 of the FedEx Cup rankings are entering last chance saloon this week in their bid to make the lucrative play-offs. That incentive often sparks massive improvement and Paul Krishnamurty has his eyes on the following quintet to do just that...
"Laird has pedigree for coming good in the latter stages of the season."
After a month of wall-to-wall compelling, elite-standard golf, dominated by the greatest player of the planet and some of his closest pursuers, this week's focus is very much on the other end of the spectrum. As usual, the Wyndham Championship brings the regular PGA Tour season to it's conclusion, and with it the chance to qualify for the FedEx Cup play-offs and win life or career changing sums of cash.
As with other money list and qualification scenarios, the deadline always seems to have an impact on the form of those closest to the cut off point. There are a whole host of capable characters currently below 125th on the FedEx list, who know they must contend to improve their standing.
Some have already upped their performance just to get back in with a chance, and these are very much the type of player I'm looking to follow this week. My each-way pick Joe Durant is precisely such a player. In addition to Joe, the following quintet may have endured a torrid 2014 to date, but all are still available at decent odds, despite showing clear signs of improvement in recent weeks.
FedEx Cup position: 132
Outright odds: 120.0119/1
Top-10 Finish: 11.010/1
Byrd is one of those average PGA Tour players that is always worth keeping an eye on, because he knows how to win and, when he does so, it tends to be at enormous odds. His tally of five victories must be the envy of many vastly superior players.
He'd done virtually nothing all year until third place in the Barracuda Championship last time. Interestingly, his 2013 campaign followed an almost identical trajectory, when also suddenly finding form to finish runner-up in the first August event. Byrd's form is so sporadic that the best plan is to have a speculative punt on the outright market at 120.0119/1. I see Byrd is also among Steve Rawlings' selections.
FedEx Cup position: 136
Outright odds: 65.064/1
Top-10 Finish: 7.513/2
Similarly three-time winner Laird markedly stepped up his efforts at the Barracuda, finishing sixth with three excellent rounds, only to ruin a winning chance with one poor day. While his season has been poor, there is a slight excuse in that it may have been derailed due to a break for the birth of his child.
Notably, Laird has pedigree for coming good in the latter stages of the season. He first caught public attention when producing a late run to reach the play-offs during his rookie season of 2008, finishing eighth in this event. He's also twice contended in the opening play-off, The Barclays, and had a great record in the Fall Series when it used to close the PGA Tour season.
FedEx Cup position: 139
Outright odds: 75.074/1
Top-10 Finish: 7.513/2
24 year-old Cauley carried a big reputation when starting out on the main tour and, while he's yet to fulfil his potential, there is enough in both his long-term and recent numbers to think he can still get something out of this season.
He's another who made a big impact during late summer and Fall Series spell as a rookie, and he qualified for the play-offs in 2012 when finishing third in the Wyndham. Fourth place at the Greenbrier and 11th at Congressional were eyecatching efforts amongst his last four events.
FedEx Cup position: 142
Outright odds: 220.0219/1
Top-10 Finish: 15.014/1
This rookie entered a few notebooks when finishing eighth in the opening 2014 event, the Sony Open. Swafford quickly returned to anonymity but three top-25s on three of his last six starts suggest he might be finding form just in time. He's a real longshot, but capable of surprising or at least landing a top-ten.
FedEx Cup position: 155
Outright odds: 75.074/1
Top-10 Finish: 7.06/1
After an excellent opening 18 months on the PGA Tour during 2011 and 2012, which saw him contend several times before winning the Phoenix Open, Stanley has been extremely disappointing. Nevertheless, top-12s on his last two starts signalled some meaningful progress and he is exactly the type to put in a quick batch of top-class efforts.
The run building up to that Phoenix win was a classic case in point and he did something similar last season. In the middle of an otherwise dire campaign, Stanley strung together a trio of top-six finishes in the space of five weeks, including amongst elite company at the Memorial and Quail Hollow.