5 storylines heading into the FedEx Cup playoffs

The 2016-17 PGA Tour regular season is in the books, and now 125 players head to Glen Oaks Club for The Northern Trust and the first FedEx Cup playoff event.

The playoffs feature an ongoing cut, with 100 players advancing to the Dell Technologies Championship in Boston, 70 moving onto the BMW Championship, and the top 30 qualifying for the TOUR Championship at East Lake.

Here are five storylines heading into the FedEx Cup series.

Justin Thomas and Player of the Year honors

Thomas was in the mix for Player of the Year prior to last week, but certainly wasn’t the favorite to claim the award. That all changed with a brilliant back nine at Quail Hollow to win his first major title, giving him four wins this season – the most of any player in 2016-17. The 24-year-old needs only one more victory in the four tournament series to likely wrap up the accomplishment, or have other hopefuls – like Jordan Spieth – stumble to the finish line.

Can Rory McIlroy defend FedEx Cup?

No golfer has successfully defended their FedEx Cup title since the playoffs began in 2007, but Rory McIlory is trying to become the first player to do so. The Northern Irishman has been plagued by a rib injury all year, forcing McIlroy to take two long layoffs to try and heal the problem. After a T22 result last week at the PGA Championship, the 28-year-old hinted skipping the playoffs was a real possibility, but committed to play last Friday. McIlroy hasn’t won since the 2016 Tour Championship, and has been very inconsistent with his game this season, but felt he was close to regaining his form after Quail Hollow.

Will Dustin Johnson regain winning form?

The world No. 1 was the hottest player in the game prior to Augusta with back-to-back-to-back wins, but a back injury on the eve of The Masters has cooled him off. Johnson hasn’t found the winner’s circle since March, but has grabbed two top 15s since Royal Birkdale, and posted nine scores in the 60s in his last 16 rounds on tour.

Presidents Cup spots

It’s crunch time for those on the bubble in the Presidents Cup standings. Both the United States team and the International side will announce their squads following the Dell Technologies Championship on Sept. 4. The first 10 spots on each team are automatically granted by a points system, while the last two slots are selected by the captain. U.S. captain Steve Stricker has a big decision on whether he brings Phil Mickelson to the event in late September. Mickelson hasn’t missed a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup competition since 1993, but sits 17th in the American standings.

Can any player pull a ‘2014 Billy Horschel?’

Horschel entered the 2014 FedEx Cup playoffs in 69th place, and then missed the cut in the first playoff event at The Barclays. However, the former Florida Gator rebounded by finishing in a tie for second at the Deutsche Bank Championship, then won the BMW and Tour Championship for the FedEx Cup crown and the $10 million playoff bonus.

(Photos courtesy: Action Images)

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