(Reuters) - World number one Jason Day and second-ranked Dustin Johnson launch their title bids at The Barclays on Thursday amid longer-term hopes of securing the PGA Tour’s season-ending FedExCup and Player of the Year honors.
The Barclays, won last year by Australian Day, is the first of four lucrative FedExCup events that conclude the 2015-16 schedule with a playoff bonus of $10 million going to the overall champion.
Once the season is over, the PGA Tour rank and file will vote for their Player of the Year where Day, a three-times winner in 2016, and American Johnson, a double champion this year, are the top two contenders.
Day triumphed five times on the PGA Tour last season and can consider himself unfortunate to be edged out by Jordan Spieth, the 2015 Masters and U.S. Open champion, for Player of the Year honors.
Though his three victories this year outnumber the two claimed by Johnson, the long-hitting American holds an edge when it comes to ‘elite’ wins given that he has landed a major (the U.S. Open) and a WGC title (the Bridgestone Invitational).
“A couple more wins should do it ... even with what Dustin has done,” Day told reporters on Wednesday at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, New York about the challenge he faced in trying to beat Johnson in the race for the Player of the Year accolade.
“If I can get off to a nice start here, that should give me the confidence going forward. He (Johnson) is playing tremendous golf. If I get it (Player of the Year), great. If not, no worries. I have plenty of years to try to get it again.
“I was close last year, but with how Jordan played in the majors, obviously he deserved it. If Dustin beats me this year, then he deserves it. The biggest thing for me is to focus on what I need to do and try and win.”
Johnson, who clinched his first major title with a three-shot victory in the U.S. Open at Oakmont, is delighted to be second in the FedExCup standings behind Day heading into The Barclays.
“It’s my best position coming into the playoffs since I’ve been on Tour,” said the 32-year-old American. “Really excited about that. Still got a lot of work to do. Still want to be in this position going into Atlanta.”
The top 125 players in FedExCup points qualified for The Barclays, and the leading 100 after this week advance to Boston for the Sept. 2-5 Deutsche Bank Championship before the best 70 progress to the BMW Championship in Carmel, Indiana.
Thirty players qualify for the concluding Tour Championship from Sept. 22-25 at East Lake in Atlanta where a points reset will give all those left in the field a mathematical opportunity to win the FedExCup.
However, the top five there control their own destiny and anyone from that quintet would claim the $10 million jackpot with an East Lake victory.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Ed Osmond