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Len Ziehm On Golf

Spieth, Day, Fowler: Could there be a better threesome in golf these days?

Never has the future of professional golf been put on display as dramatically as it will be on Thursday and Friday at Conway Farms.

The Lake Forest private facility has a dream threesome teeing of at 11:53 a.m. Thursday and 12:59 p.m. on Friday. That’s when Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler begin their bids for the title in the first two rounds of the BMW Championship. It’ll be the first time the young stars have played together in a threesome at a PGA Tour event.

“We’re going to have a blast,’’ said Fowler. “The three of us really enjoy playing together, and our caddies are all good friends. It’d be fun if we can build some momentum with all of us playing well the first two days, but there won’t be any shortage of smiles and laughs going on.’’

They’re playing together because they rank 1-2-3 in the FedEx Cup standings. In regular tournaments the pairings are determined by tournament officials; in the playoffs they’re determined by playoff standings.

Day is 27, Fowler 26 and Spieth 22. That’s as close as golf has come to a “Big Three’’ since the days when Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player were in their heydays, and that legendary trio never played for the money that the Day-Fowler-Spieth group is chasing this week.

The BMW Championship, third event of the four-tournament FedEx Cup Playoffs, is a 72-hole competition with and $8.25 million prize fund and no cut for the 70 qualifiers. Sunday’s champion will receive $1,485,000.

Spieth didn’t survive the 36-hole cut in the first two playoff events but could still win the $10 million bonus awarded after next week’s Tour Championship in Atlanta. Spieth downplayed the back-to-back missed cuts.

“Everything feels normal. My game is in a solid state,’’ he said. “It’s just a matter of getting it rolling, get into a groove and start seeing some putts go in.’’

The FedEx point standings include results during the 47-event regular season. That’s why Spieth, winner of the Masters and U.S. Open, is in the mix despite his recent slump. Day won The Barclays, the first playoff event, and Fowler took the last one, the Deutsche Bank Championship. They’re using the BMW Championship to get into position for the big prize, to be awarded in Atlanta.

Any player ranked in the top five in the FedEx standings after this week’s tourney will win the big bonus with a win in The Tour Championship, and there is some long-term strategy involved.

“Just playing good golf and trying to win both tournaments. That’s the plan,’’ said Day. “Winning takes care of everything. That’s great to say right now, but it’s obviously harder to do.’’

Actually, there’s precedent for none of the “Big Three’ winning either this week or next. If a player down the list gets hot, he could claim the $10 million bonus as well.

“Exactly,’’ said Day. “You look at Billy Horschel last year and Camilo (Villegas) a few years back (2008). Things like this can happen.’’

Horschel, in this week’s field but down in 67th place in the FedEx standings, tied for second in the Deutsche Bank Championship last year and then won the BMW and the Tour Championship. Coupled with the bonus, he won $13,477,333 in just the final month of the season.

Players have taken different approaches in the FedEx Cup season. Some, with enough points going in, feel a week’s rest would be beneficial in the long run and skip a tournament. Phil Mickelson, most notably, has tried that tactic in the past and Sergio Garcia trumped him by skipping the first two tournaments this year. Both, though, will have to play well to get inside the top 30 – a requirement for play in Atlanta. Garcia enters the BMW at No. 54 in the standings and Mickelson is No. 61.

While all the players want to win the BMW Championship, the secondary goal is just to get into the top five on the point standings. Any of those five would win the bonus with a win in Atlanta regardless of where any of the other players finish.

Behind the Day-Spieth-Fowler trio in the top five are Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, who won the bonus in 2013, and Bubba Watson.