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By finishing third at the TPC Boston, he could move up to as high as No. 15 and be on the fast track to East Lake.

“That renders the regular season useless,” Cink said.

Then again, that’s what the playoffs are supposed to be all about _ playing the best golf toward the end of the year. What troubles Crane, Cink and other players is that one good week _ even if it’s not a victory _ could be all it takes to reap a significant reward by going to the Tour Championship.

Everyone knows what’s at stake in the four playoff events, just as everyone knows what’s at stake at the four majors. They are playing for history in the majors. They are playing for the chance at big money (a $35 million bonus pool) and big perks in the playoffs.

Streelman knew what he was up against. If he played poorly in the opening playoff event, he was headed home for a month.

“The intent was for players to be playing well in the playoffs,” Streelman said. “That’s why the points are up so much. It’s a neat thing. If you’re playing good, your goals can change quickly.”

He was hopeful of going to Boston. Now, Streelman is assured of getting to the third round outside Chicago, where he grew up. And there’s a decent chance of going to the Tour Championship for the first time.

All because he tied for third in the first playoff event.

For all the debate, the Deutsche Bank Championship offers another strong field, with 37 of the top 50 in the world. The other 13 players are not PGA Tour members.

“How good is this for golf?” Crane said.