Hunter Mahan is the only player to have played in every FedEx Cup playoff event. He's the only player to have advanced to the Tour Championship in all eight years of the playoff concept.
Despite those accomplishments, Mahan has only finished inside the top 10 of the final FedEx Cup standings twice. He's never even pierced the top five, much less top three.
For as consistent as he's been the last eight years, it's staggering Mahan has not fared better, padded his bank account more.
At first glance, the hypothesis as to why is simple: Mahan must not be able to figure out East Lake, home to the playoffs-ending Tour Championship. As it turns out, however, that's just one part of a frustrating equation.
Since the FedEx Cup adopted its current format in 2009, Mahan has substantially improved his FedEx Cup position over the course of the playoffs twice. In 2011, Mahan began the playoffs in 20th place, entered the Tour Championship at 21st and, on the back of a runner-up finish, ended in seventh place. (In 2013, Mahan began the playoffs in 21st, ended in 20th.) This year, a win at The Barclays thrust him into the conversation for the season-long title.
Clearly, the combination of the points reset before the Tour Championship and his Atlanta record play a key role in Mahan's playoff mediocrity. In 2011 and '12, Mahan improved his position over the course of the Tour Championship. Otherwise, he lost ground. However, Mahan's Tour Championship finishes are positively mediocre, averaging 13th over the last eight seasons. That's beating half the field, but certainly not good enough when the points system rewards contending at East Lake.
The playoffs, however, are a battery of four events, and Mahan's problems really stem from his inability to improve his position during the first three events.
In every year of the FedEx Cup concept, Mahan began the playoffs inside the top 30. Obviously, he never ended the BMW Championship outside that position. Mahan, however, rarely improves his initial playoff standing. Last season marked the first time Mahan bettered his position heading into the Tour Championship, going from 21st to 15th (before finishing 20th).
Mahan's average finish in the first three playoff events over the last eight years is 32nd without much deviation from his average finish in each individual event. As the playoffs carry on, that average finish looks worse and worse -- first against a field of 125, then 100, then 70. In particular, if Mahan found a way to be more competitive in the BMW Championship, he'd have a better chance of coming into the Tour Championship with an opportunity to win the FedEx Cup.
It was a win at The Barclays, however, that put Mahan in position to clinch the FedEx Cup with a Tour Championship win. That wasn't in the cards in the end. However, if you're looking for the bright side in all of this, Mahan did post his best-ever FedEx Cup finish on Sunday: sixth.