Rory McIlroy showed signs of a return to form in Akron and Oak Hill earlier this month. Photo: Anthony Powter) www.golffile.ieRory McIlroy won two play off events last year, finished 10th in the season-ending Tour Championship but lost out to Brandt Snedeker in the $10m FedEx Cup race.

This year he’s hoping for a different result as his season finally shows signs of reaching cruising speed.

It’s been a disappointing year for the world No 3 so far but a win in The Barclays at Liberty National could put him in position to challenge for the $10m FedEx Cup bonus again.

“Maybe it will be the other way around (this year),” McIlroy said. “That’s the beauty of it. You look at basketball, baseball, football. Teams squeeze in and make a great playoff run and win. I’m in that position where I’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

McIlroy showed signs of recovery from his erratic run of form in the first half of the season when he finished 27th in the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron and then took home a share of eight place in the US PGA, flirting with getting into contention before a triple bogey early in his final round undid him.

With the top 125 in the points list in action this week, the objective is to be in the Top 100 for the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston next week before just 70 advance to the BMW Championship    at
Lake Forest in Illinois and then just 30 to the Tour Championship in Atlanta.

McIlroy is 49th in the FedExCup points and needs a couple of big weeks to have any chance of a FedEx Cup title tilt at East Lake.

Making it to Atlanta is the big goal for Graeme McDowell who is 28th in the standings following a US season that has brought one win at the RBC Heritage in April and three early season Top-10s in Tucson, the Honda and the WGC-Cadillac at Doral.

After rallying to 12th with a closing 66 in the US PGA two weeks ago, McDowell said: “This is probably the first year I’m going in with some numbers on the board.

“I’m guaranteed the first three events and kind of know what I have to do to get to East Lake.

“I set that as my goal at the start of the year, to try and get into the Tour Championship and experience that.”

FexEx Cup points leader Tiger Woods is the favourite to put his major championship disappointments behind him and win for the sixth time this year despite some back stiffness that’s been made worse by sort hotel beds.

On the European Tour, the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles will have Ryder Cup skipper Paul McGinley keenly watching out for form players at the venue that will be the centre of world golf in just over a year’s time.

Shane Lowry is the obvious Irish title contender as he chases a win that would put him in with a chance of battling for a Ryder Cup place from the world’s Top 50 when the qualifying period starts in earnest next week.

There are eight Irish in the field with Lurgan’s Gareth Shaw, the touring pro for Galgorm Castle, hoping to take advantage of a sponsor’s invitation.

The Ulster player took advantage of an invitation to finish fifth in the Irish Open in June and 13th in the Open de France the following week.

As a result he’s 127th in the Race to Dubai with €116,654 which is ‘just’ €49,797 outside the top 110 who will have full cards for 2014.

Bridging the gap in one week would require at Top-7 at worst this week.