It's been exactly 100 years since Donald Ross redesigned the original Tom Bendelow layout that is East Lake Golf Club, site of this week's TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola to conclude the FedExCup Playoffs and the 2013 season. Countless enhancements and upgrades have allowed the famed course to keep up with the, well, Joneses. Par-70 East Lake is largely known as Hall of Famer Bobby Jones' home track.
Another Jones of no relation, Rees, oversaw the renovation following the conclusion of the inaugural FedExCup in 2007 won by Tiger Woods with a tournament-record 23-under 257. Miniverde Bermudagrass replaced Bentgrass greens. Since, the lowest aggregate is a mere 10-under 270, courtesy of this year's defending champion Brandt Snedeker, who becomes the first FedExCup titleholder to advance to the Playoffs finale the following season.
Nine fairways were widened in advance of this year's edition, but the course will look similar as a whole to what the 22 that have competed here before remember. In fact, the Monday finish of the BMW Championship may have little impact on preparation. "The nice thing is that Atlanta, we've all seen it," said BMW winner Zach Johnson on Sunday. He's making his seventh trip, fifth during the FedExCup era. ZJ also owns the course record with a 60 in 2007. "It's really good. It's really difficult. It hasn't changed. But yeah, I mean, there's a slight altering of the schedule. You have to roll with it."
East Lake averaged 70.417 in 2012. That was sixth-highest of 13 par 70s played in non-majors. That all but five of the fairways will be more inviting off the tee introduces the possibility that more fairway bunkers will see action. However, with a driving-accuracy clip of just 49.88 percent a year ago (sixth-lowest of all courses), the field of 30 should appreciate the elbow room.
Greens average 6,200 square feet and were hit 65.37 percent of the time in regulation last year. It's the second-highest split since Miniverde was planted, but scrambling was at its most difficult of the last five years at 52.81 percent.
A peek ahead at the TOUR Championship would be incomplete without a nod toward the par-3 18th hole. Capable of extending to 235 yards, it's averaged over par played on Miniverde. Last year's 3.217 matched the high from 2009. (It averaged 2.975 in 2007.) Overall, the course measures 7,307 yards. That's down 12 yards from the previous three seasons. The par-3 third increase by three yards while the par-4 17th has been shortened by 12.
Mother Nature may not show any mercy in the final tournament of the season. A gradually increasing threat of rain and boomers exists as the tournament plays on. Temperatures will top out in the low 80s and wind will be a non-factor.
NOTE: For similar characteristics among winners of the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola during the FedExCup era, please look for "Stats Suggest" in The Stats Report later in the week.
|Power Rankings: TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola|