Power Rankings: TOUR Championship by Coca-ColaSeptember 16, 2013
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Columnist
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 Rank Player Comment Hunter MAHAN Only golfer to play in every tournament in FedExCup Playoffs history. Begins this year's finale at 15th in points. Logged top 25s in first three events for first time in his career. Three top 10s at East Lake, including solo second in 2011. Brandt SNEDEKER First reigning FedExCup champ to earn the opportunity to defend. Held the outright lead at Conway Farms after 18 holes. Also co-led at the midpoint en route to share of eighth place. Fell one spot to 10th in FedExCup points. Luke DONALD The home-course advantage paid dividends. With a T4 at Conway Farms, vaulted 25 spots to 29th in FedExCup points to clinch his fifth straight start at East Lake where he took second in 2010 and finished T3 in 2011 and 2012. Jason DAY Capped a T4 at the BMW Championship with a bogey-free 66; still dropped two spots to 14th in the FedExCup. Ranked T13 in GIR, seventh in strokes gained-putting and second in scrambling. Placed T6 in his last start at East Lake in 2011. Zach JOHNSON Leapt 23 spots to fourth in the FedExCup standings with his two-stroke victory at the BMW Championship. Ranked T3 in GIR and second in strokes gained-putting. Better of two top 10s (in six starts) at East Lake is a T2 in 2007. Jim FURYK The 2010 FedExCup champion makes his sixth appearance at East Lake during the Playoffs era. No worse than T11 in 2007. Shared the 36-hole lead at Conway Farms thanks to a second-round 59; eventually took third overall. Nick WATNEY Of the 30 at East Lake, he began the FedExCup Playoffs as the lowest seed (63rd). Now 12th following a solo second at Conway Farms where he closed with a field-low 64 and led the field in strokes gained-putting for the week. Tiger WOODS Returned to the top of the FedExCup standings with a T11 at Conway Farms. In his last five trips to East Lake, he's won once (2007), finished second thrice and posted a T8 last year, but broke par just twice in those five finales. Justin ROSE Co-led last year's TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola after 18 and 54 holes; settled for solo second. Tied for 33rd at Conway Farms where he ranked sixth in proximity to the hole but 55th in strokes gained-putting. Ninth in points. Adam SCOTT Third in points. In four return visits to East Lake since winning here in 2006, he's added only one top 15 (T6, 2011). Didn't crack the top 25 in the last two events of this year's Playoffs despite a 66 and a trio of 67s in eight rounds. Phil MICKELSON Just one top 20 in his last five starts (T6, The Barclays). Slipped two spots to eighth in FedExCup points with a T33 at Conway Farms. One of three to qualify for every Playoff finale. Two-time winner at East Lake (2000, 2009). Matt KUCHAR Arrives ranked fifth in points. One of two (Tiger Woods) to remain inside the top five throughout the Playoffs. Slipped to a T24 at Conway Farms with a 73 in the final round. Only top 10 in three trips to East Lake is a T10 in 2012. Charl SCHWARTZEL Started Playoffs at 33rd in points and hovered just inside the bubble after opening with T25 and T22, respectively. With a T8 at Conway Farms (third in strokes gained-putting), he's 23rd as he embarks on his first start at East Lake. Henrik STENSON Making his debut at East Lake. Slipped to second in FedExCup points with a T33 at the BMW Championship where he closed with a 3-over 74. Ranked second in total driving at Conway Farms but 56th in strokes gained-putting. Sergio GARCIA Second consecutive year that he's begun the FedExCup Playoffs outside the top 30 and still punched a ticket to East Lake. This time, he rose from 59th to his current spot at 25th. Three top 15s at East Lake in as many appearances. Keegan BRADLEY He's qualified for every FedExCup Playoffs event since his rookie year of 2011, but still in search of his first top 10. After opening this year with a T33 at The Barclays, he's added T16s at the last two. Currently 16th in points. Webb SIMPSON A steady performer but he's gone eight starts without a top 10. Fourteen top 25s on the season, however, including a T24 at Conway Farms. Currently 21st in points. Tied for fifth at last year's TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. Gary WOODLAND Second appearance (T13, 2011). Sat 116th in FedExCup points until his win in Reno. Now 17th following a T2 (Barclays), T41 (Deutsche Bank) and T18 (BMW). Ranked fourth in strokes gained-putting at Conway Farms. Bill HAAS In his only previous appearance at East Lake, he triumphed in 2011 en route to winning the FedExCup. It remains one of just two top 10s in 19 career starts in the Playoffs. Best finish of his most recent five starts is a T20 at Sedgefield. Steve STRICKER The only object he'll be hunting this week is the FedExCup trophy. After sitting out The Barclays, he finished second and T4 to climb to sixth in points. Qualified for every Playoffs finale, but has just one top 10 at East Lake (sixth, 2009). Jordan SPIETH The Presidents Cupper and likely Rookie of the Year finished T19, T4 and T16 in the first three Playoffs events, yet fell a respective one, one and three points to tee it up in his first TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola at 13th. Brendon DE JONGE Fourth time's a charm. Was bounced from the each of the last three Playoffs after the BMW Championship, but hung on to grab the 27-seed and qualify for East Lake for the first time. Top 25s in each of the first three tournaments. Roberto CASTRO One of seven to post top 25s in each of the first three events of the FedExCup Playoffs. Poised for his first appearance at East Lake. Ranks 24th in points. Hit 109 of his last 144 greens in regulation (75.69 percent). Dustin JOHNSON Last man inside the bubble at 30th in points. Started the Playoffs as the 16-seed and placed no better than T27 (Deutsche Bank) in any of the first three events. Only top 10 in four starts at East Lake occurred last year (T10). Graham DELAET First-timer at East Lake. At seventh in FedExCup points, he's highest of the eight in the field that started the Playoffs outside the top 30; he began as the 34-seed. Rose 13 spots at the BMW with a bogey-free 67 in the finale. Jason DUFNER Third straight appearance at East Lake and fourth in the last five Playoffs. Sits 20th in points. Failed to break par in any around at Conway Farms en route to a share of 54th place. Converted on only one of his last 28 birdie chances. Kevin STREELMAN Just two top 30s in his last 11 starts. Fell six spots in FedExCup points to 19th during the Playoffs. In his only prior start at East Lake, he tied for ninth in 2010. It's his only top-15 finish in his last nine Playoffs events. Boo WEEKLEY Returns to East Lake for the first time since his debut in 2007 (T21). Only golfer of this year's class of 30 that failed to pick off a top 30 in any of the first three events. Started 12th in points, but checks in at 26th this week. Billy HORSCHEL A share of 18th place at the BMW Championship was his first top 25 in nine starts. Closed with a bogey-free 66. It allowed him to stand pat at 22nd in FedExCup points for his debut at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. D.A. POINTS First appearance in the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. Answered his T6 at The Barclays with a missed cut at the Deutsche Bank Championship and a T57 at the BMW Championship. Sits 28th in FedExCup points.