By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
ATLANTA -- Dustin Johnson barely qualified for the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, sneaking in at the 30th spot in the FedECup standings.
Now he's hoping to make the most of the opportunity.
The odds are still long for Johnson to win the FedExCup -- and a number of scenarios have to play out -- but he at least did his part with a good opening round at East Lake.
Johnson shot a 2-under 68 Thursday for what was just his fifth sub-par round in his last 17 here.
"Hit a couple of poor iron shots, but other than that, I'm pretty pleased with the way I struck it," he said. "I had a lot of opportunities to make birdie."
Johnson made six of them in all -- offset by four bogeys, including three in a four-hole stretch on his front nine.
Johnson is looking for his first win since the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, which was shortened to 54 holes because of weather.
"I think by far it's the best round I've ever had starting out here," Johnson said of Thursday's round. "I'm very pleased with it. Just try to do what I did today and tomorrow and see what happens."
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
ATLANTA -- Tiger Woods is an hour from teeing off in the day's final pairing at East Lake, where the (very) early lead is 2 under.
It's also where Woods has played some impressive golf through the years. At No. 1 in the FedExCup standings, if he wins this week, he'll win his third FedExCup trophy.
Just how good has Woods been here? Here's a look:
TOUR Championship history
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
ATLANTA -- Steve Stricker deciding to limit his schedule is nothing new.
Jack Nicklaus averaged 18 events a year for his career. Tiger Woods has followed suit.
It took a while, but Adam Scott finally figured out a couple of years ago that less might add up to more for him as well when it came to contending in big tournaments.
"I was frustrated and disappointed in my performance in big events for the most part of my career," Scott said. "I just got stuck in a routine of there's always another week. There's always going to be another major. There was 40‑something majors and I hadn't really even contended on Sunday.
"I just was so frustrated, it was time to do something radically different for me. I think I just got stuck in a pattern. That can easily happen out here."
From 2007 through 2010, Scott missed the cut in six of 16 majors and didn't have a single top 10.
Since the beginning of 2011, when he decided to cut a few tournaments out of his schedule, Scott has finished in the top 10 of majors 7 of 12 times, which included winning his first major title at the Masters this past April, and missed the cut just once.
"I was probably prepared to give it at least a season or two to see if it worked out," the Aussie said. "I got stuck in the routine of just trying to play my way through some poor form, which can work."
Just not for Scott.
The decision to part ways with Butch Harmon and return to his longtime coach Brad Malone, a switch to the long putter at the start of 2011 and a change in caddie to Steve Williams had significant impacts as well.
It wasn't about working harder, which Scott also did, but about working smarter.
"What I've learned the last couple of years is that being in contention in big tournaments takes a lot of energy," he said. "If you're playing a lot of golf, then I just don't think you can maintain that high level the whole time."
The end result is that Scott has been in contention a number of times this year, including in three of the year's four majors. He also won at last month's The Barclays.
All of it has helped put Scott in position to win his first FedExCup.
He enters this week's TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola third in the FedExCup standings and a win at East Lake would net him two trophies -- and the $10 million bonus.
It would garner some attention for Player of the Year honors, too.
"It's been a great year for sure," said Scott, who won here in 2006. "But I think this week counts so much for me and how the year will be remembered by myself and others, for that matter."
Check out Hal Sutton's victory in 1998, Phil Mickelson's triumphs in 2000 & 2009, Tiger Woods' win in 2007, Camilo Villegas' 2008 victory, Jim Furyk's 2010 win, and Bill Haas' clutch win in 2011.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
ATLANTA -- At the beginning of the year, Jordan Spieth's goal was to earn his PGA TOUR card for next season, something he figured he'd accomplish through the Web.com Tour.
Needless to say the 20-year-old has exceded even his own expectations.
Spieth is the lone rookie in the field this week at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, where he comes in 13th in the FedExCup standings and with the very real possibility of becoming the first rookie to win the FedExCup.
"It turned out better than I could have expected," Spieth said. "And then to get the call from Freddy (Couples) was a dream come true. I never thought about the Presidents Cup this year."
Through his first three Playoffs events, Spieth hasn't finished outside the top 20, which included a fourth-place finish at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
This is Spieth's first time playing East Lake but the way the rest of his year has gone, it might not matter. He has eight top 10s this season with half of them, including a win, coming since mid-June.
That's not to suggest Spieth still isn't adjusting to life on TOUR.
When he showed up at the course on Tuesday, there were only two players on the driving range. Then it dawned on Spieth that there are only 30 in the entire field.
"I couldn't see anybody on the golf course," he said. "I guess that's just how it is this week."
The PGATOUR.COM experts have made their selections for the FedExCup Playoffs finale, the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, and now it's time for you to do the same.
Click the link above to see who our panel picked for this week's event
at East Lake and let us know who you like in the comments section below.
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Atlanta's East Lake Golf Club has hosted the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola every year since 2004, and on three occassions before that (2002, '00, '98). Here's a look at how players have fared at the historic club. Phil Mickelson is the only player to win the TOUR Championship twice at East Lake. Tiger Woods won the first TOUR Championship of the FedExCup era and has been runner-up at the course four times.
|27||Brendon de Jonge|
Note: FedExCup began in 2007. P2 denotes runner-up finish after losing in playoff.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The last five times Jim Furyk had held the 54-hole lead he failed to win.
Monday, he extended that dubious streak to six.
Furyk, who just three days earlier became one of only six players to shoot 59 in a PGA TOUR event, made three bogeys over his final nine holes and shot even par at Conway Farms to finish third, three strokes behind winner Zach Johnson.
Conversely, Johnson was flawless in the third unscheduled Monday finish of the season, making six birdies, including two over his final three holes, and no bogeys en route to a 65 to finish at 16 under.
It was the 10th win of Johnson's career, now in its 10th year, and first this season.
"It's extremely difficult," Johnson said trying to explain what the 10 wins meant. "I'm not sure I fully grasp it.
"The parity on the TOUR and in the world is second to none. I'm just thankful it has been 10 years, and hopefully many more."
Nick Watney finished alone in second at 14 under after a 64. Three others -- Jason Day, Luke Donald and Hunter Mahan -- tied for fourth at 11 under.
The win moves Johnson to fourth in the FedExCup standings, meaning that if he wins next week at East Lake he would win the FedExCup.
Donald will also be going to the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
At 54th in FedExCup points coming into the week, Donald, a member at Conway Farms, needed to finish in a tie for sixth or better. He got it with a final-round 66 that included five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine.
Tiger Woods, who entered the final round within four of the lead, shot an even-par 71 and was never a factor. Still, his tie for 11th was enough to move him back to No. 1 in the FedExCup standings.
Henrik Stenson, who took over the top spot from Woods with his win in Boston, dropped to No. 2 after a tie for 33rd following a final-round 74.