Five Things to Know: East Lake Golf ClubA closer look at the site of this week's TOUR Championship
August 30, 2021
By Ben Everill , PGATOUR.COM
All-time shots from the TOUR Championship
Patrick Cantlay will start with a two-stroke lead over his closest pursuer as the FedExCup is decided once again at the TOUR Championship at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club starting Thursday. As the oldest course in Atlanta, East Lake has provided plenty of excitement over the years. But its proud history began well before it started hosting the PGA TOUR’s season finale.
Here are five things to know about East Lake Golf Club.
1. It was originally part of Atlanta Athletic Club.
The Atlanta Athletic Club (AAC) was formed in 1898. The club was dedicated to several sporting endeavors, but it initially had no golf course. John Heisman, the Georgia Tech football coach for whom the famed Heisman Trophy was later named, directed the club’s athletic program of swimming, tennis, basketball and track.
In 1904, it acquired property in the Atlanta suburbs to create a country club. Tom Bendelow was tasked with laying out the course. East Lake is the oldest golf course in Atlanta. The course was completely reworked by Donald Ross nine years later. That layout survives as the basic design today.
The Atlanta Athletic Club sold the course in the 1960s to relocate to its new home in Duluth (where it held the 2011 PGA Championship and 1976 U.S. Open). As the area around East Lake began to decay, the original course and clubhouse were saved by a group of 25 members who purchased them and began operation as the newly-formed East Lake Country Club in 1968.
The course failed to thrive until 1993, when a local charitable foundation purchased East Lake with the intent to restore it as a tribute to Bobby Jones and the club’s other great amateur golfers.
The East Lake Foundation has used the renovation as a catalyst for revitalizing the surrounding community. In 1994, Rees Jones, son of famed golf course architect Robert Trent Jones, restored Donald Ross’s original golf course design at East Lake to its current layout today.
2. It is the home of Bobby Jones.
World Golf Hall of Famer Bobby Jones, widely known as one of the greatest golfers of all time, learned his craft at East Lake. He was there at the age of 6 when the course held its grand opening in 1908.
Jones turned the golf world on its head in his time as an amateur. Jones won 13 national championships from 1923 to 1930: four U.S. Opens, five U.S. Amateurs, three Open Championships, and one British Amateur. He won the Grand Slam in 1930, claiming all four of those championships in the same calendar year. He would then go on to help found Augusta National and the Masters tournament.
3. It took the arrival of the FedExCup for Tiger Woods to thrive at East Lake.Tiger Woods after winning the FedExCup in 2007. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Hal Sutton was the first player to win a TOUR Championship at East Lake when he took out Vijay Singh in a playoff. Woods was 20th that year in his first TOUR start at the course.
Two years later, Woods already had nine wins in the 2000 season when he came to East Lake. So, when he shared the 54-hole lead with Singh, Woods was the hot favorite to win. But rival Phil Mickelson had other ideas and a final-round 66 helped him overtake Woods.
Two years later, Woods had the chance to be a final-round conqueror, but a Sunday 70 left him in seventh spot behind Singh. His East Lake woes did not stop there. In 2004, when the TOUR Championship returned again, Woods again seized the 54-hole lead, tied with Jay Haas and four clear of the rest of the field. Surely this time … Nope. His 72 on Sunday relegated him to second behind Retief Goosen.
A year later, Woods sat third with a round to go, one back of Goosen and four back of surprise leader Bart Bryant. Alas, Bryant continued his hot week and won by six shots.
And so it came to 2007, the opening season of the FedExCup and the new $10 million bonus for the season-long champion. Woods led the regular-season points and still held the top spot when he arrived in Atlanta. Woods was determined to put his past East Lake issues behind him. An opening 64 had him in third place, but he backed it up with a 63 to take control. He turned a three-shot buffer through 54 holes into a dominant eight-shot win to exorcise any demons.
In 2009, Woods shot a final-round 70 to finish second to Mickelson’s 65, but Woods still claimed his second FedExCup. He and Rory McIlroy are the only two-time winners of the season-long championship.
Which brings us to 2018. Who could forget Woods coming down the 18th hole on Sunday? The crowds burst through the ropes to create one of the greatest scenes sport has ever witnessed. It was Woods’ 80th PGA TOUR title and came more than five years after his last victory. It was one that certainly helped erase any previous pain at the course.
4. It is part of the successful East Lake Foundation.
East Lake Golf Club has played a central role in the remarkable transformation of the East Lake community. With the motto “Golf with a Purpose,” it joins organizations like the Charlie Yates Golf Course, The First Tee of East Lake, the Charles R. Drew Charter School, the YMCA and of course the PGA TOUR and its TOUR Championship in contributing to the success of the project in a different way.
The East Lake Foundation was formed to revitalize a suffering inner-city neighborhood and turn it into a vibrant community where all residents can thrive. Over the last two decades, the Foundation has proven that working with residents and public and private partners, while providing the right combination of comprehensive programs and services, is transformative for the community.
The East Lake Foundation works with many partners to deliver and support a wide range of programs, including early childhood education; supplemental enrichment at Drew Charter School; college and career readiness and scholarships; entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy training for adults; golf and life skills instruction; and healthcare access and education.
5. It has played host to some incredible shots.
Every shot matters for a winner, but there were two moments at East Lake in the FedExCup era that will make highlight reels for the rest of time. In 2016, Rory McIlroy needed something to happen fast. Three shots behind with three holes to play at the TOUR Championship, McIlroy holed a pitching wedge from 137 yards for eagle that gave him the spark he needed to close with a 6-under 64 and join a three-way playoff with the FedExCup title riding on the outcome.
He drilled a 15-foot putt on the same hole to win it all.
In 2011, Bill Haas and Hunter Mahan needed a playoff to decide the FedExCup champion. On the second playoff hole, Haas pulled his approach into the water. A dry summer left the water level lower than usual, allowing Haas to still see part of his ball. His recovery shot from the hazard spun to within a few feet of the hole. A par on the next hole was enough to hand Haas the title. "You play it like a bunker shot, for those of you that want to know, if there's a little bit of water, if you don't mind getting your feet dirty, and then blast it out of there. It came out perfect. Lucky,” Haas said.
All-time shots from the TOUR Championship