As the FedExCup Playoffs is concerned, the 11th edition isn't presenting anything we haven't seen before, but the combination of unusual facts is unprecedented all the while adhering to the chalk.
Jordan Spieth is just the second golfer in Playoffs history to enter the TOUR Championship atop the FedExCup standings without a victory in the Playoffs. Tiger Woods was the first in 2013. Meanwhile, only five golfers who started the series outside the top 30 in points qualified for this week's 30-man field at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. At least seven climbed in all but once since the first version of the current structure was introduced in 2009. That occurred in 2015 when only four converted.
Points have been reset and each of the top five is guaranteed the FedExCup's $10-million bonus with victory in the finale. So, Spieth, who won the FedExCup in 2015, controls his own destiny to become the second in history to capture multiple titles (Woods, 2007 and 2009).
POWER RANKINGS: TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP
RANK PLAYER COMMENT 1 Jordan Spieth 2 Justin Rose 3 Dustin Johnson 4 Rickie Fowler 5 Marc Leishman 6 Justin Thomas 7 Paul Casey 8 Jason Day 9 Jon Rahm 10 Kevin Chappell 11 Webb Simpson 12 Brooks Koepka 13 Matt Kuchar 14 Sergio Garcia 15 Patrick Cantlay 16 Gary Woodland 17 Pat Perez 18 Hideki Matsuyama 19 Jason Dufner 20 Daniel Berger 21 Xander Schauffele 22 Adam Hadwin 23 Tony Finau 24 Brian Harman 25 Charley Hoffman 26 Patrick Reed 27 Russell Henley 28 Kevin Kisner 29 Kyle Stanley 30 Jhonattan Vegas
Returning to the TOUR Championship isn't easy, but 14 in this week's field were here last year. However, defending champion Rory McIlroy didn't qualify. In fact, of all former champions, only Spieth (2015) is in the field. Eight are making their debuts.
Aside from the voids left when many mature trees were felled over the winter, East Lake's changes were minimal, but it will look and set up just as it did last year as a par 70, this time measuring 7,362 yards. That reflects a reduction of 23 yards. The MiniVerde Ultradwarf Bermudagrass greens may run as fast as 12-and-a-half on the Stimpmeter and the Bermudagrass rough has been trimmed to two-and-a-half inches.
The 2016 edition of the TOUR Championship was the first in which the nines were reversed for competition. The old par-3 finisher became No. 9. In its place, a par 5 tipping at 590 yards served as the stage for potential heroics. Alas, McIlroy scored a respective 5-5-4-4 on the hole in regulation, while eventual playoff victims Kevin Chappell and Ryan Moore settled for pars in every round. The playoff went four holes, the first two of which at the 18th where McIlroy and Moore pushed with 4-5. Chappell was eliminated with an opening par. Despite the absence of fireworks, the hole averaged 4.581, lowest in history. Among the 117 scores recorded (Jason Day withdrew after one round), three eagles were recorded.
Overall, East Lake yielded a scoring average of 69.615 last year. That was a typical split in benign weather conditions. This week's forecast includes the threat for rain and storms, the greatest landing on Friday. Otherwise favorable elements will serve merely as a backdrop in which the FedExCup champion will be crowned.
Tuesday's Confidence Factor will examine the skills rewarded at East Lake to help identify the latest to join the club.
ROB BOLTON’S WRITING SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Columnist Rob Bolton will be filing his usual staples leading up to this week’s event. Look for the following columns this week.
MONDAY: Rookie Ranking, Reshuffle, Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: The Confidence Factor, Fantasy Insider
WEDNESDAY: One & Done
THURSDAY: Ownership Percentages in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf and One & Done presented by SERVPRO
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO, which also publishes on Tuesdays.