Power Rankings: TOUR Championship
August 30, 2021
By Rob Bolton , PGATOUR.COM
All-time shots from the TOUR Championship
It’s the big 5-0!
The 50-event super season concludes with this week’s TOUR Championship. If the playoff between Patrick Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau at the BMW Championship was the pregame for the final celebration of 2020-21, then we’re in store for quite a show at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
After surviving six holes of sudden death to prevail on Sunday, Cantlay rose to No. 1 in the FedExCup standings, so he will start atop the leaderboard on Thursday. You’ll find the explanation for that, how Starting Strokes influenced the first two editions of the Playoffs finale and much more beneath the ranking.
NOTE: This full-field Power Rankings includes starting score for every golfer in the field.
POWER RANKINGS: TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP
RANK PLAYER COMMENT 30 Patrick Reed 29 Kevin Na 28 Stewart Cink 27 Joaquin Niemann 26 Billy Horschel 25 Erik van Rooyen 24 Collin Morikawa 23 Hideki Matsuyama 22 Sergio Garcia 21 Harris English 20 Louis Oosthuizen 19 Jason Kokrak 18 Daniel Berger 17 Cameron Smith 16 Corey Conners 15 Scottie Scheffler 14 Viktor Hovland 13 Abraham Ancer 12 Sam Burns 11 Sungjae Im 10 Jordan Spieth 9 Brooks Koepka 8 Xander Schauffele 7 Dustin Johnson 6 Rory McIlroy 5 Patrick Cantlay 4 Justin Thomas 3 Tony Finau 2 Bryson DeChambeau 1 Jon Rahm
Tabulation of FedExCup points ended at the BMW Championship, so only scores matters now. Starting Strokes was introduced at the TOUR Championship in 2019. It’s the compromise between rewarding bodies of work in the long- and short-term, and the promise to crown the winner of the tournament as the FedExCup champion.
Unlike all other stroke-play competitions, the golfer with the lowest 72-hole aggregate at the TOUR Championship isn’t necessarily going to be the winner, but that’s how it worked out when Rory McIlroy captured the title in 2019. As the 5-seed, he opened at 5-under, and then scored 13-under (267). His 72-hole aggregate was three better than the second-lowest, but all that mattered was that his final score in relation to par of 18-under (5-under + 13-under) was the best in the field.
In fact, the winner is determined on score in relation to par with Starting Strokes contributing, and that did matter in the second spin.
Starting Strokes aided Dustin Johnson in emerging with his first FedExCup title last year. He opened at 10-under, shot 11-under during the tournament and posted 21-under for a three-stroke victory. However, his 72-hole aggregate was 269 was good for just T3 without Starting Strokes contributing. Xander Schauffele was lowest at 15-under 265 but opened at just 3-under as the 14-seed, so he settled for co-runner-up (with Justin Thomas) at 18-under.
Unlike trends based on FedExCup points and positions, which are unique to every season, Starting Strokes has laid the foundation for an apples-to-apples comparison between TOUR Championships. Consider that in each of the first two editions, exactly six golfers seeded 12th or worse upon arrival finished inside the top 10 in relation to par at the conclusion of their respective events. (That’s a total of 12 among the combined 21 top 10s.) The highest climb to date belongs to 25-seed Chez Reavie in 2019. He opened at 1-under, shot 5-under and finished eighth at 6-under. Last year’s biggest riser was Tyrrell Hatton, who opened at 2-under as the 19-seed, and then shot 10-under for a combined 12-under and seventh place.
Of course, movement occurs in the other direction as well. Coincidentally given Sunday’s duel, the top drops of the first two TOUR Championships with Starting Strokes were Cantlay (2019) and DeChambeau (2020). Cantlay opened as the 2-seed and finished T21. DeChambeau finished 22nd last year as the 8-seed.
After the unknown of Caves Valley, the familiar backdrop of East Lake awaits. It remains a stock par 70 at 7,346 yards with bermudagrass greens ready to roll up to 13 feet on the Stimpmeter. Primary rough again is 2½ inches high. Essentially, for the 28 who have given it a go here before, it’s an open-book examination. Yes, that means that debutants 10-seed Sam Burns and 27-seed Erik van Rooyen are cramming, but they aced the first two tests, anyway.
After East Lake held up for a historically average 70.033 in 2019, it proved to be vulnerable last year at 68.917. It was its lowest scoring average since 2007, the last edition before Rees Jones’ second of three renovations to the course. (Course scoring averages are not influenced by Starting Strokes.)
Despite that dip, because the course is the same, the objective is the same – hit greens and sink putts. However, setting up scoring opportunities also remains the primary challenge. East Lake held firm in allowing a customary 11.6 GIR per round last year, 12th-lowest among all courses last season.
Getting the ball onto the putting surfaces is harder than getting it into the hole. Last year’s field converted one-third of GIR into par breakers. That also aligns with recent history, but it connected in salvaging par 60.81 percent of the time, a record high at East Lake.
The pair of par 5s – Nos. 6 and 18 – are most vulnerable and always have been. En route to his victory, DJ recorded six birdies and two pars on the set to rank T5 in par-5 scoring for the week. He also supported the theme of how the long game trumps the accurate at East Lake. He was T2 in distance of all drives but 28th in fairways split, yet still finished T5 in GIR, T11 in proximity to the hole and third in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. His putting was good enough to total 20 birdies against nine bogeys.
What’s left on the backside of Hurricane Ida that will skirt northern Georgia will be long gone by the time the turf on the first tee box is pierced on Thursday. Outstanding conditions throughout the tournament will allow for East Lake to present as planned. Daytime temperatures will climb into the 80s and winds will be light. A few pillows passing in the sky won’t develop into anything.
In addition to forever being known as the 15th FedExCup champion, the winner also will record an official victory and a five-year PGA TOUR membership exemption. By qualifying for the Playoffs finale, all 30 in the field receive exemptions into the 2022 editions of the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open Championship if not already eligible. All prize money distributed is unofficial but very real. The winner pockets $15 million.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.