Quick look at the TOUR Championship
August 21, 2019
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Inside the PGA TOUR
TOUR Championship preview
A new Starting Strokes system of scoring takes center stage at the TOUR Championship at East Lake, a 7,346-yard par 70. Top seed Justin Thomas will start two strokes lead ahead of No. 2 Patrick Cantlay, and more ahead of everyone else. There will be no more math, and viewers will know exactly where every player stands in the chase for the PGA TOUR’s Ultimate Prize. What’s more, that prize is bigger than ever: $15 million (of a $60 million FedExCup bonus pool) to the winner, plus a five-year exemption on TOUR. Tiger Woods recorded the biggest winning margin at the TOUR Championship, eight strokes in 2007. Phil Mickelson (2009), Billy Horschel (2014), Henrik Stenson (2013) and Brandt Snedeker (2012) all won it by three, but Thomas, who has three top-10 finishes in three starts at East Lake, is clearly in the driver’s seat.
The 18th hole is a downhill par 5 that played second easiest last year as the field averaged exactly a half a stroke under par. (The easiest was the other of the course’s two par 5s, the sixth hole, which played to a 4.35 average.) Justin Rose made a clutch birdie on 18 to win the FedExCup last year, one of 62 birdies there on the week. Longer hitters will reach the lower level off the tee, from where they can easily go for the green in two. Water to the right of the bottleneck on the way to the green does not come into play, but front and right greenside bunkers are deep.
East Lake Golf Club - Hole No. 18
The hardest hole at the 2018 TOUR Championship was the 455-yard, par-4 eighth, which played to a 4.217 stroke average. There were more bogeys (19) than birdies (18) there last year, but also 11 double-bogeys and one dreaded “other.” Why all the trouble? Because water runs all up the left side of the hole, and two fairway bunkers await right misses off the tee. The good news is that with the nines having been reversed, there’s now 10 holes to recover from whatever happens at the eighth.
From meteorologist Joe Halvorson: “A few thunderstorms may develop after 2-3 pm Thursday afternoon, with chances increasing on Friday afternoon as a frontal boundary approaches northern Georgia. This boundary will stall over the area on Saturday and will likely enhance the coverage of showers and thunderstorms through the weekend. While the highest coverage of thunderstorms is expected from the late afternoon to early evening hours this weekend, high/tropical moisture values in place will allow for widely scattered areas of showers and storms to remain possible into the night before diminishing in coverage each morning. Locally heavy downpours will be possible within these thunderstorms. Heat indices will reach the mid 90s through Friday before cooling slightly this weekend.”
For the latest weather news from East Lake, check out PGATOUR.COM’s Weather Hub.
Sound CheckIt’s not like it’s handed to you; you have to go earn it, and play well when the time is right.
By the numbers
5 – Players who have shot 61 in the Playoffs, as Justin Thomas did in round three at the BMW. The others: Mike Weir (2008 Dell Technologies Championship), Brandt Snedeker (2011 THE NORTHERN TRUST), Matt Kuchar (2013 BMW), and Jason Day (2015 BMW). There’s also been a 60 (Zach Johnson, 2007 TOUR Championship) and a 59 (Jim Furyk, 2013 BMW).
3 – Players have registered top-10 finishes in the first two events of the Playoffs this season: Jon Rahm (T3 THE NORTHERN TRUST, T5 BMW Championship), Adam Scott (5th, T9) and 2012 FedExCup champion Brandt Snedeker (T6, T5)
8/12 – Number of TOUR Championship winners who have also won the FedExCup since 2007.
1/1 – Correlation of TOUR Championship winners to FedExCup winners going forward.
Schauffele used to playing from behind: Which player amongst the large chase pack has the best chance to chase down front-runner Thomas? Mathematically, it would be Cantlay, who is only two back with 72 holes to play – the smallest margin, and with a lot of time to make it up. But don’t forget about Xander Schauffele. At FedExCup No. 8, he will start the TOUR Championship 4 under par and six back of Thomas, but that shouldn’t phase him. When he won the tournament on the way to being named Rookie of the Year in 2017, Schauffele was five back after the first round.
Rahm’s consistency stands out: The FedExCup rewards consistency, as in Rory McIlroy’s 13 top-10s in 18 starts, including victories at THE PLAYERS Championship at RBC Canadian Open. But on that note, Jon Rahm isn’t far behind. He has 12 top-10 finishes in 19 starts, including a T5 at the BMW and T3 at THE NORTHERN TRUST to start the Playoffs. (He also won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans with partner Ryan Palmer.) Although the FedExCup No. 6 Rahm will start out 4 under and six strokes behind Thomas, that’s not insurmountable. Rahm was seven back through 18 holes before going on to win the 2017 Farmers Insurance Open.