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Part III, Course Knowledge
This year, the TOUR Championship will be celebrating the 20th playing of the event at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, GA. To commemorate this milestone, we’ll be diving back into the archives for some of the greatest moments, records, winners and statistics.
Originally the site of an amusement park in the 1890s, East Lake Golf Club was established in 1904, and the course was first designed by Tom Bendelow, whose layout served as the canvas for Bobby Jones to begin creating his legendary career. The course was completely reworked nine years later by the classicist Donald Ross, whose layout survives as the basic design today.
East Lake proved itself as a first-class venue long before the creation of the FedExCup. The Golden Anniversary of the Woman’s Amateur Golf Championship, played at East Lake on September 11-16, 1950, marked the first time a USGA National Championship was ever played in Atlanta. In 1963, the 15th biennial Ryder Cup Matches were held at East Lake.
It wasn’t until 1994 that Rees Jones, son of the famed golf course architect Robert Trent Jones, restored Donald Ross’ original design at East Lake as it prepared to welcome the TOUR Championship four years later.
Since 1992, there have only been three – THREE – aces at East Lake.
Jerry Kelly had the first in 2002 at the 11th hole. It took another 17 years for us to witness another one.
In 2019, at the tough ninth hole, which had not yielded a hole-in-one in the first 18 editions of the TOUR Championship, we were treated to TWO within two days of each other. On Friday afternoon, Chez Reavie found the bottom of the cup. On Sunday morning, as fans yawned their way back onto the grounds to watch the conclusion of the third round, Xander Schauffele woke everyone up with an ace of his own at the ninth from 240 yards.
Let’s hope it’s not another 17 years before we see another.
Xander Schauffele aces No. 9 at TOUR Championship
As a par-70 layout, players must take advantage of East Lake’s only two par 5s – the sixth and 18th – to keep up with the field. Since 1998, the sixth and 18th have performed as the easiest and second-easiest holes on the golf course, respectively, in relation to par. The sixth has played at a stroke average of 4.453 while the 18th has played at 4.650.
Exhibit A: Two-time FedExCup champion Rory McIlroy was a combined 7-under on both holes in 2019 alone.
On the flip side, players who walk away from the monster par-4 14th with a par feel like they made birdie. At 4.243 stroke average, the 520-yard behemoth can make or break a player’s round as they approach East Lake’s closing stretch.
And while some courses prefer to ease players into the round, East Lake demands your best from the outset. The uphill 469-yard par-4 first hole barely trails the 14th as the second-hardest hole at East Lake. In 2018, Tiger Woods birdied the opener in the final two rounds en route to securing his 80th PGA TOUR title.
Tiger Woods’ approach sets up birdie on No. 1 at TOUR Championship
Take 2013 and 2014 FedExCup champions Henrik Stenson and Billy Horschel as an example. Stenson owns the tournament’s lowest stroke average with a 67.75 (minimum 8 rounds), followed by Horschel with 67.83. In only two appearances at East Lake, Stenson finished 1-T2 and carded a low round of 63 in the first round of 2015.
Horschel grew up putting on bermuda greens and enjoys the premium placed on driving the golf ball well around East Lake. Following his run to the FedExCup in 2014, the Florida Gator missed three consecutive trips to East Lake before returning in 2018 where he finished runner-up to Tiger Woods.
Stroke Average Leaders
• Henrik Stenson, 67.75 (8 rounds)
• Billy Horschel, 67.83 (12 rounds)
• Xander Schauffele, 67.88 (8 rounds)
• Justin Thomas, 68.25 (12 rounds)
Add Xander Schauffele to the list of those who have a love affair with East Lake. The 2017 TOUR Championship winner captured the title in his tournament debut as a PGA TOUR rookie and nearly nabbed his first FedExCup in 2019, finishing runner-up to Rory McIlroy. He joins Horschel with a win, a runner-up and a T7 finish at East Lake in three previous starts.
Xander Schauffele extended highlights | Round 4 | TOUR Championship
Since the birth of the FedExCup in 2007, the TOUR Championship has become the most exclusive tournament of the season with only 30 invited to take the final step toward lifting the FedExCup. For some, advancing to the FedExCup Playoffs finale is a season-defining moment. For others, like Dustin Johnson, it’s an annual routine.
But just because you’ve been to Atlanta a time or two doesn’t equal FedExCup success. Of the names on the below list, there’s only two FedExCups shared among them (Justin Rose, 2018; Jim Furyk, 2010).
Most Seasons Qualifying for the TOUR Championship since 2007
11 Dustin Johnson
10 Justin Rose
9 Matt Kuchar
9 Phil Mickelson
8 Jason Day
8 Jim Furyk
8 Hunter Mahan
8 Adam Scott
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