Tour Championship Preview

09-19-17

 

The end of the road is East Lake.

$10 million gold coins are on the line plus some pretty other tasty bonuses.

Everyone who’s here is already in the Masters!

The Tour Championship

FedExCup Playoff Event IV

East Lake Golf Club

Atlanta, Georgia

 

Yards: 7,362 per the official scorecard;

Par: 70 (35-35);

Course Architect(s): Tom Bendelow (1904); Donald Ross (1913); George Cobb (1963); Rees Jones (2008).

Greens: Miniverde Ultra-Dwarf Bermudagrass at 12.5′; 6,200 square feet on average.

Rough: Bermudagrass and Zoysia at two and a half inches.

Bunkers: 76

Water Hazards: 3

Purse: $8.75 million; $1.575 million (winner); FEC champion receives $10 million bonus.

Defending Champion: Rory McIlroy defeated Ryan Moore and Kevin Chappell in a playoff to win his first FEC championship. Only Chappell returns this year.

Notes: 30 players play 72 holes without a cut.

Notes II: The points are reset before this event. This ensures that any member of the top five will win the FEC Playoffs with a victory this week.

Notes III: Rory McIlroy began the week No. 6 last year and won the whole enchilada so this is anything but a “done deal”.

Notes IV: East Lake changed from Bent to Bermuda in 2008 after Zach Johnson shot 60 and Tiger Woods posted 23-under in winning.

 

2016-17 PGA Tour Winners

Frys.com: Brendan Steele,

CIMB: Justin Thomas

WGC-HSBC: Hideki Matsuyama

Sanderson Farms: Cody Gribble**

Shriners: Rod Pampling

OHL Mayakoba: Pat Perez

RSM Classic: Mackenzie Hughes**

SBS TOC: Justin Thomas

Sony Open: Justin Thomas

CB Challenge: Hudson Swafford*

Farmers: Jon Rahm*

WMPO: Hideki Matsuyama

AT&T Pebble Beach: Jordan Spieth

Genesis Open: Dustin Johnson

Honda: Rickie Fowler

WGC-MC: Dustin Johnson

Valspar: Adam Hadwin*

Arnold Palmer: Marc Leishman

WGC-Match Play: Dustin Johnson

Shell Houston Open: Russell Henley

Masters: Sergio Garcia

RBC Heritage: Wesley Bryan**

Valero Texas Open: Kevin Chappell*

Zurich Classic: Cameron Smith* & Jonas Blixt

Wells Fargo Championship: Brian Harman

THE PLAYERS: Si Woo Kim

AT&T Byron Nelson: Billy Horschel

Colonial: Kevin Kisner

Memorial: Jason Dufner

FESJC: Daniel Berger

U.S. Open: Brooks Koepka

Travelers: Jordan Spieth

QLN: Kyle Stanley

Greenbrier: Xander Schauffele**

John Deere Classic: Bryson DeChambeau**

The Open Championship: Jordan Spieth

Barbasol: Grayson Murray

RBC Canadian: Jhonattan Vegas

WGC-BI: Hideki Matsuyama

Barracuda: Chris Stroud*

PGA Championship: Justin Thomas

Wyndham Championship: Henrik Stenson

 

FEC Playoff I: Dustin Johnson

FEC Playoff II: Justin Thomas

FEC Playoff III: Marc Leishman

 

*-First-time winner

**-First-time winner AND rookie winner

 

Tour Championship Winners:

2016: Rory McIlroy, -12*

2015: Jordan Spieth, -9

2014: Billy Horschel, -11

2013: Henrik Stenson, -13

2012: Brandt Snedeker, -10

2011: Bill Haas, -8*

2010: Jim Furyk, -8

2009: Phil Mickelson, -9

2008: Camilo Villegas, -7*

* – playoff

italics – not playing this week

 

The Particulars:

Returning players from last year (14):

P-2: Kevin Chappell

4th: Paul Casey

5th: Hideki Matsuyama

T-6: Dustin Johnson

T-6: Justin Thomas

T-8: Jason Dufner

T-10: Gary Woodland

T-15: Daniel Berger

T-15: Matt Kuchar

T-17: Jordan Spieth

T-24: Patrick Reed

T-24: Jhonattan Vegas

T-26: Kevin Kisner

WD: 67, Jason Day

 

Weather:

ATL WEAT

This will win you a bar bet I:

I mention this weekly and I will do so until I’m proven otherwise: the last 10 winners of FEC Playoff events have resided in the OWGR top 15. This streak was broken last week when No. 22 Marc Leishman added his name. Not exactly an outsider!

This will win you a bar bet II:

Billy Horschel won the 2014 FEC Playoffs starting at No. 61, the biggest outsider to do so. McIlroy was No. 36 last year, the second “worst” to win.

This will win you a bar bet III:

If Kevin Chappell or Ryan Moore would have beaten No. 6 McIlroy in that playoff last year, Dustin Johnson would have won the $10 million.

 

Fact and figures

  • The FedExCup began in 2007 and nobody has ever been crowned champion twice besides Tiger Woods.
  • Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson each have four event wins, T-most in FEC history.
  • In 10 Playoffs, there have been six, multiple winners in a year. The last five have had multiple Playoff event winners (McIlroy twice, Stenson, Horschel and Spieth). Only Johnson, Thomas or Leishman can add their name to that list. And if any of them do, they will also be crowned champion as they reside in the top five.
  • Of those five multiple winners only three, Stenson, Horschel and McIlroy have been crowned FedExCup champion.
  • Of the 10 previous winners of the FEC Playoffs, only Snedeker and Spieth have returned to East Lake to defend their titles. McIlroy adds his list to the names of those who didn’t.
  • The last five seasons have produced five different players entering the FEC Playoffs at No. 1. #Parity.
  • There has been a rookie appear at East Lake every year with the exception of 2014. Rookies Patrick Cantlay (No. 29) and Xander Schauffele (No. 26) carry on the tradition this season.
  • Only four players who began outside the top 100 have made it to East Lake. Heath Slocum (No. 124) in 2009, Kevin Streelman (No. 102) in 2010, Morgan Hoffman (No. 124) in 2014 and Sean O’Hair (No. 108) in 2016.
  • The only player to make an FEC Playoff event their maiden Tour victory was Camilo Villegas at BMW (Cog Hill). The only non-winner in the field this week is Cantlay.
  • Only Villegas and Horschel have won the BMW and Tour Championship. Only Horschel won the bonus!
  • No player has defended a FEC event and that trend will continue as McIlroy DNQ.
  • East Lake has hosted every Tour Championship of the FEC era. Course form is real this week.
  • Three of the last four winners here started the week No. 2. McIlroy was No. 6 last year. Justin Thomas is No. 2 this week.
  • Last year was the first year in five that the winner didn’t win by a minimum of three shots.
  • Course record: 63, last, Gary Woodland, 2014.
  • Tournament record: -13 (Stenson, 2013).

 

East Lake

The home of the great Bobby Jones, East Lake has hosted every edition of the Tour Championship during the FedExCup Playoffs. The course flipped nines prior to last year’s edition to add more drama to the finish and that gamble paid off. Rory McIlroy played the final three holes in three-under-par to force a playoff.

The top 16 players were under par for the week and interestingly enough, the three lowest scores, 64, all came on Sunday.

The rough here isn’t penal but it’s also not helpful to keep the ball below the hole.

The greens here are average size but will boogie running almost running at 13′.

At par 70 and 7,362 yards, the track will play 23 yards shorter than last year as No. 17 loses       13 yards and No. 18 loses 10.

McIlroy made 20 birdies and an eagle last year plus only one bogey in his final 46 holes. He hit only 30 of 56 fairways yet that was still in the top half of the 30-man field. He painted 56 of 72 GIR (second best) on the week.

Making pars won’t hurt and at par 70, par four scoring will be highlighted. Scramblers who can roll it on Mini-Verde can hang around as can those who find GIR. Only two par fives suggest taking advantage but Kevin Chappell finished P-2 last year without making a birdie on No. 18, a par five, the entire week.

As with all very good courses there is always more than one way to skin a cat. In the biggest event of the year I’m not looking to reinvent the wheel. The winners here in three of the last four years have been premium, top 5 OWGR talents and I would expect more of the same this year.

 

The Field

The Last Shall Be First.

All 30 from bottom to top presented WITH comment.

If you don’t read, it’s on you, not me.

If you want lists you know where to find them and it’s not here.

If you want WHY or WHY NOT, you’ve come to the right place.

This is why the guys strive to be here:

 

The Final Countdown

 

  1. Jason Dufner

The last man into the field has posted four of his last six rounds here 67 or lower and has T-9 and T-8 in those two events to show for his troubles. Don’t forget he won a major on a Donald Ross course, the PGA at Oak Hill.

  1. Patrick Cantlay

He began the Playoffs at No. 78. After a pair of top 10’s and T-13 he’s earned his way into his first attempt at East Lake. He joins Rory McIlroy and Steve Stricker as the only three players to make the Tour Championship with 12 or less starts. He’s seventh in Strokes Gained: Total so I’d suggest he continues to flourish regardless of event or track.

  1. Gary Woodland

He closed 63-67 in 2014 for T-9 and 69-67 last year for T-10 so he gets better as the weekend rolls along. His solid ball-striking and power always make him a tempting long-shot and his course form should ratchet that up even more this week.

  1. Russell Henley

Only two top 25’s since his win in Houston the week before the Masters suggests that this might not be the week. The Georgia native played in the 2014 edition and finished 12th with three of four rounds par or better but only four of his last 20 on Tour fit that description. Pass.

  1. Xander Schauffele

His top 20 last week was his fifth in seven events since his maiden victory at Greenbrier. I like him this week because he finds plenty of GIR because he’s plenty long. Since he’s already in the Masters, exempt and making his schedule for next year, I could see why he might not be entirely focused.

  1. Sergio Garcia

Maybe it was the birdies and eagles for Hurricane Harvey victims was exactly the focus or cause he needed this time of year. This will be his first Tour Championship since back-to-back T-9’s in 2013-14.

  1. Tony Finau

He’s racked up three top 10’s in his last nine starts and it’s because he laces it tee-to-green. Last week he posted a 65 and a 64 because he was third in SG: Putting. Low scores usually roll in at Conway Farms but I’m not sure that’s the formula this week. It’s his first time in the Tour Championship and could need a couple of rounds to warm up.

  1. Patrick Reed

The good news, not surprisingly, is he’s making his fourth consecutive trip to East Lake. The bad news is he’s broken par exactly twice in his previous 12 attempts and hasn’t finished better than T-19. His streak is now eight in a row of par or worse. He makes a great contrarian pick if you want to lean on his recent top 10’s at Quail Hollow and TPC Boston and fantastic short game. It’s no secret he’s not happy that he’s not won this season.

  1. Kyle Stanley

I’ve written often that I prefer him on tracks where par is a good score and this week qualifies. Tee-to-green isn’t the issue as he’s 13th in fairways and first in GIR but it will take an above average week with the putter to push him into the top 10. That makes me nervous as they switch back to Bermuda this week.

  1. Adam Hadwin

He’s flashed signs of life with a 65 and T-13 at TPC Boston and a closing 65 last week at Conway Farms but I’m not sure his strength, putting, is going to immediately translate on a course he’s never played before. If he scrambles well, he could surprise.

  1. Brian Harman

Georgia native is one of plenty this week with ties to this part of the country but he hasn’t carded anything lower than 68 in his last six tournaments. He’d sign for four rounds of 68 today but as another first-timer entering off MC, T-65 and T-40, I’m not sure I can make that leap.

  1. Kevin Chappell

For those who want to point out that first-timers around East Lake can do it because Chappell did it last year aren’t wrong but they might be stretching a bit. Last year Chappell already had three runner-up finishes included in seven top 10’s before falling short in a playoff to McIlroy. One of them included opening 64-67 at TPC Boston and before flaming out on the weekend. I’ll go along with THAT angle!

  1. Kevin Kisner

He’s 22-over-par the last two years with one round in red figures and that’s on his preferred Bermuda. His near-miss at the PGA is by far his best result since the first week in June so the stars aren’t aligned right now for me.

  1. Jhonattan Vegas

He played himself on to the Presidents Cup team with a fantastic spell in late July through August that included defending his title at RBC Canadian Open and picking up a podium at TNT (T-3). Only two rounds in his last eight under par doesn’t inspire either.

  1. Webb Simpson

It’s interesting to note that his only non-top 10 in his last four starts was at an event where he was a previous champ. I guess Gil Hanse’s re-do at TPC Boston to make it not feel like Florida worked! He’s posted a pair of top fives here and a pair of 22nds or worse so I’ll ride his form and slide him in the backdoor when nobody is looking. No spotlight on him this week should allow him to play freely.

  1. Jason Day

This is like wearing your sweats to an all-you-can-eat buffet. Get another plate and another after that. Of his 21 rounds here, 14 are in the red figures and he has three top 10’s. He could ruin the party here as it’s obvious he’s on fire and knows how to win big events.

  1. Daniel Berger

He’s demonstrated his class more than a few times and his strength is attacking GIR which won’t hurt here. He’s also a proven commodity with T-12 and T-15 the last two years. Each week it seems somebody without any current form busts out. I’m keeping my eyes here.

  1. Charley Hoffman

I argued last week that I thought his confidence would be through the roof after being selected for the Presidents Cup. His opening round of 64 was just that; an opening round. His T-27 finish was solid, just like the rest of his golf this entire year. This will be his third appearance so he’ll have a point of reference. A top 15 wouldn’t surprise me one bit but I don’t think he’s charging on the weekend.

  1. Matt Kuchar

Clowning at Wrigley Field for the Pro-Am party last week and taking in Luda this week proves again that these guys have it pretty good. By this time of the season most gamers are well gone on starts on him in any format and the reason why is he usually doesn’t play well here. One T-10 in seven tries would back that assumption but those of you who overlooked him or “forgot” to play him, you’re in luck. He balled out last week at Conway Farms, another track he’s never mastered, with a trio of 67’s and a 68 to hit the top five. Last year he put three rounds in red figures but was T-15. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…

  1. Pat Perez

Here’s another who doesn’t want the curtain to go down on 2016-17 as the SoCal native has been cashing checks all year. He’s 22-under his last two events and should let it all fly for the first time at East Lake. He’s solid across the board and is comfortable in his own skin. Good combo for an outsider this week.

  1. Paul Casey

The angry fantasy guy will point to last week as his “I told you so” moment. I’ll point to the previous dozen as my retort. Maybe having his second kid did distract him! Maybe there is no such thing as “Nappy Factor”! Maybe he’s human and had an off-week because it wasn’t a course he dominates like East Lake! He’s 18-under in three trips and has never finished worse than T-5. Don’t be angry fantasy guy!

  1. Brooks Koepka

He returns for the second time after his debut in 2015 saw him finish T-18. Major signs of life came on Sunday at Conway Farms but I’m not sure one round is going to convince me to push him over the guys in front of him.

  1. Justin Rose

I’m all for the England exacta this week. Rose has found a clean bill of health and looks like the Rose we saw battling Garcia down the stretch at Augusta. Similar to Casey he absolutely rakes at East Lake with a pair of seconds, a T-4 and a solo sixth in his last four visits. He’s automatic in any and every format this week as he’s hit the top 10 in all three FEC Playoff events to this point as well.

  1. Hideki Matsuyama

It’s not surprising it’s gotten better for him here each year he’s played East Lake. No rounds at par or better in his first trip were followed by three rounds of par or better the following year. Last year he stuck three rounds in the red for his best finish of fifth in three tries. His Playoff ride to this point has been bumpy with MC, T-23 and T-45 doing everything but inspiring me to play him. I’m leaving him out and taking my chances elsewhere.

  1. Rickie Fowler

He was T-2 last week and couldn’t sneak into the magic five! His worst start since a MC in Memphis is T-22! It wouldn’t surprise me in the least bit if he pulls a McIlroy from the No. 6 hole as he’s been so steady for so long. The knock, I get it but I don’t, is that he doesn’t win enough but he racks up top 10’s for fun.

The Five

  1. Jon Rahm

I’d hate to be one of the few who decided that he was all hype and wasn’t going to be a big deal this year. He’s frankly been the exact opposite as there hasn’t been any hype because he keeps pinging top 10’s. He’s obviously not bothered by seeing new courses or playing in big fields as evidenced by his top five or better finishes in the first three FEC events. Fade him again this week at your own risk. I’m not.

  1. Marc Leishman

Is this Billy Horschel all over again from 2014? Horschel had the lead late at Boston and threw the sod over it. He followed the next week by a big win at Cherry Hills and wrapped up his season beating McIlroy heads up in the final group on Sunday for $10 million. Of the final five, this is the guy who will have the most freedom as he’s playing with house’s money. He might also be playing with mine!

  1. Dustin Johnson

Last year at this time he was playing in the final group with Chappell, who had never one on Tour. He ended up carding the 29th-worst score of the 30 players on Sunday and finished a whopping seven shots out of the Playoff. It was his fourth top 10 in a row at East Lake so he should have an excellent idea of what it takes this week. I believe that DJ’s autopilot is the best of the bunch because the worse part of his game will be missing birdie putts.

  1. Justin Thomas

I wasn’t surprised one bit that last week would be the work week for Thomas. Whether you’re first or fifth it doesn’t matter if your goal this week is winning. He’s waayyyyyyyyyy past uncharted territory and he’s won everything you can this season. He may be the least consistent of the bunch (too hot, too cold) but his straight fire is just that. He wasn’t intimidated by the field or cash last year as he finished T-6. Remember, the No. 2 player has won all the gold coins three of the last four years.

  1. Jordan Spieth

Remember when I wrote that he needed to have a quiet Playoffs from Spieth to have a big chance? Welp. Finishing second, second and T-7 is NOT what I had in mind or needed. It doesn’t get any better for me this week as he knows exactly the job at hand and who he has to step over to win. Last year he struggled chipping and putting here but he wasn’t entering on form that is hotter than a Georgia summer. Whereas DJ might have the best autopilot tee-to-green, Spieth has the shortest grass covered in that department.

My Top 10

Spieth

Rose

Casey

Day

Fowler

Leishman

Rahm

Thomas

Kuchar

Johnson

 

Next:

Wednesday I’ll present my gaming angles for the week so keep your eyes peeled at @MikeGlasscott and mikeglasscott.com for more information.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out through Twitter or email me mikeglasscott@gmail.com.

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