The Confidence Factor: TOUR Championship

The first five can take it all home with a win but the others will need plenty of help.

Don’t worry, the last two years it’s happened exactly like that!


FedExCup Playoffs Event IV

TOUR Championship

East Lake Golf Club



East Lake Cheat Sheet

Yards (per official scorecard): 7,362
Par: 70 (35-35)
Greens: Miniverde Ultra-Dwarf Bermudagrass; 6,200 square feet on average.
Stimpmeter: 13′ and up.
Rough: Zoysia, Bermudagrass up to three inches.
Bunkers/Water Hazards 76/3
Architects: Donald Ross (1914); Rees Jones (1994; 2008)
Purse: $9 million/$1.62 winner/2,000 FEC Points
Defending Champion (event): Xander Schauffele
Defending Champion (Playoffs): Justin Thomas
Fact of the Week: The winner has come from the No. 2 position entering the week in four of the last five years.
Fact of the Week II: The No. 1 player ENTERING East Lake has not won in the last five years.



  • 30 players, 72-holes, no cut.
  • The top five players will win the FedExCup Playoffs with a victory this week.
  • The other 25 players will need help to do the same but all have a mathematical chance.



2017-18 Winners

*First-time winner

**First-time winner AND rookie winner

Event Winner
Safeway Open Brendan Steele
CIMB Classic Pat Perez
WGC-HSBC Champions Justin Rose
Sanderson Farms Ryan Armour*
Shriners Hospitals for Children Patrick Cantlay*
OHL Mayakoba Patton Kizzire*
The RSM Classic Austin Cook**
Sentry TOC Dustin Johnson
Sony Open Patton Kizzire (2)
CB Challenge Jon Rahm
Farmers Insurance Open Jason Day
WMPO Gary Woodland
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Ted Potter, Jr.
Genesis Open Bubba Watson
Honda Classic Justin Thomas
WGC-Mexico Championship Phil Mickelson
Valspar Championship Paul Casey
Arnold Palmer Invitational Rory McIlroy
WGC-Match Play Bubba Watson (2)
Corales Puntacana Resorts Brice Garnett*
Houston Open Ian Poulter
Masters Patrick Reed
RBC Heritage Satoshi Kodaira*
Valero Texas Open Andrew Landry*
Zurich Classic of New Orleans Billy Horschel & Scott Piercy
Wells Fargo Championship Jason Day (2)
THE PLAYERS Championship Webb Simpson
AT&T Byron Nelson Aaron Wise**
Fort Worth Invitational Justin Rose (2)
Memorial Bryson DeChambeau
FESJC Dustin Johnson (2)
U.S. Open Brooks Koepka
Travelers Championship Bubba Watson (3)
Quicken Loans National Francesco Molinari
A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier Kevin Na
John Deere Classic Michael Kim*
The Open Championship Francesco Molinari (2)
RBC Canadian Open Dustin Johnson (3)
Barracuda Championship Andrew Putnam*
WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Justin Thomas (3)
PGA Championship Brooks Koepka (2)
Wyndham Championship Brandt Snedeker
THE NORTHERN TRUST FEC I Bryson DeChambeau (2)
Dell Technologies FEC II Bryson DeChambeau (3)
BMW Championship FEC III Keegan Bradley


The Confidence Factor is the weekly column I write for PGATOUR.COM and contains plenty of angles on the track and those who have aced this exam.

You need course form? Read the above.

You need keys to victory? Read the above.

You need course preview? Read the above.

You need a history lesson? Read the above.

Every week.

Every column.


Facts and Figures:

Tournament Record (last): 267 (-13); Henrik Stenson (DNQ), 2013.
Course Record (last): 63; Gary Woodland (Rd. 3), 2014.
Recent Defending Champion(s): No player has defended a FedExCup Playoff event or Playoffs title.
Multiple Winners (event or course): Tiger Woods (2007, 2009).
First TOUR Win (last): None since the FedExCup Playoffs began in 2007.
First-time Event: Bill Haas (2011), Henrik Stenson (2013), Xander Schauffele (2017).
Low Round 2017: 64; Kyle Stanley (Rd. 1).
Odd Fact: This is the fifth year in the last six that someone has won two events in the FedExCup Playoffs. Nobody has ever won three events.
Odd Fact II: There have been eight players win two FedExCup Playoffs events in the same season. Jason Day (2015), Rory McIlroy (2012) and Camilo Villegas (2008) did NOT win the FedExCup Playoffs.


Quick Thoughts

It helps to be long and strong to eat up the almost 7,400 yards and dominate the two Par-5 holes. Balls off track will struggle to find the proper placement on the tilted back-to-front designed greens. Once on the putting surface, the Miniverde rolls perfectly.

The pressure is on nobody this week. None of these guys’ lives will change with a win with the exception of Tommy Fleetwood, who has never won on TOUR. Everyone is already in all four majors next season and every invitational as they’ve finished inside the top 30. The $10 million bonus is nice but these golf-bots are programmed to win these tournaments, not fret about the prize money.

East Lake escaped the wrath of Hurricane Florence and should play firm-and fast. Weather should be a non-issue as hot and humid conditions are the norm this time of year. I’m looking for guys who have handled this situation before and are playing well. It’s not a secret that some will be watching their favorite football teams in-between shots this weekend as their seasons have long been over.

Recent Event Winners: Week before East Lake

Year Player Finish Notes
2017 Xander Schauffele T20 Closed 65-67 at Conway Farms.
2016 Rory McIlroy T42 Played the final 54 holes one-over at Crooked Stick.
2015 Jordan Spieth T13 MC-MC first two events.
2014 Billy Horschel WIN Also had a chance at TPC Boston late.
2013 Henrik Stenson T33 Backed up his win in Boston with just two rounds under-par.
2012 Brandt Snedeker T37 Cashed solo second and solo sixth in the first two events.
2011 Bill Haas T16 Closed with 78
2010 Jim Furyk T15 DQ from first event after missing pro-am tee time.
2009 Phil Mickelson T30 T52 and T27 preceded the BMW.


Top-10 Check Cashers thru two events:


Tony Finau: 2nd, T4 and T8.


Snuck in the Front Door:

Keegan Bradley: Jumped from No. 52 to No. 6 after picking up his first win since 2012. He’s never hit the top 10 in three tries at East Lake but if ball-striking is a key (it is) he’ll be fun to watch until his putter gives out. He will look to join Horschel as the only two players to close out win-win to take home the BIGGEST CHECK. I’d lean on hot rather than not!

Xander Schauffele: Oh my, not him again!! He missed making it a three-man playoff at Aronimink but his T3 pushed him from No. 41 to No. 18 as he gets a chance to defend his title. Only Snedeker and Spieth before him can lay claim to having that chance, reinforcing how difficult the FedExCup Playoffs can be. He’s one-for-one at East Lake!

The Fabulous Five

No. 1 – Bryson DeChambeau

He’ll need to see off history to complete the job as nobody has ever won three FedExCup Playoff events in one season. Heck, only Johnson (4), McIlroy (4) and Woods (3) have won that many in their CAREER. He’s met every challenge so far but this might be one that’s just out of reach THIS year.

No. 2 – Justin Rose

Gulp. Folks that have saved him in the OAD world (or any format) for this occasion should be chuffed. In eight tries he’s finished outside the bottom half once and has rattled off five top-10 finishes in a row. Of those 20 rounds, 16 have been par-or-better and that’s how you cash top-10 checks at East Lake. The world’s No. 1 player just missed out at the BMW in a playoff and should be the favorite this week.

No. 3 – Tony Finau

He’ll look to join a small club of five who have posted all four FedExCup Playoff events inside the top 10. The last to do so was Jon Rahm last year and Adam Scott in 2016. The big hitter did what he was asked by Captain Furyk and will make his second visit to East Lake after T7 last year. His top-10 finish last year was buoyed by his round of the week, 66, on Sunday. His Bermuda results might not inspire but his ball-striking and form does.

No. 4 – Dustin Johnson

Another year, another chance for Johnson as he always seems to be around the big money this time of year. This is the fourth year in a row that he’ll enter the final event No. 7 or better but his best result is just T5 during that stretch. He played in the final group in 2016 and shot 73, the worst round of the day, and missed his best chance. Gamers know he’s LIVE every time he tees it up. It will be interesting to see how #InstagramGate affects his performance this week, if at all.

No. 5 – Justin Thomas

He’s my OAD this week so let’s be ‘avin’ ya! He’s 16-under in two trips with both checks inside the top six. He’s also 14-under in his last five rounds so he’s cracked this code. I wouldn’t be as high on him if he was No. 6 this week but I believe the chance at ANOTHER $10 million will keep his attention just a bit longer!


The Others:

Rory McIlroy

The last time he was here he rammed home 64-66 to make a playoff and eventually win. That’s his third top-10 in four tries so there’s no mystery about what plays on this track (not putting).

Brooks Koepka

Since winning the PGA in dramatic fashion he’s played 12 rounds. He’s 33-under during the playoffs with exactly ONE round in the 70’s. Fade him at your own peril.

Webb Simpson

The last time he putted on Bermuda he shot 62 and almost won at Wyndham. He kicked off the funk from the first two FedExCup events with 65-65 (T4) at Aronimink last time out. He’s fifth in scoring average so this isn’t a mirage.

Jason Day

He gets the nod here because he knows how to play East Lake (20 of 25 rounds 70 or better) and he gave it a sniff (opened 67-64) last week at Aronimink. It’s strange there isn’t any injury or illness that has bothered him this summer and I think he’s lying in the weeds.

Paul Casey

He’s never finished outside the top six in four tries. I’m done typing now.

Billy Horschel

I think folks are forgetting that he was T11 at Wyndham, T3 at Ridgewood and T3 last time at Aronimink. He’s won here and finished T7 and is even a better putter now.

Hideki Matsuyama

Tick. Tick. Tick. After closing 64-65 at Wyndham, Matsuyama is 35-under during the FedExCup Playoffs and hasn’t collected for less than solo 15th. He only has one round better than 68 in 16 tries but I’m intrigued by his form again this week.

Gary Woodland

Please bury me in all of his Kansas gear after he wins this week!

Francesco Molinari

After taking a break after Ridgewood, the Italian looked more than rested as he posted 63-64 at Aronimink before eventually cashing T8. He’s won on TOUR at a new venue this year already so he doesn’t have that hurdle to leap. He’s seventh in SG: Off-the-Tee and sixth in SG: Approach-the-Green and that will go a long way this week. Now about that No. 181 SG: Putting…

Tommy Fleetwood

Yeah, 62-62 last time out. Got it. I’m not sure that there’s any pressure on him this week and that will help. If he can keep his tee ball in play he should be just fine again. As we’ve seen over the years, being a first-timer here isn’t a major deterrent. Just about every course the Englishman has played on TOUR this year has been “new”.

Watching Football: Projected outside the top 15

Aaron Wise

The only rookie to advance I’m not dismissing him as he’s 20-under over his last five rounds in the FedExCup Playoffs. He was also T5 at Ridgewood. He’s my flier.

Patrick Cantlay

Gamers will forget that he’s had his busiest season ever with this checking in at event No. 23. This time next year he should be purring.

Rickie Fowler

Nice, soft landing on a wet, soft Aronimink. Those won’t be the conditions this week. With just one top-10 payday in four tries this isn’t where I would be lining up to use him.

Phil Mickelson

It’s bizarre to type that this is only his second visit in five years. You can’t have one bad round here and he’s having a hard time dodging that at the moment.

Bubba Watson

I surrender! His best result in two months came in wet conditions with rain?? Remember you must be THIS TALL to ride this ride.

Patrick Reed

The good news is he seemed to have figured it out here last season. I notice he posted 65-64 last week but that was lift, clean and replace. Spraying it here won’t be helpful either.

Jon Rahm

After collecting top-10 checks in all four FedExCup Playoffs events last season, the Spaniard has one top-25 payday this year (T24, BMW). I would suggest he’ll be playing with a heavy-heart as well after the senseless murder of his countrywoman at Iowa State earlier this week. Terribly sad.

Marc Leishman

The Aussie has played here twice. He’s 15-over and nothing better than 69. I’ll let you break the streak!

Kyle Stanley

I’m not going to be mesmerized by his ball-striking numbers. … I’m not going to be mesmerized by his ball-striking numbers. …

Kevin Na

With only five rounds in the red from 20 here, I’m passing. I know he was 15-under his last three rounds last time out but these aren’t going to be dart boards either.

Cameron Smith

Great start and there’s no shame in a quiet finish. All of his boxes were checked in 2018. Enjoy the four stress-free rounds!

Patton Kizzire

War Eagle!


Own Category:

Tiger Woods

It’s the first time he’s played here since 2013. His best finishes have been on courses where he hasn’t played or had tremendous success. As he mentioned in his press conference early Wednesday, all facets of his game haven’t been firing together. For every great round there are two “others” so I’m laying off this week. I like the direction he’s heading but I can’t shove him to the front of the line. Solid T10 this week is my projection.


If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out through Twitter or email me





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