The Tour Championship: Preview

The top 30 players in the FedEx Cup standings have made it to East Lake for the season ending Tour Championship.

Last week’s winner Patrick Cantlay arrives at the top of the standings making him the man to beat. The American is the only three-time winner this season. 

How does it all work?

The Tour Championship is slightly different from all other PGA tour events in that a handicap system is in play. 

Depending on your position in the FedEx Cup standings after the BMW Championship, you will be given a certain handicap – to encourage players to want to finish higher up in the rankings – which makes it easier for fans to follow along, rather than worrying about who needs what.  

The top-seeded player starts at 10-under par, with second at eight-under third at seven-under and so on. 

Places 26-30 will start the tournament from scratch, In other words, they have to make up 10 shots on Patrick Cantlay.

Win the tournament, and you win the FedEx Cup, the $15m prize money and a five-year PGA tour exemption and automatic entry into all four majors in the following season. 

Second place gets $5m, and third receives $4m. The player in last will receive $395,000 to help ease his disappointment. 

As with the BMW Championship, there is no cut at the Tour Championship. 

Horses for courses

History suggests Cantlay has his work cut out. Last season, Dustin Johnson became the first FedEx Cup leader to win the Tour Championshipin in more than a decade, aided by the handicapped start structure – came into play in 2019 – that put DJ at 10 under par. 

Prior to Johnson, the feat was only accomplished in the first three years of the playoffs, Tiger Woods did it in 2007 and 2009, and Vijay Singh in 2008.

Dustin Johnson is in the tournament for the 13th consecutive year, but his form and starting deficit will likely prevent the reigning champion from claiming back-to-back FedEx Cup titles.

Xander Schauffele has a very good history at East Lake. 

The American has the lowest 72 hole score at the golf club – 15-under 265 – which he has achieved on two occasions (2017 and 2020), and has finished in the top-10 on all four appearances. 

He will start eight shots behind, but that might not be enough to prevent the Olympic champion from going one better than last year and winning his first FedEx Cup. 

Can the in-form Jon Rahm win it?

Last season, Jon Rahm started the final event two shots better off than he will this year, except this time around he isn’t chasing an in-form Dustin Johnson.

The Spaniard has been magnificent in the first round of events on a regular basis. 

He was leading at both the Northern Trust and BMW Championship and was tied at the top of the Tour Championship last year, without winning any of those events.

It seems as though every week we are looking at a course that suits his game, and that’s because he is that good. 

Another equally good first round could be a huge boost for the FedEx Cup favourite to take home the title that has had his name on it pretty much all season.  

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