Daniel Box
By Daniel Box

2019 Tour Championship Preview Image Credit: Tour Championship Twitter

And just like that, we've come to the end of yet another season. It hardly feels like yesterday that The Masters was approaching, warm weather on the way and months of golf was ahead of us.

Fast forward a few months and we've had bucket-loads of rain, four majors in as many months, a new breed of golfing stars emerging (as well as a certain, slightly-older one completing an incredible comeback) and plenty of controversy along the way.

2019 Tour Championship Preview Image Credit: Bryson DeChambeau Twitter

We arrive at the final event of the PGA Tour season, the Tour Championship, which this year is sporting a brand-new format and even more money for the top 30 players on the Tour this season. Good for them, they could do with it...

How Does It All Work?

Now usually I would dive straight into it, because all-but two events on the normal PGA Tour schedule are just standard stroke play events. But this one takes a little more explaining.

2019 Tour Championship Preview Image Credit: Tour Championship Twitter

Basically, the PGA Tour has decided to stagger the scoring before the event starts based upon where the player is currently situated on the FedEx Cup standings.

The idea behind this is that they want the tournament winner to also win the FedEx Cup, rather than the strange situation we had in 2018 when Tiger Woods won the event, but Justin Rose took the $10 million. Two people both celebrating is a little strange.

2019 Tour Championship Preview Image Credit: Justin Rose Twitter

As it is the first year of this new format it may be subject to a few tweaks in the next few years, but it appears that this is what the Tour are going to go with. Last week's winner Justin Thomas won't be complaining anyway, as you'll see in a second.

2019 Tour Championship Preview Image Credit: PGA Tour Twitter

To give you an idea of where we all stand heading into the tournament, I will include this handy little graphic from the PGA Tour for you...

2019 Tour Championship Preview Image Credit: PGA Tour Twitter

So this essentially means that the best golfer that week might not actually win. Jason Kokrak, starting at 30th in the FedEx Cup Rankings, could have the lowest 72-hole score but when he's giving Justin Thomas a 10-stroke lead, he'll do well to get anywhere near him. Does this make it a bit of a farcical event? You wouldn't see an F1 Driver given a three-lap head start at the end of their Championship.

The other change in this year's Tour Championship is the prize money, which will probably be of more interest to the players than it is to me and you, but it's worth looking at anyway just to imagine how the other half (or 0.01%) live.

This year the winner will receive a whopping $15 million, more than Greg Norman earned in his entire PGA Tour career, with $5 million going to the runner up. Finishing in last place will net you $395,000. Not bad.

Last Year

Tiger Woods fully announced his comeback to the sporting world by winning the Tour Championship in 2018 after a strong season and a number of near misses. A 65 on Saturday gave him some breathing room heading into the final round, where an uneventful 71 was enough to seal the victory. The scenes on the 18th hole, with tens of thousands of fans crowding onto the fairway around that final green, will live long in the memory.

2019 Tour Championship Preview Image Credit: Tiger Woods Twitter

About twenty minutes earlier, Justin Rose had confirmed his position as winner of the FedEx Cup and the $10 million prize money with a birdie on the 18th despite a poor final round, holding on for a T4 finish.

The Course

East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia is the venue for the Tour Championship, and holds a solid reputation as one of the best venues on the yearly schedule after holding the event since 2004.

2019 Tour Championship Preview Image Credit: Tour Championship Twitter

The home of golfing legend Bobby Jones, East Lake is a tough golf course with tight, tree-lined fairways and plenty of water around. It usually rewards calculated, defensive play with winning scores just tipping over the 10 under par mark.

2019 Tour Championship Preview Image Credit: Tour Championship Twitter

This week will obviously be different though, with players starting under par and others having to play catch up. Those who play aggressively and chase birdies could be in danger of getting into some serious trouble.

The Field

The field this week basically encompasses the best 30 players on the PGA Tour this week, give or take a few. The fact that there are quadruple points during Playoff events means that some players are able to sneak in with a couple of well-timed big weeks, but on the whole it is a fair reflection of who has been most consistent over the last 10 months or so.

Though he is probably well on the way to another Player of the Year Award, Brooks Koepka will start the event three strokes behind leader Justin Thomas, and his win at the WGC event last month should hopefully quieten those complaints that he 'only wins majors', as if that's an issue!

The big absences this year are Masters Champion Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth, who suffered from inconsistent form and injury (in Tiger's case), as well as World Number 10 Francesco Molinari and Phil Mickelson.

Our Tips

For this week's tip, we will be looking at the lowest 72-hole scores, rather than who is going to top the rankings. Firstly, because the odds for the likes of Thomas, Cantlay and Koepka are ridiculously low, but also because it is impossible to know how this is going to pan out, having never had an event like this before.

So we'll still continue with our usual format, although without the usual categories of Favourite, Underdog and Long Shot, as the limited field of 30 does not really allow this.

Jon Rahm @ 11/1

World Number Six Jon Rahm continues to go from strength to strength, establishing himself as one of the elite group of players who can take apart any golf course and any field when his game is on.

One of the most impressive things about the Spaniard is his consistency. This year he has either won, or finished in the Top 10, in 13 of the 19 events he has played in 2019.

Rahm's finishes in the Playoffs this year have been T3 and T5 so he is in great form, and has also finished T11 and T7 at East Lake. If he plays well he may even threaten Justin Thomas for the FedEx Cup crown, starting five strokes behind.

Xander Schauffele @ 25/1

Many had tipped the young American for a major this year after he was so impressive in 2018. Finishes of T2, T16, T3 and T41 prove that he is more than good enough to do it. It feels like a case of if, not when. Schauffele has had a pretty good season and is eighth in the FedEx Cup Rankings, aided by a win at his first event of 2019 in Hawaii, and it's about time he added to his trophy collection.

Coming off a solid Top 20 last week, Schauffele arrives at a course which he clearly enjoys playing at, having won here in 2017 and finished T7 last year.

Paul Casey @ 28/1

Casey has four top-five finishes at East Lake over the years so could be a great each-way option, and his style of play should suit the challenge this week. Though he still has an outside chance of winning it all, you would think that Casey will avoid the 'crash and burn' fate that may claim some players as they attempt to chase down the leaders.

2019 Tour Championship Preview Image Credit: Paul Casey Twitter

His main strengths are accuracy and consistency so expect him to plot his way around the course and steadily climb up the leaderboard. After sitting out the first of the Playoff events, he should be fresh and ready to go this week.

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