Dan Box
By Dan Box

This week East Lake GC in Atlanta, Georgia plays host to the final event of the PGA Tour season, which also doubles as the finale of the season-long FedEx Cup race to decide which golfer heads home $15 million richer.

2020 Tour Championship Preview

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that this PGA Tour season has played out unlike any other, with two months of inactivity and just one major championship having been played.

Despite that there has been plenty of fantastic golf since the season began last Autumn, and it is Dustin Johnson who heads into the Tour Championship with a two-stroke lead over Jon Rahm in what could be a repeat of last week's battle which saw Rahm hole a 66-footer in the playoff to win.

The Format

Last year saw the first time that the PGA Tour had introduced its new playoff format, which essentially seeded the golfers based upon their season-long performance by starting them at a certain score.

The leader begins the week at 10 under par, with second-place at 8 under and the other 28 players working their way down to level par for the last five players to qualify for the Tour Championship.

2020 Tour Championship Preview

It's fair to say that the format hasn't been exactly popular with the wider golfing public - why should you get punished for qualifying as one of the top 30 golfers of the season by having to start 10 strokes behind somebody? Although it gives further reward to those golfers who have performed well throughout the year and particularly during the FedEx Playoffs where more points are on offer.

There's also the small topic of the prize money on offer this week. The winner receives a whopping $15 million bonus to go along with a shiny FedEx trophy, second place gets $5 million, and tenth place gets $830,000. Even finishing dead last will bank you a tidy $395,000.

So even if you're way out of the running, a strong finish which bumps you up the leaderboard could be very beneficial to the bank balance!

Last Year

Rory McIlroy became just the second man, after Tiger Woods, to win multiple FedEx Cup titles when he surged past Brooks Koepka to card a final round of 66 for a comfortable four stroke victory.

2020 Tour Championship Preview

Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay had started the week at the top of leaderboard but neither were able to gather any momentum and both finished well adrift of the lead, perhaps suggesting that winning with head-start may not be quite as straight-forward as it first seemed.

The Course

In the same way that the PGA Tour has completely changed the format in order to make things more exciting at the final event, and avoid the strange occurence of two different golfers winning on the same day, East Lake GC also decided to revamp things five years ago by switching the front and back nine holes around in order to create more dramatic finishing holes.

The scenes that greeted Tiger Woods back in 2018 as he completed the first victory of his latest comeback proved that this certainly did work...

East Lake is a tricky par 70 layout that measures 7,346 yards and winning scores usually hover around double-digits under par, although this may be distorted this week due to the fact that players are getting a head start.

2020 Tour Championship Preview

There are three very tricky par 3s but scoring opportunities will be available, particularly for long hitters, if you can work out the right times to attack and defend.

2020 Tour Championship Preview

The rough has been trimmed to two and a half inches, which will come as a relief after the battering the players took at Olympia Fields last week, and so longer hitters may be freed up a little without fear of being punished too harshly if they stray offline.

The Field

The field comprises the 30 best players from the PGA Tour over the last season, as the players have been accruing points for each event they play in order to make up the FedEx Cup leaderboard.

The likes of Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood will not be present this week as they finished outside the Top 30 and so their season is over until the US Open comes around in a few weeks time.

The two favourites to win are, unsurprisingly, the top two in the standings. Dustin Johnson (-10) and Jon Rahm (-8) are also the top two players in the World Rankings, and went toe-to-toe last week at the BMW Championship with Rahm winning in a dramatic playoff.

That doesn't necessarily mean that it's a two-horse race though. The likes of Justin Thomas, Webb Simpson and Collin Morikawa are not too far behind and may find that closing down the leader is easier than starting on top and trying to stay ahead.

Rory McIlroy (-3) is scheduled to play but announced last week that his wife Erica is expecting their first child imminently, and so the Northern Irishman is ready to hot-foot it from the premises if the call comes in. Well, it's not like he needs the money, is it?!

Our Tips

NB - these are tips to finish with the lowest score over the four rounds, irrespective of starting scores.

Tony Finau @ 16/1

There's only so many times people can say 'he's due a win' or 'he's too good a player to only have one win' before it's time to really prove that. Finau is extremely popular and one of the most consistent players on Tour, with seven Top 10s this season.

The big-hitter is fresh off a closing 65 last week and this is his fourth straight appearance at the Tour Championship so he should be used to the course by now. Perhaps recording the lowest score this week is the perfect step towards recording that second victory?

Bryson DeChambeau @ 16/1

Sticking with the same theme that this course suits long hitters, and Bryson is the longest of them all on the PGA Tour this season. The American started brilliantly after the lockdown, culminating in a victory at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He has gone off the boil a little recently, although was T4 at the PGA Championship, and will be looking to finish the year in style this week.


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