The Tour Championship is finally here, which only means for a return to East Lake for the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings. This year, the PGA Tour has changed up the format at East Lake somewhat. The Tour Championship’s final leaderboard will also represent the final FedExCup standings for the top 30 players. Stroke play will be used to determine the champion of the PGA TOUR’s season-long points race. To recognize players for their regular-season performance, there will be an unprecedented staggered start to the TOUR Championship utilizing a concept called Starting Strokes.
This has led to the FedEx Cup leaders starting the week with a head start on the other competitors. To give you an idea of how the leaderboard will look tomorrow before the first tee time, Justin Thomas will be starting on -10 as he was top of the FedEx Cup standings. Patrick Cantlay will be on -9, Koepka on -8 and so on down the leaderboard until the likes of Bryson Dechambeau will be starting on even par. It is a quirky new format that the Tour are trying out and means that the winner of the Tour championship, will also ultimately take home the FedEx Cup.
The entire prize pool for this years event is a whopping $70 million with the winner on Sunday taking home $15 million themselves. The runner-up will earn $5 million. Every player who makes it to East Lake will earn at least $395,000. Eight players will earn at least $1 million in FedEx Cup bonus money. This whole event really does minimize the purses for all the bigger tournament throughout the year and even eclipsing the prize money for all of the Majors. The FedExCup bonus money is the only money given for a player’s finish at East Lake. There is no longer a purse for the TOUR Championship.
The favorites entering into the week, are by no surprise, those with the largest stroke lead. After his heroics last week, including a course record on Saturday, Justin Thomas takes full control of his destiny this week and enters in with a 2 stroke advantage on the nearest competitor to him. One golfer who may feel very hard done by on the point system that apparently rewards consistency throughout the regular season, is Rory McIlroy. 13 Top 10s to his account this year, as well as two Tour wins that include the Players Championship and he starts the Tour Championship 5 strokes back. The point system seems to negate consistency and reward form towards the end of the season. A Top 3 finish in any of the playoff events would have merited you more points than winning one of the years 4 Majors.
The new format will lead to some interesting tactics in the opening few rounds. One would think those further back will have to play aggressive in order to give them any sort of chance on Sunday. Then, do the leaders play conservative or play it like any other event. This new format will either crash and burn this week or the PGA will be commended for implementing an exciting new feature.