The historic East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta will once again host the finale to this season's FedEx Cup Play-Offs. Words and stats by Andy Swales...
"Two pros with strong East Lake histories are Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele. McIlroy has won here twice, and been runner-up once, and on Sunday at Caves Valley he finished fourth."
The 15th FedEx Cup Play-Offs will reach its conclusion this weekend, with the Deep South state of Georgia hosting the traditional end-of-season party.
For the 21st time, the Tour Championship takes place at East Lake in Atlanta, where the PGA Tour will crown the No 1 golfer for the 2020/21 season.
East Lake is a famous old venue where the great amateur Bobby Jones played much of his golf.
However, the venue fell into disrepair not long after hosting the 1963 Ryder Cup, but like a Phoenix from the ashes rose again during the mid-1990s, and has been a regular PGA Tour stop for the past couple of decades.
East Lake is a typical lush parkland course where tight tree-lined fairways demand accuracy from the tee.
The greens are usually firm and quick, with water coming into play on four holes, while birdies are extremely difficult to extract.
When the tournament was switched from its usual October/November date to September, in 2007, East Lake's Bentgrass greens were re-seeded with Bermuda in order to cope with the much higher temperatures.
And for a third successive year, the Tour Championship will be contested using an unusual handicap system.
This third and final Play-Off event will once again feature the leading 30 players in the FedEx Cup standings.
All 30 will start the 72-hole event with a handicap that is dependent on their final position in the table following the BMW Championship, which finished in Maryland on Sunday.
PGA Tour officials first decided to employ this handicap system in 2019, because it ensures that the player who wins the Tour Championship, will also be crowned FedEx Cup champion for the season.
Therefore Patrick Cantlay, the current FedEx Cup leader, will tee-off at East Lake on Thursday at 10-under-par.
Tony Finau, who is second in the list, begins on minus eight, while those golfers ranked between 26th and 30th start on level par.
Doesn't really seem fair to those who have dominated the season so far, but with so much prize money up for grabs this week, there have been no dissenting voices as yet.
The full list of handicaps is as follows:
FedEx Cup positions (1-30):
2nd: - 8
3rd: - 7
4th: - 6
5th: - 5
6th-10th: - 4
11th-15th: - 3
16th-20th: - 2
21st-25th: - 1
26th-30th: Level Par
Latest betting for Tour Championship - tournament winner
Latest betting for Tour Championship - lowest 72 hole total (excluding handicap)
On the tee
Needless to say, the tournament is packed with quality and plenty of in-form golfers.
Two pros with strong East Lake histories are Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele.
McIlroy has won here twice, and been runner-up once, and on Sunday at Caves Valley he finished fourth.
Gold medal winner from Tokyo, Schauffele, is a former champ who 12 months ago posted the lowest 72-hole total, but was not declared the winner because of the handicap format.
Both McIlroy and Schauffele will tee-off at minus-two (-2) this week, eight shots behind Cantlay who has never finished higher than 20th (out of 30) at East Lake in three attempts.
Justin Thomas has a solid record at East Lake, while world No 1 Jon Rahm is rarely out of the spotlight nowadays.
Had he not been forced to withdraw from the Memorial Tournament in June for Covid reasons, when he led by six strokes with 18 holes to play, he would almost certainly be second in the FedEx Cup table right now - and therefore teeing-off at -8 rather than -6.
The player who ended up winning at Muirfield Village following Rahm's misfortune was Cantlay, so if the Spaniard misses out by one or two strokes this week, his positive Covid test in Ohio will turn out to be the most decisive moment of the FedEx Cup season. Let's hope that's not the case.
Please Note: Course Positions in 2019 & 2020 relates to a golfer's 72-hole total, rather than their position after handicap. Thus, in 2019, Justin Thomas posted the 9th lowest 72-hole total, but finished 3rd after his -10 handicap was taken into account.
Twitter: Andy Swales@GolfStatsAlive
Note: List Contains Leading Reserves
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