Tom Watson won the first edition of the Tour Championship, back in 1987, when it was known as the Nabisco Championship.
Originally played in November, it was designed as a showcase event to round off the PGA Tour season with only the top-30 on the money list in attendance and the event saw its fair share of drama.
The four editions that followed Watson's inaugural victory all went to a playoff and some stellar names are on the trophy but at the turn of the century, getting the very best in the world to turn up was proving difficult, if not impossible.
Nobody could really blame the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson for not turning up.
The majors were all done and dusted and they felt it was wind down time but something had to be done as it was starting to look a bit farcical.
Having an event to showcase the year's stars when the stars weren't willing to line-up was a problem that needed solving and so the FedEx Cup Playoff Series was born.
First staged in 2007, the FedEx Cup Playoff Series consisted of four events initially and after the introduction of a rest week, it ran over five weeks but it was all change three years ago when the Dell Technologies Championship was done away with and so too was the week off.
The top-125 in the standings played in FedEx St Jude Championship two weeks ago and the top-70 battled it out for a place in the top-30, and a place in the field here, at the BMW Championship last week.
What previously took five weeks and four events, now takes three weeks and three events. That was a good move but changing this final event into a handicap wasn't though.
After the first two FedEx Cup Series' turned into damp squibs, with Tiger Woods in 2007 and VJ Singh in 2008 entering the Tour Championship with unassailable leads, the format was tweaked for the first time to make it more competitive.
The scores were reset before the Tour Championship and if any of the top-five in the standings won the Tour Championship, they'd also win the FedEx Cup.
It was a little more complicated for those ranked 6-30 but they could still win the FedEx Cup if others above them performed poorly.
The changes made had the desired effect and from 2009, seven of the first eight Tour Championship winners also won the FedEx Cup but in 2017 and 2018, Xander Schauffele and Tiger Woods, like the 2009 winner, Phil Mickelson, didn't and that's something that the sponsors weren't happy about, so we now have the strange set up detailed below.
Tour Championship Format
In one of the most irritating rule changes I've ever seen, the Tour Championship has become a handicapped event, and it's a bit of a nonsense as far as I'm concerned.
Xander Schauffele shot the lowest 72-hole total for the week in 2019 but didn't win the tournament. He'd begun the event on -3 compared to Dustin Johnson's -10 so although he was eventually beaten by three strokes, he actually played the event in four strokes less than winner, and as highlighted below, it was a similar story 12 months ago.
It's nonsense but it's real nonsense so here's how the handicaps work.
Scottie Scheffler, the number one ranked player in the FedEx Cup Standings, will begin the event on -10, the second in the standings, Patrick Cantlay, begins on -8, the third, Will Zalatoris, -7, the fourth, Xander Schauffele, -6 and the fifth, Sam Burns, -5.
After that, those ranked sixth to 10th will begin the Tour Championship on -4, 11th to 15th will start on -3, 16th to 20th -2, 21st to 25th will begin on -1 and the remaining five will start on level-par.
Here's the full field with their handicap starts.
Scottie Scheffler -10
Patrick Cantlay -8
Will Zalatoris -7
Xander Schauffele -6
Sam Burns -5
Cam Smith, Rory McIlroy, Tony Finau, Sepp Straka, Sungjae Im -4
Jon Rahm, Scott Stallings, Justin Thomas, Cameron Young, Matt Fitzpatrick -3
Max Homa, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth, Joaquin Niemann, Viktor Hovland -2
Collin Morikawa, Billy Horschel, Tom Hoge, Corey Conners, Brian Harman -1
K.H Lee, J.T Poston, Sahith Theegala, Adam Scott, Aaron Wise Level Par.
Choice of Markets
The winner market here will reflect the handicaps and the official result but you can also bet on who will shoot the lowest 72 hole score, excluding the handicaps, here.
First 15 FedEx Cup Winners
2007 - Tiger Woods
2008 - Vijay Singh
2009 - Tiger Woods
2010 - Jim Furyk
2011 - Bill Haas
2012 - Brandt Snedeker
2013 - Henrik Stenson
2014 - Billy Horschel
2015 - Jordan Spieth
2016 - Rory McIlroy
2017 - Justin Thomas
2018 -Justin Rose
2019 - Rory McIlroy
2020 - Dustin Johnson
2021 - Patrick Cantlay
East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta, Georgia
Par 70, 7,346 yards
Stroke index in 2021- 68.81
Dating back to 1904, East Lake has been remodelled by some renowned architects over the years.
In 1913 Donald Ross completely reworked the course and then George Cobb tinkered with the place before the 1963 Ryder Cup.
The club was neglected after that though, when the majority of its members switched to nearby Atlanta Athletic Club, but it was restored once again in 1994 by Rees Jones and it's thrived ever since.
In 2007, Zach Johnson shot the course record of 60 and Tiger Woods amassed an incredible 23 under-par total in the same year but it's been much tougher since, thanks to a change to the greens.
With a move in the calendar to September, the committee chose to change the greens to Bermuda and the effect had been dramatic
The scoring has been much tougher, although nine of the last ten winners have managed to get to double-figures under-par.
The two nines were switched before the 2016 renewal meaning the tournament finished on a par five instead of a par three and that definitely helped to make a more dramatic finale.
The par five 18th has an official yardage of 590 yards but it's often set up shorter to encourage players to go for the green in two and it was the second easiest hole on the course last year - averaging 4.44.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 17:30 UK time on Thursday
Last Seven Winners with Handicap Start and Pre-event Exchange Prices
2021 - Patrick Cantlay (-10) -21 5.14/1
2020 - Dustin Johnson -21 (-10) 3.211/5
2019 - Rory McIlroy -18 (-5) 9.89/1
2018 - Tiger Woods -11 13.5
2017 - Xander Schauffele -12 120.0119/1
2016 - Rory McIlroy -12 8.415/2
2015 - Jordan Spieth -9 10.09/1
What Will it Take to Win the Tour Championship?
Cantlay ranked 10th for Driving Distance and 15th for Driving Accuracy last year but accuracy off the tee is usually slightly more important than power, although neither stat is of vital importance.
Rory McIlroy ranked second for Putting Average three years ago and Tiger topped the PA stats a year earlier but I wouldn't get too hung up on the putting stats. Cantlay only ranked 13th last year and the main stat for East Lake has always been Greens In Regulation.
The first six on the leaderboard last year ranked tied first, seventh, eighth, 13th, third, and tied first, the top-six all ranked tied fifth or better in 2020 and seven of the top eight in 2019 ranked inside the top-eight for GIR.
Is There an Angle In?
From a course correlation angle, form at Donald Ross designed tracks tends to cross over well so check out the Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club, Aronimink Country Club, which hosted the AT & T National in both 2010 and 2011 and the BMW Championship in 2018, and Sedgefield Country Club, home of the Wyndham Championship.
Now that this venue and Sedgefield Country Club, both have Bermuda greens, form at the two events should crossover very nicely and that's been the case over the last few years.
East Lake specialists, Justin Rose and Adam Scott, as well as Kevin Na, who along with Jon Rahm, shot the lowest 72-hole score last year all contended at Sedgefield in 2021.
The 2015 winner of this event, Jordan Spieth, was beaten in a playoff at the Wyndham, Webb Simpson, who finished fourth in 2013 and 2018, is a former winner of the event and in 2012, three of the first five home here had all previously won the Wyndham.
Luke Donald, who finished third, finished runner-up in the Wyndham six years ago.
The 2017 Wyndham winner, Henrik Stenson, won here in 2013, the Wyndham's first and fourth in 2018, Brandt Snedeker and Jim Furyk, won this event in 2012 and 2010 and Billy Horschel, who has a first and a second here, was second in the Wyndham in 2020.
If all that wasn't enough, to cement the correlation even further - check out the result of the 2015 renewal of the Wyndham Championship...
The 2008 Tour Championship winner, Camilo Villegas, beat the 2011 winner, Bill Haas.
Kevin Na, along with Jon Rahm, posted the lowest 72-hole total last year at a huge price having just finished tied second in the Wyndham so the likes of Sungjae Im (second at Sedgefield a month ago), Hideki Matsuyama, J.T Poston and Adam Scott may be worth looking at closely in that particular market.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Following Cantlay's victories in the second and third events of the Playoff Series last year, in eight of the last ten years, and on a staggering 11 occasions in total, someone has won two FedEx Cup Playoff events and Tiger Woods (2007), Camilo Villegas (2008) Billy Horschel (2014), and Cantlay 12 months ago, have all won the last two events.
That's a big plus for Cantlay and Will Zalatoris.
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are the only two to have won the FedEx Cup more than once and neither achieved the feat back-to-back so that's a bit of a negative for Cantlay but then again, nobody had successfully defended any FedEx Cup Playoff series event until Cantlay won the BMW Championship again on Sunday so he's capable of setting a new trend.
Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four
2021 - Patrick Cantlay - led by two 1.834/5
2020 - Dustin Johnson - led by five strokes 1.292/7
2019 - Rory McIlroy T2 - trailing by one 3.7511/4
2018 - Tiger Woods - led by three strokes 1.664/6
2017 - Xander Schauffele - trailing by two 6.611/2
2016 - Rory McIlroy - trailing by two 4.47/2
2015 - Jordan Spieth - led by a stroke 1.9310/11
In the three years since the handicap system was put in place we've witnessed nothing but really dull finishes.
Rory McIlroy never looked like losing three years ago, DJ won cosily in the end in 2020, after a little wobble on the front-nine on Sunday, when he bogeyed seven and eight, and last year's renewal was a two-man race from halfway in...
Trailing by a stroke, Jon Rahm was the 2.186/5 favourite through two rounds, with the eventual winner, Cantlay trading at 2.6213/8.
Trailing by six and seven strokes respectively in third and fourth, Bryson DeChambeau at 19.018/1 and Justin Thomas at 28.027/1 were the only other two players trading at less than 60.059/1 and with a round to go, only four players were trading at less than 1000.0.
Cantlay was odds-on through 54-holes and he and Rahm dominated throughout the weekend with the Spaniard never quite looking like catching the frontrunner.
With his two-stroke lead, Scottie Scheffler is the understandable favourite as he bids to become the third winner in-a-row to make their ludicrous head start count.
Having began the series at the head of the standings, he regained top-spot courtesy of last week's tied third in the BMW Championship, following his missed cut in the FedEx St Jude Championship two weeks ago, but if he's going to go on and take the title, he needs to buck a bit of a negative trend...
Only Tiger Woods in 2009, and Jordan Spieth in 2015, have gone on to take the Series after starting it at the head of the standings.
Scheffler finished 22nd here last year (17th best score) but he shot the second lowest 72 hole total in 2020 when finishing fifth so he's shown a liking for the track.
Up until last year, Patrick Cantlay had only ordinary form at East Lake, but he shot the fourth best score of the week 12 months ago to take the title and he clearly arrives in fine fettle.
The stats are in his favour given we've seen someone win two playoff events in eight of the last ten years.
Course specialist, Xander Schauffele, is the only other player trading at a single-figure price before the off but he still looks a reasonable price.
Schauffele is under pressure from the start given he needs to make up four stroke on Scheffler but he clearly loves East Lake and has to be respected.
Since winning the Tour Championship (but not the FedEx Cup) in 2017, his form here has been solid.
He finished only seventh when defending on 2018 but in the three years since it's been a handicap event he's finished second, first and third in the Lowest 72 Hole Score markets.
Lots of people are concentrating on the Lowest 72 Hole Score market but I don't like the ambiguity of it. I like to bet on someone trying to win something so I'm swerving that market and I could very easily have swerved the event entirely.
The handicap system has ruined the tournament as far as I'm concerned but with the man in third, Will Zalatoris, an injury doubt, having been forced to withdraw last week with back pain, Xander Schauffele looks a fair price at 9.617/2.
He'll need a bit of help from those ahead of him but he signed off last year's edition with a six-under-par 64 and he arrives in great form this time around.
Xander Schauffele @ 9.617/2
I'll be back later today with the European Masters preview.
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