Tournament: the Tour Championship, September 4-7, 2020
Course: East Lake Golf Club, 7,319 yards, par 70. Just a flip wedge east of downtown Atlanta.
Purse: How does $45,000,000 strike you? And that’s just for the 30 man field. There’s another $15 million paid out to everyone who made the top 150 in FedEx Cup points (Nos. 31-150).
Defending Champ: Rory McIlroy. With stellar play, including a final round 66, the Northern Irishman capped off his 2nd FedEx Cup Championship by 4 strokes and was the first to win the $15 million first prize.
Fun Fact: Bobby Jones called this course home. The greatest amateur golfer ever, and one of the best to ever play the game period, matriculated at nearby Georgia Tech. There’s no record of Bobby Jones’ SAT math scores, so we’ll have to take his word on how hard calculus was at the Trade School back then. AND NO TECH PLAYERS ARE IN THE FIELD THIS WEEK.
TV Times: Friday-Saturday, 1 p.m.-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Sunday, 1 p.m.-3 p.m. (Golf Channel), 3 p.m.-7 p.m. (NBC). Monday, 12 p.m.-1:30 p.m. (Golf Channel), 1:30-6 p.m. (NBC).
‘Dawgs in the Field: 3. Brendon Todd, Harris English, Kevin Kisner.
The tournament starts Friday, but our Beloved Bulldogs are already behind. Kisner is 9 strokes behind the leader. Harris English is 6 back. And Brendon Todd is 7 shots off the pace. And no one has hit a ball yet.
You might ask “how can that be?”. There’s no good easy answer, but I’ll try to keep it straightforward.
The FedEx Cup championship is designed to create a post-season and a win or go home kinda feel for golf. Except if played mano y mano (instead of stroke play over multiple rounds), the best players and most popular players might exit early. And corporate sponsors and TV executives don’t want that. So the FedEx Cup gives out graduated points all season long: 500 to winner of a Tour event (600 for a major), down to just a couple of points for making the cut. At the end of the season, the top 125 on this cumulative points list make it to the playoffs, where points are trebled. After the first playoff event, the top 70 advance, again earning triple points, then the top 30 make it to the Tour Championship after the 2nd playoff. And here’s where they change things up.
Because of point accumulation, it is possible for someone to win the FedEx Cup where not even being competitive in the final tournament. See 2008: Vijay Singh, hopped up on deer antler spray (no, really), won the first two playoff events and only had to show up and finish his rounds in Atlanta to win the then $10 million jackpot, finishing miles behind the leader. He could’ve played the entire tournament with a shovel and still pocketed the cash.
To prevent situations like that and to create more drama, the powers that be decided to change the format of the Tour Championship and make the winner of the final tourney the one who gets the gold. Enter the staggered scoring start. Now, the points leader coming into the Tour Championship starts the tournament at 10 under par. The 2nd place in points starts at 8 under par. 3rd place starts at 7 under... you get the picture. Places 6-10 start at 4 under, 11-15 start at 3 under, 16-20 at 2 under par, 21-25 at 1 under par, and 26-30 begin at level par.
Confusing? Maybe at first. A perfect solution? Hardly. But it does reward those who have played well all year, those who played well in the playoffs, and still makes all golfers want to win the Tour Championship with the incentive of money after 72 holes. So that is how Harris English will begin, heck he already is, at 4 under par, 6 strokes behind #1 ranked Dustin Johnson (10 under). And they haven’t even started stretching yet.
English played not so great last week, but only fell down to 7th in FedEx Cup points, thus his 4 under starting position this week. Kevin Kisner finished T25, and actually rose 2 spots to 21 in points, thus his 1 under spot on the leaderboard. And Brendon Todd tied for 8th last week, moving up 2 spots in FedEx Cup points, and he’s at 3 under par beginning this week.
Russell Henley also tied for 25th last week, but that only moved him to 56th spot, well outside the top 30. Brian Harman had an even better week, garnering a T12 finish, but only jumped him to 37th place. Bubba Watson’s T16 finish also left him short of the goal, at #46. All of their seasons are now over.
But we had 8 former Bulldogs make the top 125 and playoffs, 6 made the top 70, and now a full 10% of the this week’s field once wore the red & black. That’s the sign of a strong program that not only identifies talent, but develops it and finds the right student-athlete that will succeed long term.
It’s gonna be fun to finish out at East Lake, so tune in to watch ‘Dawgs chasing little white balls. And as always...