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19th Hole
News and Opinion

Golf Blogs: Tour Championship

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Date CreatedMost Popular

Sean Donnelly
Xander Schauffele shot the best score of the Tour Championship, but says DJ 'deserved' victory
Sep 10, 2020 3:50 AM
 
In the end it was not to be for Xander Schauffele. Three seasons on from claiming his second PGA Tour title at the Tour Championship, the 26-year-old again posted the lowest 72-hole total at East Lake, signing for four rounds in the 60s en route to what would typically be a three-stroke victory over Scottie Scheffler. However, this was not a normal tournament. Perhaps with Schauffele’s spoiling of Justin Thomas’ inauguration as the 2017 FedEx Cup champion in mind, the PGA Tour introduced a new, staggered-start format for the Tour Championship last year. Under the new system, players are handicapped based on FedEx Cup points earned during the season; thus, the FedEx Cup leader tees off at East Lake on 10 under par, while the second seed starts on eight under. The third seed tees off at seven under and so on down to the fifth seed at five under. Seeds 6-10 begin at −4; seeds 11-15 begin at −3; and so on, down to seeds 26-30, who start at level par. Schauffele consequently teed-off for the tournament seven shots behind FedEx Cup leader, Johnson on three under par, and although he fired the best score of the 30 competitors at East Lake (265; 15-under), he had to settle for a share of second place with Thomas. Strikingly, the four-time PGA Tour winner could not have been more gracious in appraising the worthiness of Johnson’s ultimate title triumph. The PGA Tour should be embarrassed that their announcers never once mentioned that Xander Schauffele was -15 this week. He should get credit for a PGA Tour win.1. Schauffele -152. Scheffler -12T3. Johnson -11T3. Thomas -115. Hatton -10 https://t.co/FJtrGFUyjl— Brad Hoiseth (@BradHoiseth) September 7, 2020 "DJ deserves to win," said Schauffele after a closing 66 saw him finish on 18 under, three behind the champion. "He won the first one, tied first in the second, and I don't know where he finished here, but he obviously is playing great golf, and I think that's what the Play-Offs are all about. "He had two bogeys in a row there, and he made a really important par putt on nine, which isn't surprising," he added. "I just wasn't able to put enough pressure on him. I birdied 11 and 12, and then I bogeyed 13 and then he parred. That was a big swing. He's here to win the tournament. He made that putt, which I didn't. That was a pinnacle moment I think." Despite the disappointment of being denied a second Tour Championship accolade, Schauffele can draw real confidence from the clinical nature of his performance in Atlanta. In addition to hitting 30 of 56 fairways off the tee and 50 of 72 greens in regulation, he ranked inside of the tournament’s top-20 in all of the major strokes gained (SG) metrics, including SG off the tee (5); SG approaching the green (17); SG around the green (11); SG putting (2); and SG total (1). Indeed, Monday marked the occasion of Schauffele’s first 72-hole victory since he claimed the Tournament of Champions title in January 2019 and, gladly, the Official World Golf Ranking uses the true leaderboard to allocate points at East Lake and he has consequently returned to the top-10 at No.7. The San Diego native will be one to keep an eye on at Winged Foot this weekend. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Tour Championship: Dustin Johnson claims three-shot win to clinch FedExCup
Sep 8, 2020 4:37 AM
 
Over the past couple of years it has been a truism to observe that Dustin Johnson is the most outrageously naturally gifted golfer of his generation, but that he is undermined by a conspicuous brittleness under pressure. High profile capitulations at the majors, such as at the 2010 US Open and US PGA Championships at Pebble Beach and Whistling Straits respectively, and at the 2015 US Open at Chambers Bay, led many to conclude that a fragile competitive temperament would always prevent Johnson from accumulating a trophy haul commensurate with his technical and physical abilities. Indeed, the 36-year-old’s talent is such that his consistent success at PGA Tour (10 wins), World Golf Championship (6 wins) and FedEx Cup (6 wins) level over the past 13 seasons served only to set the paucity of his achievement at major championship level (1 win) in relief. World number one Dustin Johnson claimed a three-shot victory at the PGA Tour's season-ending Tour Championship.In full: https://t.co/fZeWGUikuy pic.twitter.com/Pms93ArAAG— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) September 8, 2020 But watching Johnson stride confidently down East Lake’s 18th fairway during the final-round of the Tour Championship on Monday, having held off challenges from world Nos. 3 and 7, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele to seal his 26th professional title and a maiden FedEx Cup triumph, it was difficult not to wonder whether he has developed a newfound steeliness under pressure. The world No.1 teed-off for the final-round with a five-stroke lead and showed no sign of nerves early on as he rattled in a 20-footer for birdie at the third and picked up further shots at five and six to keep his closest rivals, Thomas and Schauffele, a comfortable distance behind him. However, Johnson faltered at the seventh after a blocked drive left him unable to go at the green with his second, he missed a six-foot putt for par at the next and he needed a good stroke from similar range on the ninth to avoid a third straight bogey. Back-to-back birdies on 11 and 12 consequently enabled Schauffele to draw to within two strokes of the lead, but Johnson rallied with a series of crucial par-saving putts on the back nine, including one from outside 20 feet on the 13th, to maintain his slender advantage approaching the par-5, 72nd hole where he bisected the fairway with a 337-yard drive en route to a birdie and three-shot victory. Johnson told the Golf Channel: "This is a difficult golf course so no lead is really safe. I knew I was going to have to come out and play really well. I got off to a really good start, missed a couple of putts on the back side but hit the fairways when I needed to coming down the stretch. The guys gave me a good fight today. "I wanted to be a FedEx Cup champion, it's something in my career I would like to be and I’m very proud of the way I’ve played, especially over the last four tournaments." In his last four starts against elite, FedEx Cup play-off level fields, Johnson has held four 54-hole leads, winning twice and finishing as a runner-up on two occasions, and was deservedly awarded the PGA Tour’s Play of the Season accolade on Monday evening. He will deservedly start next week’s US Open at Winged Foot as a heavy favourite for the title. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Matsuyama shows signs of revival at BMW Championship
Aug 31, 2020 4:54 AM
 
In the end it was not to be for Hideki Matsuyama. The 28-year-old captured a single stroke overnight lead following the first-round of the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields last week and recovered from a 3-over Friday scorecard to grab a share of the lead alongside Dustin Johnson going into Sunday. In the event, Matsuyama was unable to parley his strong 54-hole position into a sixth PGA Tour title. He reached the turn within touching distance of the lead after completing the front-nine in one-under in challenging, windy conditions. However, a bogey on the par-4 eleventh hole stymied his progress, and while he rallied to pick up a further shot at the par-5 fifteenth, he could ultimately only sign for a 1-under 69, finishing two strokes outside the play-off contested by Johnson and Jon Rahm. "I couldn't control all of my shots like I wanted, but I was able to stick it out and reap the rewards," the Japanese star brooded upon returning to the clubhouse. "It made me realize even more how important power is to winning and its given a lot of aspects of my game to work on." WHAT A PUTT.Dustin Johnson drains a birdie putt on the 18th hole to force a playoff at the BMW Championship(via @PGATOUR)pic.twitter.com/8RrxClyiLi— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 30, 2020 Matsuyama can, however, console himself with the fact that, as one of the top 30 points scorers in 2019/20, he has advanced to the final leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs, the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta, for the seventh year in a row. Furthermore, he has climbed back inside the top-20 of the Official World Golf Rankings for the first time in over a year. Of greater long-term significance, however, is the fact that Matsuyama was back contending for a top-level PGA Tour title at all. The former world No.2 is winless in over three years since claiming his fifth PGA Tour accolade at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio in August 2017, and he has long since ceased to be a regular fixture inside of the world’s top-5. Matsuyama missed as many cuts as he made top-10s (3) in 25 starts worldwide in 2018, and while he mounted a minor recovery the following year, posting nine top-10 finishes, he finished the season winless and ranked back outside of the top-20. In 13 starts in 2020 leading into last week’s tournament in Illinois, he had as many missed cuts to his name (2) as he had top-10 finishes. It was tremendously heartening, therefore, to witness Matsuyama once more vying with the PGA Tour elite for top-level honours. Possessed of impressive length off the tee, pristine ball-striking abilities and a consistent putting stroke, he retains all of the physical and technical raw materials required to thrive at the business end of the professional game. Major titles remain a realistic aspiration for Matsuyama and, teeing off at East Lake Golf Course with an adjusted score of 4-under this week, six shots behind FedEx Cup standings leader Johnson, he could yet make an impact at the Tour Championship. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Tour Championship absence illustrates the depth of Spieth’s struggles
Aug 28, 2019 2:00 AM
 
To miss out on the FedEx Cup playoff-ending Tour Championship once is misfortune; to miss it twice is carelessness. Say what you like about the FedEx Cup’s lack of history and prestige, the crass sums of money offered in compensation for the fact, and the undue competitive weight afforded to playoff events; however, it does offer a fairly accurate gauge of the best performing PGA Tour professionals across the course of a season. In this context, Jordan Spieth’s failure to finish inside the top-30 of the FedEx Cup points-racein order to qualify for the Tour Championship for the second season in a row is a source of real concern. Just two years have passed since the Texan outscored Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas in order to win his third major championship title and 11th PGA Tour accolade by the age of 24 at The Open at Royal Birkdale. Last week, he needed to watch from his couch as those same players vied for the biggest prize pot in golf. How does one even begin to account for the precipitous nature of Spieth’s decline during the past 24-months? Take the journey with @JordanSpieth on the path to becoming Champion Golfer of the Year Watch in full the new series for free — The Open (@TheOpen) August 20, 2019 Raw statistics give some indication. In 2018 the principal cause of Spieth’s struggles was putting, the aspect of his game that, more than any other, propelled him to the summit of the sport between 2015-17. The same cannot be said of the 2019 campaign; indeed, the 25-year-old has enjoyed his strongest-ever season with the flatstick. AsGolf Digestpoints out, Spieth has gained .862 strokes on the field per round this season, meaning he averaged making up more than three shots per tournament just with his flatstick. Spieth will finish second to Denny McCarthy's eye-popping .926, which is the second-best figure in the past 10 seasons—trailing only Jason Day's record-best 1.130 in 2015-2016. Spieth’s putting numbers would have led the Tour in three of the past four seasons and constitute a significant improvement over the last two seasons when he finished 48th (.278) and 123rd (-.034) respectively in strokes gained/putting. No, the key underlying cause of Spieth’s indifferent form in 2019 has been his ball-striking, which has long been regarded as the weakest aspect of his game. Indeed, the Texan has managed career worstsin strokes gained/off-the-tee (180th at -.452) and strokes gained/approach (147th at -.198) over the past eight-months. Perhaps most worryingly, his scoring has fallen off most severely during weekend rounds when the pressure is on, a circumstance that hints at a newfound psychological brittleness. Indeed, Spieth would be the fourth best performing player on Tour in 2019 if tournaments ended after 36-holes, ranking ninth and first respectively for first and second-round scoring average. When the pressure ramps-up over rounds three and four, however, he capitulates, ranking 170th on Tour for third-round scoring average and 187th for Sunday scoring. This trend was illustrated vividly at the Wyndham Championshipat the end of July when Spieth followed-up a 64-67 on Thursday and Friday with a 77 on Saturday to miss the third-round cut. There were others. Spieth shot 77 on Sunday at Portrush and 76 on Sunday at Pebble Beach. There was the 74-75 weekend at Hilton Head. Ditto at the AT&T Pebble Pro-Am. And of course the Sunday 81 at the Genesis Open, which took him from T4 to T51. He declined to speak to reporters after that one. Until the Texan rediscovers an average level of competency from tee-to-green it is a struggle to envisage him recapturing the competitive ruthlessness and coolness under the pressure that rendered him a serial winner through the first five-years of his professional career. Here’s hoping Spieth can resurrect his game during the off-season, for the longer these kinds of slumps endure, the more difficult they become to reverse. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Why McIlroy, not Koepka, was a fitting FedEx Cup winner
Aug 27, 2019 4:14 AM
 
There are a great many reasons to be critical of the FedEx Cup. From its obscene $15m prize-pot, to the bizarre new handicap system introduced in the playoff-ending Tour Championship, the event simply lacks the sense of pedigree and prestige required to capture the popular golfing imagination in the manner of a major championship. Perhaps the biggest flaw in the FedEx Cup system, however, is the undue competitive weight afforded to playoff events in the points-race. Thus, players like Patrick Reed and Justin Thomas, having achieved almost nothing through the course of the first seven months of the season, can contend for the overall prize-pot simply by virtue of having won the Northern Trust Open and BMW Championship respectively. The FedEx markets itself as an order-of-merit style event that tests players across the length of a season to reward the most consistent performers; by conferring an undue competitive advantage on those who find form an opportune point in the season, the current points structure undermines any claim to season-long relevancy. It is a testament, therefore, to Rory McIlroy’s strength of character that despite needing to start the Tour Championship six-strokes behind the FedEx Cup points leader, Thomas, the most consistent performer in the 2018/19 PGA Tour season still departed Atlanta with the coveted, $15m prize cheque. This fan *probably* didn't think he'd end up with Rory McIlroy's ball in his pocket.pic.twitter.com/y83igWpjP7— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) August 22, 2019 In 19 starts through the course of the 2018/19 campaign, McIlroy has recorded 14 top-10 finishes, missing just two cuts, for a 75% top-10 finish record. To put that statistic into context, only two other PGA Tour professionals matched his hit-rate in more than half their starts. Furthermore, Rory won three times – at The Players Championship in March, at the RBC Canadian Open in June, and at East Lake last weekend – and top-10ed at both the US PGA Championship at Bethpage Black and at the US Open at Pebble Beach. Indeed, in terms of pure technical performance, this has been McIlroy’s best ever season on the PGA Tour. The 30-year-old has gained 2.55 strokes to the average of the field in 2019: that’s the number of shots he beat the field by per round this season. Officially, it’s known as Strokes Gained: Total. To calculate it, just subtract McIlroy’s score from the field’s scoring average each day. McIlroy’s mark this season is the highest of this decade, beating his own performance in 2012 (+2.41). It’s also the highest single-season mark by anyone not named Tiger Woods since the PGA Tour began systematically tracking and measuring the statistic in 2003. Traditionalists may roll their eyes at this point; indeed, there can be no doubt that Brooks Koepka’s record of three wins (including a major and a WGC event) and four top-fours at major level outweighs McIlroy’s campaign in the Player of the Season contest. However, McIlroy has been more consistent than Koepka in 2019 and is consequently a fitting FedEx Cup champion. “I think it is my best overall season’, McIlroy said. We talk about consistency; that attitude and consistency, day in, day out, I think that’s what you’ve seen over the course of this year, and hopefully will continue to see going forward. “Sometimes emotion has worked against me, and that’s the real reason that I maybe don’t show as much out there as I used to. “ don’t want to get too high and I don’t want to get too low. “If I needed to get emotional and get really riled up, this isn’t the sport to do that. I’m not a football player. It’s golf, and you sort of need to try to be pretty even-keeled the whole way through.” Such even-headedness could make a crucial difference as McIlroy bids to return to the major winner’s circle in 2020. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
McIlroy ends 2018-19 season on a fitting high with Tour Championship victory
Aug 26, 2019 2:01 AM
 
"It's amazing how different things can be in a year," Rory McIlroy reflected upon claiming an unprecedented $15m prize-cheque following his victory at the Tour Championship on Sunday afternoon. 12-months earlier, the Northern Irishman was an overlooked bystander as Tiger Woods celebrated the missing piece of his comebackby winning at East Lake; this time all the fan and media adulation was reserved for him. Of greater significance than the $15m winner’s cheque was the fact that McIlroy appeared to have rediscovered his bounce and swagger in Atlanta. The only cause for regret as he birdied the 18th to close-out an emphatic four-stroke triumphaway from Xander Schauffele was the fact that the Masters is a full seven months away. "I must say, I didn't enjoy that walk last year like everyone else did," McIlroy said when asked how his performance this year compared to last when he failed to make an impact as part of the final group alongside Woods. "I never took the fight to Tiger." Thank you to all the fans from around the world for your incredible support throughout the season especially those in Atlanta this week. It truly means so much to me. Now it’s time to celebrate! https://t.co/TChzWyr6uX— Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory) August 26, 2019 More important than avenging his no-show against Woods, however, was the fact that McIlroy overcame a single-shot 54-hole deficit to defeat final-round playing partner, Brooks Koepka on Sunday. McIlroy was subject to some vituperative media commentary when he surrounded a one-shot 54-hole lead of his own to lose to Koepka as part of the final pairingat the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational in Memphis last month. Many analysts judged the tame nature of the 30-year-old’s defeat to crystallize the psychological flakiness perceived widely to underlie his five-season major championship trophy drought. “Going up against the No 1 player in the world today, he got one over on me in Memphis and I wanted to try to sort of get some revenge”, McIlroy said. “The final round in Memphis hurt a little bit. I didn’t take it to Brooks at all. “To play like that alongside Brooks and get the win, win the FedExCup, yeah, it’s awesome. It’s amazing how different things can be in a year.” McIlroy and Koepka were neck-and-neck up until the seventh-hole where a three-shot swing shifted the competitive momentum of the event irrevocably in the Northern Irishman’s favour. McIlroy made a 25-foot birdie, while Koepka lost his tee shot in the trees and made double-bogey. There were consecutive two-shot swings on the back nine, and then it was a matter of holding off Schauffele. McIlroy was four shots ahead until back-to-back bogeys on holes 15 and 16threatened to derail his title push; indeed, he was on the verge of watching his lead shrink to one when he holed an 8-foot par putt on the 16th. Schauffele had to settle for pars, and McIlroy finished with back-to-back birdies to close-out an emphatic and richly deserved triumph. He was the only player to break par all four days and his 13-under total 267 was better than anyone else in the 30-man field. Back up to No.2 in the world; sometimes the cream really does rise to the top. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Six hospitalised after lightning strikes Tour Championship
Aug 25, 2019 4:38 AM
 
Lightning struck during the third-round of the FedEx Cup playoff-ending Tour Championship at East Lake on Saturday, and not in a good way. With world Nos. 1, 3 and 5, Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas, jockeying for position at the summit of an elite leaderboard, casual observers could be forgiven for assuming that any journalistic reference to electricity striking the course in Atlanta related strictly to golfing performance. On Saturday, however, age-old warnings regarding the perils of sheltering on exposed fairways during electrical storms were powerfully substantiated as six spectators were hospitalizedafter lightning struck a tree. NBC just showed a lightning strike out at the #TOURChampionship at East Lake that injured possibly 4. This is a slow motion shot of their coverage. Wow! pic.twitter.com/0Z1ARb6a8q — Craig Lucie (@CraigLucie) August 24, 2019 Speaking on the American broadcaster NBC, PGA Tour rules official, Mark Russell statedthat “their injuries do not appear to be life threatening”; however, a marquee golf event had already been overshadowed by a scene involving sirens and brief panic. Appropriately, the tournament was suspended for the rest of the afternoon and evening, with play to resume at 8am on Sunday. Stark damage to the bark of a tree hinted at the severity of the strike. Russell said officials were aware of possible thunderstorms but elected not to change the tee-times. “When one did form right over the top of us we suspended play immediately,” he said. Indeed, the players had been removed from the course at 4.17pm with lightning in the vicinity. As is typical, spectators generally remained on the grounds. A Tour statementexplained what transpired next. It read: “At 4.45pm there were two lightning strikes at East Lake Golf Club; a tree near the range/15 green/16 tee was hit and debris from that strike injured four people. “EMT [Emergency Medical Technicians] tended to those fans and two others immediately and transported them from the property via ambulance for further medical attention. Our latest report is that their injuries do not appear to be life threatening.” Professional golf tournaments became far more vigilant about stopping play amid the threat of lightning after two spectators were killed at separate major championships in the United States in 1991: at the US Open at Hazeltine in Minnesota and at the PGA Championship at Crooked Stick in Indiana. But as the Tour’s rules official, Mark Russell stated when pressedon whether Saturday’s play should have been postponed in light of reports that there were thunder storms in the vicinity: “I think if we did that [amended starting times] every time we had a possibility of thunderstorms in the south-east, we’d do that basically every time we played golf.” Play will resume at 8am with Thomas a single stroke aheadof Koepka and McIlroy at 12-under through 5-holes. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Koepka, McIlroy and Thomas poised for weekend shootout at the Tour Championship
Aug 24, 2019 5:45 AM
 
Say what you like about the revised format of the FedEx Cup-ending Tour Championship at East Lake; however, one cannot dispute the fact that the new handicap scheme has ensured a stellar leaderboard going into final weekend of the 2018-19 PGA Tour season. At 13-under-par, world No.1, Brooks Koepka leads world No.3, Rory McIlroy and world No.5, Justin Thomas by a single stroke at the halfway point, with world Nos. 11 and 21, Xander Schauffele and Paul Casey still in contention for the title at 11-under and 9-under respectively. Sure, one can argue the competitive integrity of the event is compromised as a consequence of the fact that McIlroy (66-67)will tee-off for the third-round in a tie for second, despite having completed the opening 36-holes in a shot less than Koepka (67-67) and in five strokes fewer than Thomas (70-68). Nevertheless, we are set for a scintillating weekend’s golf. Indeed, it was principally only a storm delaythat stymied the momentum of Koepka and Thomas on Friday, right as they appeared set to pull clear in the chase for the $15 million FedEx Cup prize cheque. Koepka, for instance, carded three birdies in a row between holes six and eight before the weather intervened to halt play as he turned on to the back-nine. Remerging after a 90-minute delay, the four-time major winner struggled to regain his touch and ultimately didn’t make a birdie on the inward stretch until the par-5 18th. There, he hit a 5-iron from 239 yards to 8 feet behind the hole. He had to settle for a two-putt birdie, a 3-under 67 and a one-shot lead. Because he started the tournament at 7 under par as the No. 3 seed, he was at 13-under going into the weekend. How many strokes would Brooks Koepka give an average golfer to play against him at East Lake? ...A lot. pic.twitter.com/xqXf6eIR7f — Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) August 21, 2019 Thomas, meantime, was 3-under when the blower sounded to halt play; upon re-emerging, he played his final 10 holes in 1 over for a 68. "The lead is always nice, so I'll take that," Koepka said. "The rain delay kind of killed any momentum I had. I didn't feel like I had any good golf shots after the rain delay, but that's part of golf. Everybody's got to deal with the same thing." Indeed, McIlroy was the only notable, top-level player to buck that particular trend; the Northern Irishman was three off the lead upon resuming his round with three holes to play and finished birdie-birdie to sign for a 3-under second-round of 67. McIlroy expressed scepticismregarding the handicap format leading into the Tour Championship, stating a press-conference on Wednesday that reporters could "come back to me Monday and I'll tell you whether it's worked or not.'' Speaking to the media after his round on Friday, however, he struck a far more conciliatory tone. “It feels totally normal,” said McIlroy. “It feels like a normal Tour Championship. If you play well, you’re in those last groups every day.” If the 30-year-old can maintain his present rate of scoring through the weekend, a second FedEx Cup title in the space of three seasons may well beckon. [Image Source: Flickr under CC
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Sean Donnelly
Schauffele poised to disrupt Thomas’ procession at Tour Championship
Aug 23, 2019 1:47 AM
 
Justin Thomas could have been forgiven for experiencing a sense of déjà vu come the end of the opening-round of the Tour Championship at East Lake on Thursday. Under controversial new rules, the FedEx Cup leader started the tournament with a two-stroke lead away from his closest challenger, Patrick Cantlay at 10-under par, with his advantage increasing over the over the rest of the 30-player field to a maximum of 10 shots over the last five qualifiers. The handicap system was introduced by the PGA Tour in an effort to ensure that the winner of the Tour Championship at East Lake also claims the FedEx Cup title, simplifying a formerly complex competitive narrative for sponsors and media interests. In 2017, for instance, Thomas was the standout player on the PGA Tour, winning five-times, including at major championship and FedEx Cup playoff-level. Yet his march to a glorious, season-ending title triumph at East Lake was disrupted by a little-known debutant, Xander Schauffele, who beat him by a single stroke. Thomas still claimed the play-off title, of course; however, Schauffele ‘s intervention denied the PGA Tour the glamorous end to the season it coveted. He may be set to achieve a similar feat this weekend. Xander Schauffele started the Tour Championship six shots off the lead. He's now the solo leader after an opening-round 64.pic.twitter.com/sTzZqwhKWk — Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) August 22, 2019 Teeing-off for the opening-round at 4-under-par, six shots shy of Thomas’ handicap lead, the 25-year-old avoided registering a single-bogey en route to a 6-under opening-round 64, the lowest score of the day by two strokes. Given Thomas failed to break par on Thursday, Schauffele succeeded in obliterating the FedEx Cup leader’s handicap advantage in a single day and will consequently tee-off for the second round in a share of the 10-under, outright leadalongside Thomas and Brooks Koepka, with the latter signing for a 3-under 67. Rory McIlroy, meantime, made up four shots in the first round (66) and is only a stroke further back at 9-under. "You know, I have no idea how this whole thing works," Schauffele joked. "You know, we have a number. We have a seeding. I mean, that's how I'm taking it. I think everyone needed help from J.T. If J.T. went out and shot a pair of 65s, I don't think the Tour would be very happy, and I don't think the rest of the field would be happy." Thomas, to be sure, will be unhappy with his opening-round. Just a week on from dismantling Medinah en route to a three-shot victory at the BMW Championship, the world No.5 could only hit six of 14 fairways and mixed two bogeys and one double-bogey with four birdies. Schauffele, ranked 11th in the world, is poised once again to disrupt Thomas’ procession at East Lake, only this time he will win the FedEx Cup as well. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Cantlay aiming to finish banner year on a high at the Tour Championship
Aug 22, 2019 2:05 AM
 
When Patrick Cantlay made four consecutive birdies between holes 7 and 10 during the final-round of the BMW Championship at Medinah last week, whittling Justin Thomas’ six-stroke lead down to just two, he appeared poised to ram home his advantage on the back-nine and claim a second victory of the season. As it turned-out, of course, Thomas rallied in impressive fashiondown the home straight, birdying four of his final eight holes to secure a three-stroke victory. Propelled to the summit of the FedEx Cup standings, he will consequently tee-off for the reformatted Tour Championship at East Lake this week at 10-under par, two-strokes clear of Cantlay in second. The next three in the standingsare World No. 1 Brooks Koepka, who starts at seven under, Patrick Reed at six under and Rory McIlroy at five under. Many commentators have dismissed the new handicap structure as an anti-competitive gimmick, serving only to ensure that the winner of the Tour Championship also triumphs in the overall FedEx Cup standings, regardless of their 72-hole total in East Lake. Betfair, for instance, calculatedthat Thomas’ average score around East Lake is 67.22 with par set at 70; multiply that over four rounds and he'd finish at -11.12. Add in his -10 start and it takes Thomas to -21.12. It is difficult to see any of the other 29 players in this week’s field overhauling such a deficit, a circumstance reflected in Thomas’ pre-tournament odds as a 2/1 favourite to win the FedEx Cup. Justin Thomas is a fucking machine. Example #1: pic.twitter.com/CfIjmd5eOF— From The Back Tees (@fromthebacktees) August 17, 2019 But given the intensity of the pressure Cantlay exerted on Thomasduring the final-round at Medinah last week, it would be hasty to write the Tour Championship off entirely. 2019 has been a banner season for Cantlay, who has belatedly begun to fulfil the expectations generated by his accomplishment in winning the Haskins Award and acceding to the summit of the Amateur World Rankings while at UCLA. Indeed, it was principally injury that prevented the Californian for rising immediately to the elite-level of the professional game in the manner of a Rory McIlroy or Jordan Spieth. The 27-year-old suffered a stress fracture in his lower back in 2013 and the effects lingered through 2014. It prevented him from playing at all in 2015 and 2016. With his health restored and a revamped swing designed to lessen the stress on his back, Cantlay re-joined the PGA Tour in 2017, winning the Shriners Hospital for Children Open, and has been a model of consistency over the past two seasons. Indeed, Cantlay has one victory in 2019 -- a big one at the Memorial Tournament-- and nine top-10 finishes in 20 starts. He had two top-10s in the majors – T-9 at the Masters and T-3 at the PGA Championship -- and ranks second on the PGA Tour with respect to Strokes Gained: Total. “It was a solid year to get here,” Cantlay reflected in a press conferenceon Wednesday. “Happy to be in the spot I’m in.” “The new format kind of leads people to talk about it … running somebody down just because of how it starts and how abnormal it is,” he added. “I’m just thinking about doing my best on this golf course this week. Then come Sunday, I’ll look at the leaderboard and see where I’m at and maybe change the idea in my head of what it’s like. All that matters is how you finish given the new scoring.” 2019 has been Cantlay’s best season as a professional, and if any player can overhaul Thomas at the summit of the Tour Championship leaderboard to claim the FedEx Cup this week, it’s him. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
2019 Tour Championship betting tips: Back Rahm to disrupt the handicap
Aug 21, 2019 1:55 AM
 
The FedEx Cup playoffs conclude with the Tour Championship at East Lake this week, with each of the top-30 performers from the 2018/19 season set to vie for the title. However, things are a little different this term; the Tour Championship has become a handicapped event. FedEx Cup leader, Justin Thomas, who won the BMW Championship at Medinah last week, begins the tournament at 10-under, while Cantlay, who moved into second in the overall standings, will start at 8-under. Thomas’ lead over others in the 30-player field increases the farther down the list with a maximum of 10 shots over the last five qualifiers. After Cantlay, the next three in the standingsare World No. 1 Brooks Koepka, who starts at seven under, Patrick Reed at six under and Rory McIlroy at five under. As far as we at the 19th-hole are concerned, these changes make a travesty of an already charmless event predicated on awarding an obscenely rich golfer a $15m prize cheque. Put simply, we are almost certain to see the player who cards the lowest 72-hole score around East Lake fail to win the Tour Championship title – that circumstance makes an ass of the whole event. "I've never experienced that amount of noise." Tiger and fans reflect on the moment he won the 2018 Tour Championship.pic.twitter.com/XmW2cXiIka — Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) August 20, 2019 Betfair, for instance, calculatedthat Thomas’ average score around East Lake is 67.22 with par set at 70; multiply that over four rounds and he'd finish at -11.12. Add in his -10 start and it takes Thomas to -21.12. No one is getting close to him and we are not in the business of tipping 2/1 shots. For the sake of simplicity, therefore, one might consider playing the bookmakers’ ‘low 72-hole score’ market which treats the tournament as a regular stroke-play event, ignoring handicaps. Three bets attract. John Rahm (14/1) The Spaniard ended a 14-month trophy drought by winning the Irish Openat the beginning of July and arrives in Atlanta in the midst of an exceptional run of form reading T3-T2-W-T11-7-T3-T5through his last seven starts. He has the form, distance off the tee and deftness around the greens required to excel at East Lake and is overdue a fourth PGA Tour title. He starts six-strokes back. Tony Finau (22/1) As is well known, Tony Finau has not won since capturing his maiden PGA Tour accolade at the 2016 Puerto Rican Open; however, the fact he tees-off for the Tour Championship as the highest-ranked player not to have won in 2018/19is a testament to the frequency with which he contends for titles and, therefore, his value in the each-way market. The American was fourth at last week's BMW, third in the Open Championship, second at the Charles Schwab Challenge and fifth at the US Masters so tends to excel in elite fields. Finau has further posted seventh and 15th in his previous two East Lake starts, boasting one of the best scoring averages. Paul Casey (100/1) An East Lake specialist with four career top-5s on the Atlanta course; he starts way back at 2-under but he is a serious each-way contender at this price. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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Sean Donnelly
Thomas poised for FedEx Cup double following BMW Championship victory
Aug 20, 2019 1:08 AM
 
When Justin Thomas bogeyed the par-5 10th hole during the final-round of the BMW Championship on Sunday, seeing the six shot lead with which he began the day whittled down to just two by a resurgent Patrick Cantlay, he appeared poised once more to fold under pressure. The 28-year-old arrived in Medinah Golf and Country Club off the back of a deeply indifferent run of formcomprising just a single top-10 finish (a T9 at the Scottish Open) in 12 starts since the end of February, and he was a non-factor in the rush of month-by-month majors during the early summer. While a wrist injury that prevented him from contesting three key events during the late spring (including the US PGA Championship) undoubtedly had a role in this declining run of results, it is striking that he travelled to Illinois ranked No. 170out of 200 PGA Tour professionals for Strokes Gained: Putting. His Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and Approaching the Green stats, by contrast, placed him second and third on Tour respectively. Put simply, Thomas’ struggles appeared more psychological than technical. When he ceded four shots to his playing partner, Cantlay within the opening 10-holes of the final-round at Medinah, therefore, the competitive momentum of the tournament appeared to be ebbing only in one direction. Indeed, Cantlay made four birdies in a row between holes seven and 10 and there was little reason to suspect his rate of scoring would dissipate on the back-nine. Let's do this Captain @TigerWoods! So excited to make the #USTeam again & compete in the @PresidentsCup. pic.twitter.com/x7sOX5mU74— Justin Thomas (@JustinThomas34) August 19, 2019 As it turned-out, however, Cantlay was unable to gain further on Thomas on the homeward stretch and the leader rallied in emphatic fashion, birdying four of his final eight holes to close out a comfortable, three-shot victory. In addition to surging to the summit of the FedEx Cup standings courtesy of a $1.665 million prize-cheque, the world No.5will begin next week’s Tour Championship at East Lake with a two-stroke lead away from Brooks Koepka and consequently has a big chance to seal a second FedEx Cup victory in the space of just three seasons. “I can certainly say a thousand percent I’ve never slept on a Wednesday lead,” Thomas reflectedof his impending first-round lead at East Lake. “I truly have no idea what to expect,” he added with a shrug. “There's nobody in the history of this sport that has experienced it so nobody knows. I don't know if it's going to be weird or … it's going to be different, I know that but I don't know. There's so many variables and questions I have and this and that. If I birdie the first hole what am I at? I don't know. Do I shoot a score, do I not? Whatever. “Again, I know that I'm in a lot better position than I was at the start of the week. I just have to be grateful and thankful for that." If the emphatic nature with which he finished his final eight holes on Sunday is anything to go by, Koepka and Co., face an uphill struggle in attempting to unseat Thomas at the summit of the leaderboard next week. [Image Source: Flickr under CC]
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