We started back in January at Torrey Pines in La Jolla and at the end of a terrific 2017 golf season, we find ourselves on the other side of the country, closing it out with 30-players gathered to compete in The Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club.
For drama that has been created heading into the final chapter of The FedEx Cup Playoffs and the end of the PGA Tour golf season, this is one of the better years in recent memory. The number one player in the world, Dustin Johnson, won in dramatic fashion over world number two, Jordan Spieth, in Round One at The Northern Trust. The favorite for Player Of The Year, Justin Thomas, took home the trophy in Round Two at The Dell Technologies Championship, and last week, north of Chicago, Marc Leishman dusted the field wire to wire to win The BMW Championship. It has all set a tremendous stage for this week's Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia.
The Playoffs began with the Top 125 players in the FedEx Cup Standings. It was then trimmed to the Top 100 and last week it was only the Top 70 in the field. This week at The Tour Championship, it is the final Top 30 players in the standings. With a win this week, any one of the Top 5 players in The FedEx Cup Standings, will win The Cup and the whopping 10-million dollar first prize that comes with the title of FedEx Cup Champion. Those five players in order are; Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Marc Leishman, and Jon Rahm. Sitting right behind the Top 5 are; Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka, and Paul Casey. As you move on further down the standings, the scenarios for the lower seeds to win The Cup become much more complex and much less likely, so look for the chalk to cross the finish line - but adding to this is also the battle for PGA Tour Player of The Year. With a win this week, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, and Dustin Johnson can all make a strong case for being that man. A lot on the line this week in Atlanta and it ought to be a heckuva ride to close out the year.
East Lake Golf Club is a classic in golf's history, being the stomping grounds of Bobby Jones for many years. It is a Donald Ross design that flourished in the 1920's and 30's. East Lake even hosted a Ryder Cup in 1963 but then went sour fast in the 70's and 80's and was nearly laid to rest before being completely resurrected by Rees Jones in 1994. The course is now a tree-lined Par 70 stretching to 7,385 yards and has been the permanent host to The Tour Championship since 2004.
Jordan Spieth (+579 Pinnacle) Number one in The FedEx Cup Standings, Jordan won here in 2015. He's trying to become the first number one seed to win The Tour Championship since Tiger Woods did it in 2007. With a win, Speith would also join Woods as the only two time FedEx Cup Champions.
Dustin Johnson (+867 Pinnacle) The four-time winner on Tour this season has finished 6-5-5 in his last three trips to East Lake. He finished 2nd in The FedEx Cup race last year. Johnson also finished 4th at Pinehurst in the 2014 U.S. Open, another Donald Ross design.
Rickie Fowler (+1114 Pinnacle) The Bridesmaid tied for 2nd again last week, giving him is 8th Top 5 finish in 2017. His results at The Tour Championship are not all that stellar however, going 12-8-23 the last three trips.
Jason Day (+1238 Bookmaker) Evidently switching caddies was not a big deal for Jason Day as he finished 4th last week at The BMW, his now 2nd Top 10 finish in the 2017 Playoffs. Like Dustin Johnson, Day too took 4th at Pinehurst in 2014 and has gone 10-4 his last two times playing East Lake.
Jon Rahm (+1373 Bookmaker) It is truly amazing that the 5th ranked player in the world is making his Tour Championship debut. He is arguably the hottest player coming in this week as he's finished Top 5 in all three legs of The FedEx Playoffs thus far.
Justin Thomas (+1240 5Dimes) This is Thomas' 2nd Tour Championship and it was last year in his first ever visit that he took 6th. He has the most wins on Tour this season with five, including his first ever Major, The PGA Championship. If Spieth or DJ don't win this week, Thomas is likely The Player of The Year on Tour.
The Long Shots
Sergio Garcia (+2794 Pinnacle) It was back in April, not far from here that Sergio won The Masters. He's been riding a high ever since and may feel that Georgia vibe again this week. He's won at Sedgefield, another Donald Ross design where they host The Wyndham Championship, and he's gone 9-9-15 here at East Lake in his last three visits.
Gary Woodland (+6454 Pinnacle) The long bomber has two Top 10 finishes in his last two trips to The Tour Championship and he hits plenty of greens in regulation. He finished 18th in Boston and 27th last week but missed the cut in the Playoff opener at The Northern Trust.
Jason Dufner (+8000 5Dimes) Dufner just barely snuck into the Top 30 in the standings to get here with a 58th place finish last week at Conway Farms. He has done very well here in the past with two Top 10's in his last two appearances. He also took 14th at The Wyndham just one month ago.
Webb Simpson (+4550 Bookmaker) We know Webb Simpson is The Wyndham Championship master with five Top 10 finishes including a victory in 2011. Another Donald Ross design, he took 45th at Pinehurst in 2014. His affinity for this style of design has shown up at East Lake too where he has two Top 5 finishes in his last three trips. Simpson has really had a tremendous year. He drives it straight, scrambles incredibly well and while his putting has always been a nemesis, he's currently ranking 9th in The Playoffs for Strokes Gained Putting. No surprise he has three Top 10 finishes in his last four starts. It is very likely that somebody from the Top 5 in the FedEx Cup points standings will win The FedEx Championship and the 10-million doubloons but Webb Simpson is my pick to win The Tour Championship.