Preview and Predictions for the 2016 Tour Championship
After the most packed summer calendar of professional golf in recent history, the Tour Championship, the finale to the 2016 PGA Tour season, is upon us.
Last year, Jordan Spieth claimed victory at East Lake Golf Club, and in doing so, the Texan locked up the FedEx Cup. While you'll hear a great deal about the various scenarios for winning and how every golfer in the field has a mathematical chance of securing the cup, the reality is that the Tour Championship winner has taken the cup in each of the past six seasons.
For the 30 golfers in the field, the Tour Championship represents an opportunity to secure a healthy FedEx Cup bonus, finish the season strong and tune up for next week's Ryder Cup.
Read on for our full breakdown of essential tournament information, the biggest storylines, the favorites, the dark horses and our predicted champion.
Defending Champion: Jordan Spieth
Course: East Lake Golf Club
Length: 7,385 yards
Total Purse: $8.5 million
Winning Share: $1.53 million
FedEx Points to Winner: 2,000
Thursday-Friday: 1-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel)
Saturday: 10 a.m.-noon (GC), noon-3:30 p.m. (NBC)
Sunday: Noon-1:30 p.m. (GC), 1:30-6 p.m. (NBC)
United States Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III will make his final captain's pick following the Tour Championship. Golfers such as Bubba Watson, Daniel Berger and Justin Thomas, who are thought to be on Love's short list, will be keen to impress at East Lake.
Focusing on the business at hand, however, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Adam Scott, Jason Day and Paul Casey are all piled together in the driver's seat this week by virtue of their positions inside the top five of the FedEx Cup standings. A win by any of these players would guarantee the cup.
A win by anyone outside the top five is conditional, meaning that the golfers in the Nos. 1-3 spots in the standings would most likely have to finish outside the top two at East Lake to guarantee a cup win for someone such as Jordan Spieth (No. 7), should he win at East Lake.
And of course, there's this angle: Another week, another health issue for Jason Day. The world No. 1 is battling a back issue, which flared up at and effectuated his withdrawal from the BMW Championship. We'll see how the ailment affects his performance this week.
Rory McIlroy: It's tough to back McIlroy after a worst-in-the-field putting performance at Crooked Stick. Still, the Ulsterman's strong iron play and pair of top-10 showings at East Lake in his last two tries make him a contender.
Jordan Spieth: Winner of last year's Tour Championship, Spieth arrives at East Lake this year following a top-10 finish at the BMW Championship. He's struggled with iron play this season and wasn't exemplary at Crooked Stick, where he placed 30th in the field in strokes gained approaching the green. Still, pedigree and past performances rightfully earn him favorite status.
Jason Day: Assuming his back holds up, we know Day has the game to win anywhere. He has a pair of top-10 finishes at East Lake among his last four Tour Championship starts.
Other favorites: Adam Scott, Patrick Reed, Paul Casey
The Dark Horses
Daniel Berger: A top-15 finisher in his debut at East Lake last year, Berger did good work at the BMW Championship. Nineteenth on tour in total strokes gained, the Florida native is a developing star who'll be looking to impress captain Davis Love III with a good week in Atlanta.
J.B. Holmes: A final-round 74 at the BMW Championship undid what could have been a winning performance at Crooked Stick. Still, Holmes finished tied for fourth. And as a top-10 finisher at East Lake last year, Holmes offers the coveted tandem of good recent form and course history.
Other dark horses: Ryan Moore, Justin Thomas, Kevin Na
Winner: Dustin Johnson
Given the quality and recent form of the favorites this week, it's nearly impossible to look beyond the top five in the FedEx Cup standings for a winner at the late Bobby Jones' home course. And it's also worth recognizing the somewhat peculiar fact that the Tour Championship winner has often won another playoff event—which Dustin Johnson has, winning the BMW Championship two weeks ago.
DJ has also recorded top-10 finishes in his last three starts at East Lake, so check off the "horse for the course" box.
And statistically, Johnson has been dominant from tee to green this season while doing average work on the green. At Crooked Stick, however, with a new putter in the bag, he was second in the field in strokes gained from putting.
If that trend continues, watch out.
It's not a bold pick, but when you put the pieces together, it's difficult to back anyone other than Johnson, even amid such a high-quality field.
Stats via PGATour.com and the PGA Tour Media Guide