by Jeff Skinner
This week the PGA Tour reaches its season ending climax at The Tour Championship in Atlanta. East Lake Country club, the home course of a young Bobby Jones, is ready for the top 30 FedEx Cup point earners.
The PGA Tour has tweaked the point system this year to allow for all of the top five players in the standings to control their own destiny. This is probably the simplest scenario for us to understand: if any of the top five players win the Tour Championship they win the FedEx Cup and the ten million dollar check that goes with it.
The top five have all been beneficiaries of playing well during the playoffs when the points increase astronomically. Webb Simpson leads the list due to his two wins in the last month and a consistent season where he earned 10 top tens and 18 top 25 finishes. Simpson would be the youngest winner of the FedEx Cup by far the past winners being Tiger, Vijay Singh, Tiger again and Jim Fury last year.
Dustin Johnson is second to Simpson in the points race buoyed by his win at The Barclays in the first week of the playoffs. Johnson had a good year for most golfers to that point with a second place at The Open Championship but until he won The Barclays his season had to be disappointing. With his two tour wins last year and his near misses at the majors Johnson was primed to take the tour by storm this season. Winning the Tour Championship would once again earn Johnson the title “The Future of American Golf.”
Justin Rose seems to fly under the radar all season and then jump into our consciousness when the playoffs come round. Rose had disappointed all season with his best finish a T3 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. His current place in the FedEx Cup standings is a result of his win last week at The BMW Championship. Rose is a streaky player, he had two wins in three starts last season at The Memorial and the AT&T National so if he is true to form the Tour Championship may be his.
Luke Donald has been the most consistent player on tour with 12 top tens in 17 events. As a matter of fact he’s the best player on both tours: he leads The European Tour’s Race to Dubai and has two wins there. The World Number One has proven that a golfer can play both tours and play well. His win on The PGA Tour came back in February at The Match play but his finishes in the playoffs have kept him in the top five. He was T18 at The Barclays, T3 at The Deutsche Bank and fourth last week at The BMW.
He is still looking for his first win this season but Matt Kuchar is fifth in points largely due to his second place finish at The Barclays. Kuch may not have won this season but only Donald and Simpson have more top ten finishes than him. And isn’t that his game? He hangs around and hangs around and then makes a shot to win.
Any of these players are capable of winning at East Lake and a win by one of the top five may signify the changing face of The PGA Tour. These are the players that have dominated the tour this season and the PGA Tour is going through a significant period of change. It may not be how the tour originally envisioned these playoffs but it certainly looks to be an exciting week.