2019 Tour Championship format, field predictions for FedEx Cup event at East Lake

The new Tour Championship is like the current state of American politics: everyone has an opinion, and some of them are even well-founded. FedEx Cup leader Justin Thomas will start this year's Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta at 10 under, ahead of second-place Patrick Cantlay by a pair and up three or more on everyone else. How this plays out, nobody knows, but we'll begin to receive some answers when the 2019 Tour Championship tees off on Thursday. 

Past winners of the Tour Championship event include Tiger Woods (2018), Xander Schauffele (2017), Rory McIlroy (2016), Jordan Spieth (2015) and Billy Horschel (2014). With a 2019 victor set to be crowned, let's now take a look at the tournament by breaking down the field, touching on some storylines and, of course, making a final prediction as the season rapidly comes to a conclusion. 

Breaking down the Tour Championship field

  1. Justin Thomas: It would be one thing if Corey Conners was 10 under to start the event. It's an entirely different thing that J.T. is 10 under to start the event.
  2. Brooks Koepka: This sums it up.
  3. Patrick Cantlay: The most underrated player in the world.
  4. Rory McIlroy: Would be a very fitting end to what has been a very historic season.
  5. Jon Rahm: He's been playing the best golf for the longest time of anybody in this field.
  6. Dustin Johnson: Johnson is starting farther back than anyone on here, but he also has the most juice. There are only nine golfers between him and the leader, so it's not infeasible to see him cut that in half every day.
  7. Webb Simpson: Like Rahm, but not quite as hot.
  8. Patrick Reed: I may have gotten a little out over my skis when I declared him the FedEx Cup winner after the Northern Trust. Doesn't traditionally play well at this course, but he does have a head start.
  9. Xander Schauffele: His experience is not heavy, but of the group at 4 under or better, he's had more success than anyone at East Lake in the last 10 years.
  10. Adam Scott: It's a sucker bet, and I know it. But man, he's been immense all season. Deserves a win, but I'm just not sure being seven in the hole to J.T. is the scenario in which he'll get it.

Tour Championship storylines

1. Revamped format: This has been discussed all year and comes to a head this week, but golfers still don't really know or fully understand how all of this is going to play out. As was pointed out on Twitter, Thomas could be the first person to sleep on a lead for five straight nights.

2. Season-capper: If McIlroy or Koepka win this week, that's a great cap on a tremendous season. For McIlroy, it would be his third victory in a year where he averaged around 2.5 strokes gained per round (a preposterous number). For Koepka, it would be a fourth win -- including a major -- and cement his season as, by far, the best on the PGA Tour. The $20 million combined for first and second place isn't bad either.

3. All of the money: I'll leave you with this staggering number. Not all of the $70 million will be paid to the 30 participants in this week's event, but this is the total amount paid out as bonus money to all PGA Tour golfers for the FedEx Cup Playoffs and Wyndham Rewards regular season title. Regardless, it's an unbelievable amount of money.

Tour Championship expert pick

Winner: Patrick Cantlay (9/2) -- One of just two golfers -- along with McIlroy -- better than two strokes gained per round this season. He's due another win to go with his victory at the Memorial Tournament earlier this summer. It's almost harder to not win multiple times when you're playing that level of golf.

So who wins the final tournament of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, and which long shots stun the golfing world? Visit SportsLine now to see the full Tour Championship projected leaderboard from the model that's nailed six golf majors heading into the weekend, and find out.

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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