The first two FedEx Cup Playoffs events have been amazing (especially Sunday's BMW Championship finish), and now all that's left is to crown a Tour Championship winner and dish out a whole lot of money. Patrick Cantlay leads the FedEx Cup going into the finale at East Lake Golf Club and will start the event at 10 under par for the tournament. And while the last event of the season might not identify the very best player throughout and also might be a bit goofy with staggered starting positions, it should generate good drama and a fun viewing experience to close out the biggest season in PGA Tour history.
Let's take a closer look at this week's contest with odds provided via Caesars Sportsbook.
Event: Tour Championship | Dates: Thursday, Sept. 2-Sunday, Sept. 5
Location: East Lake Golf Club -- Atlanta
Par: 70 | Purse: $46 million
Three things to know
1. $46 million on the line: The purses have become normalized, but they are not normal. For golfers like Erik van Rooyen, Viktor Hovland and Corey Conners (all of whom have career earnings under $10 million), winning $15 million at a golf tournament is a staggering amount of money. Even for the Dustin Johnsons, Brooks Koepkas and Justin Thomases of the world, it's meaningful and significant, but for those other guys who are not top-five players in the world (yet), it is life-changing, even if they might eventually reach what D.J. and J.T. have done at some point later in their career.
2. What's up with Patrick Reed? He sneaked into the field in the 30th position, but there are tons of questions for somebody who was in the hospital just over a week ago. If he plays, will he be even close to full strength? If he doesn't play, does he still have a chance to be on the U.S. Ryder Cup team? If he plays and doesn't play well, will U.S. captain Steve Stricker discount that because of his health and give him a spot on the team anyway? Even if he's recovered from his hospitalization, will an ankle that kept him out of the Wyndham Championship and The Northern Trust hold up at a slogging, hot Tour Championship finale?
3. POY race: If the season ended today, who would be the PGA Tour Player of the Year? Maybe I'm the only one who cares about this award, but I do think it's a meaningful way to determine who owned the season. Over the last 30 seasons, only once has a single player ended the season with as few as three wins (Jim Furyk in 2010). Normally, a single player had more than that or multiple players had exactly three (this happened last year with Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas). In four of the last six seasons, the eventual winner of the FedEx Cup was also named PGA Tour Player of the Year. This year's candidates include Patrick Cantlay (3 wins), Harris English (2), Bryson DeChambeau (2), Collin Morikawa (2) and probably Jon Rahm (1). If any of those five win the FedEx Cup this week, they will likely end up as Player of the Year.
4. Ryder Cup implications: We're adding a fourth storyline here because … well … because we can. The top 11 for the U.S. team seems locked in for Whistling Straits. Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay are all locked in for this team. Daniel Berger, Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele and Harris English are almost certainly going to be playing for the U.S. side as well. But what about the final slot? Of the potential candidates, Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns will be playing this week. Phil Mickelson and Webb Simpson will not. And as noted above, Patrick Reed is slated to, but he might not either. This seems to be very much up in the air right now, which adds a layer of intrigue to the last four rounds of the season.
Grading the field
I don't think we use making it to the Tour Championship in a given season enough as a barometer for the kind of year you had. Being a top 100 golfer in the world is difficult. Being a top-30 golfer in the world every single year is astounding. This group of 30 includes most of the biggest stars in the sport, including Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm and Jordan Spieth, which means — even despite the staggered start — we should get another great show. Grade: A+
2021 Tour Championship picks
|Winner (+350): This is the trifecta. I said last week that I was going to pick Rahm at every playoff event this year, and this touches it off. Why wouldn't I? He trails just three golfers going into the event and has been the best golfer statistically throughout the year (and last few years). I'm mildly concerned about his fades over the last two weekends, but not enough to not pick the best player in the world at the only playoff event with this much money at stake.|
|Top 10 (+350): Berger is on the same number here as Rahm winning (!) and absolutely hitting it. He comes in fourth in this field over his last 20 rounds in strokes gained from tee to green and as the second-worst putter in this field over that same span of time. Why is that meaningful? He's not the second-worst putter in this field, and I expect him to go get some cash this weekend en route to his first Ryder Cup appearance at Whistling Straits.|
|Sleeper (80-1): Scheffler finished second here last year to Xander Schauffele with the starting scores removed and fifth when you factor them in. He's nine back of Cantlay, but I love the number and I love that he knows a great performance might get him on the Ryder Cup team (see above). From tee to green, he's been better than DeChambeau, English and Koepka over his last 20 rounds. Hopefully that will continue and none of the golfers at the very top will be lights out this weekend.|