Breaking down Tour Championship, FedEx Cup

reynolds
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Last weekend’s BMW Championship provided an exciting playoff for the second year in a row when Patrick Cantlay outdueled Bryson DeChambeau in a six-hole playoff to win the event at 25-1 and give this column a 1-2 finish in the event. Both players shot 27 under but reached the playoff in different ways. While DeChambeau doubled nearly the entire field for SG: Off The Tee, Cantlay gained + 14.577 strokes putting, a ShotLink record dating to the data's creation in 2005. Cantlay, the season’s only three-time event winner, enters this week’s Tour Championship at 10 under on the staggered scoring system and comes to Atlanta as the favorite to win the FedEx Cup. 
 
The 2020-21 PGA Tour season culminates this weekend when the FedEx Cup will be awarded, including $15 million to the victor. Thirty players qualified for the season-ending event, and all will be entered into next season’s majors. Due to the scoring system, only a few players can realistically win the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup. Most books are offering only the market with the starting handicap scoring, but some shops will also be offering a low 72-hole scoring market as well. Last year provided a perfect example of the two unique markets. Dustin Johnson entered last year’s Tour Championship at 10 under and shot 11 under over 72 holes for a total score of -21 and won the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup. However, Xander Schauffele shot 15 under and won the low 72-hole market. 
 
The Event
 
The Tour Championship began in November 1987 as an event for the top 30 PGA Tour money winners and became the final event of the FedEx Cup playoffs in 2007. With only 30 players, there is no 36-hole cut. The FedEx Cup winner receives $15 million from the $60 million bonus money pool plus a five-year PGA Tour exemption. Although the staggered scoring will determine the FedEx Cup winner, the actual scores without the seeding adjustment will determine the points allocation in the Official World Golf Ranking.
 
 
Here is the staggered starting scoring for this week's Tour Championship:
 
 
This chart indicates the bonus money structure for the 30-player field:
 
The Course
 
East Lake Golf Club has been the permanent home for the Tour Championship since 2004. About 5 miles east of downtown Atlanta, East Lake was designed by Donald Ross in 1913 and has received several renovations, most recently by Rees Jones in 2008 and ’15. The course plays as a par-70 of 7,346 yards. The Jones renovations reversed the nines, so the original ninth, a par-5, is now the closing 18th. In 2008, the greens were changed from Bentgrass to faster MiniVerde Bermuda (12.5 Stimpmeter). The fairways are Meyer Zoysiagrass, and the rough is a 2.5-inch-high Tifway Bermudagrass. But missing the fairways would not be ideal, considering the fast greens, which average 6,300 square feet. Players know they must position approach shots below the pin because the downhill putts are very quick. Like most of the other designs, East Lake features vintage Ross greens with back-to-front pitches and tightly mowed runoffs into collection areas. This is not a track that can be overpowered with a bomb-and-gouge strategy. 
 
As for course correlations, here are some other Donald Ross layouts and Rees Jones redesigns that have been featured in recent years on the PGA Tour:
 
Donald Ross
 
Aronimink: 2010-11 AT&T National, 2019 BMW Championship
Detroit Golf Club:  Rocket Mortgage Classic
East Course at Oak Hill: 2013 PGA Championship
Pinehurst No. 2: 2014 U.S. Open
Plainfield: 2011, ’15 Barclays
Sedgefield Country Club: Wyndham Championship
 
Rees Jones
 
Aronimink: 2010-11 AT&T National, 2019 BMW Championship
Baltusrol: 2016 PGA Championship
Bellerive CC: 2018 PGA Championship
Bethpage Black: 2009 U.S. Open, 2019 PGA Championship, 2012, ’16 Barclays
Blue Course, Congressional CC: 2011 U.S. Open, 2012-14 and ’16 National
Blue Course, Royal Montreal GC: 2014 RBC Canadian Open
Dubsdread, Cog Hill GCC: 2009-11 BMW Championship
East Lake GC: Tour Championship
GC of Houston: Houston Open
Hazeltine: 2009 PGA Championship
Highlands Course, Atlanta Athletic Club: 2011 PGA Championship
Medinah No. 3: 2019 BMW Championship
Torrey Pines South Course: Farmers Insurance Open, 2008 U.S. Open, 2021 U.S. Open
 
Recent History
 
FedEx Cup Champions
 
2020: Dustin Johnson
2019: Rory McIlroy*
2018: Justin Rose
2017: Justin Thomas
2016: Rory McIlroy*
2015: Jordan Spieth*
2014: Billy Horschel*
2013: Henrik Stenson*
2012: Brandt Snedeker*
2011: Bill Haas*
2010: Jim Furyk*
2009: Tiger Woods
2008: Vijay Singh
2007: Tiger Woods*
 
* - Also Won Tour Championship
 
Tour Championship Winners
 
2020: Dustin Johnson -21 (-11/269), 2-1
2019: Rory McIlroy -18 (-13/267), 9-1
2018: Tiger Woods (-11/269), 14-1
2017: Xander Schauffele (-12/268), 100-1
2016: Rory McIlroy (-12/268), 13-2*
2015: Jordan Spieth (-9/271), 9-1
2014: Billy Horschel (-11/269), 25-1
2013: Henrik Stenson (-13/267), 16-1
2012: Brandt Snedeker (-10/270), 40-1
2011: Bill Haas (-8/272), 45-1**
2010: Jim Furyk (-8/272), 20-1
2009: Phil Mickelson (-9/271)
2008: Camilo Villegas (-7/273)***
2007: Tiger Woods (-23/257)
 
* - playoff win over Kevin Chappell and Ryan Moore
** - playoff win over Hunter Mahan
*** - playoff win over Sergio Garcia 
 
Tour Championship Stats, Angles
 
The last five winners at East Lake have averaged a ranking of third in the field for SG: Off The Tee and 12th for SG: Approach. Driving Distance is not crucial here, so we will take a combined mark of Off The Tee and Approach, measured as SG: Ball Striking.
 
Strokes Gained: Ball Striking (last 24 rounds)
1. Bryson DeChambeau 38 
2. Jon Rahm 36
3. Collin Morikawa 31.6
4. Rory McIlroy 31.5
5. Viktor Hovland 30.6
6. Daniel Berger 30.4
7. Brooks Koepka 30.2
8. Sergio Garcia 29.8
9. Hideki Matsuyama 28
10. Sungjae Im 26.4
Three of the last five winners at East Lake have rated first or second for SG: Tee To Green.
 
Strokes Gained: Tee To Green (last 24 rounds)
1. Patrick Cantlay 36.2
2. Daniel Berger 35.2
3. Jon Rahm 35.2
4. Rory McIlroy 34.3
5. Collin Morikawa 33.1
6. Louis Oosthuizen 32.6
7. Sergio Garcia 30.7
8. Scottie Scheffler 30.2
9. Justin Thomas 29.6
10. Hideki Matsuyama 29.1
 
East Lake ordinarily plays as a par-72 for members, but Nos. 1 and 14 are converted to long par-4s on a par-70 for tournament play.
 
Strokes Gained: Par-4s (last 24 rounds)
1. Jon Rahm 34.1
2. Rory McIlroy 32.6
3. Kevin Na 32.5
4. Patrick Cantlay 32
5. Louis Oosthuizen 29.6
6. Justin Thomas 25.6
7. Daniel Berger 25
8. Tony Finau 22.6
9. Collin Morikawa 21.5
10. Bryson DeChambeau 17.7
Two of the last three winners, Schauffele and Woods, ranked second in the field for SG: Putting on the East Lake Bermuda greens.
 
Strokes Gained: Putting (Bermuda) (last 24 rounds)
1. Joaquin Niemann 21.4
2. Cameron Smith 20.8
3. Sam Burns 20
4. Abraham Ancer 19.9
5. Louis Oosthuizen 19.6
6. Bryson DeChambeau 19.4
7. Jordan Spieth 13.7
8. Billy Horschel 10.3
9. Harris English 8.6
10. Viktor Hovland 8.5
The runoffs on these greens can be tricky, so players will have to make some up-and-downs and avoid dropping shots.
 
Bogey Avoidance (last 24 rounds)
1. Jon Rahm 27.8
2. Daniel Berger 23.9
3. Patrick Cantlay 22.2
4. Louis Oosthuizen 19.5
5. Justin Thomas 19.3
6. Cameron Smith 18.4
7. Collin Morikawa 18.2
8. Erik van Rooyen 17.9
9. Xander Schauffele 15.3
10. Sungjae Im 14.6
Selections
 
Jon Rahm 4-1 (to win Tour Championship)
 
Rahm starts the Tour Championship four strokes back of FedEx Cup points leader Cantlay. 
 
With finishes of T-3 and T-9 in the two playoff events, his game has rounded back into form quickly after another bout with COVID-19. 
 
Rory McIlroy 11-1 (72-hole market)
 
McIlroy looks to be turning the corner with a fourth last week in Baltimore.
 
He is also a two-time winner at East Lake. 
 
Scottie Scheffler 25-1 (72-hole market)
 
Scheffler was fifth in Strokes Gained: Approach last week at the BMW Championship, and he was second here to Schauffele last year.
 
This is Scheffler’s last chance to impress Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker to be one of the six captain’s picks. 
 
Sergio Garcia 40-1 (72-hole market)
 
It should be no surprise that Garcia is rallying late to potentially make the European Ryder Cup team. 
 
Last week’s T-6 at the BMW was Garcia’s first top-10 since April. 
 
DS Automobiles Italian Open
 
Bernd Wiesberger held a one-shot lead on the 72nd hole last weekend and needed a par to move into points position for an automatic Ryder Cup spot for Team Europe. After hitting his tee shot into a fairway bunker, he hit his approach into the water and made double bogey to lose the Omega European Masters by one to Rasmus Hojgaard. Hojgaard, just 20, has won three European Tour events in the last nine months. 
 
This week the European Tour heads to Rome for the Italian Open at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, site of the 2023 Ryder Cup. Meanwhile, this year’s Ryder Cup is at the end of September, and this is the last event for players to make an impression on Europe captain Padraig Harrington. Matt Fitzpatrick (14-1) and Tommy Fleetwood (16-1) have qualified on the world points list (Fitzpatrick) and the European points list (Fleetwood), respectively. Wiesberger (20-1) blew a golden opportunity last week but still has one chance left this week. Guido Migliozzi (25-1) is the highest-rated Italian in the field, and winning his home event would be the highlight of his promising young career. Hojgaard (28-1) is looking to add a fourth European Tour title. 
 
Henrik Stenson (30-1) had not had a top-10 finish in an official event in two years but now has consecutive ones over the last two weeks. Matt Wallace and Thomas Detry are priced at 33-1 along with 2021 European Tour first-time event winners Garrick Higgo and Calum Hill. 
 
The Event
 
The Italian Open’s history dates to 1925. It is one of the few events to be on the European Tour schedule since the tour’s inception in 1972. The event did lose its Rolex Series status this year due to COVID-19 rescheduling, so the field quality and prize money have declined. The event moves across Italy to a different course each year and returns to Marco Simone this year for the first time since 1994.
 
The Course
 
Marco Simone Golf and Country Club (also known as Golf Marco Simone) is 10 miles from Rome’s city center and features an 18-hole championship course and a nine-hole resort course. The golf club was named after the castle of Marco Simone, a Roman-fortified manor farm. The tower was built in about the year 1000, and additional buildings were built around it during the Middle Ages. By 1989, the golf course had been designed and built by Jim Fazio and David Mezzacane. 
 
At 7,268 yards for a par-71, the track features three par-5s and four par-3s alongside the remaining par-4s. The closing hole is the longest on the course at 626 yards, but organizers might adjust the tee box to create more of a risk-reward finish. The par-4s are varied, with four measuring below 400 yards and four others topping 475 yards.
 
This is not the typical tree-lined course in Italy, but the layout has plenty of water. The greens have also been relaid with Creeping Bentgrass, and players will be dealing with tricky, contoured putting surfaces.
 
Recent History/Winners
 
2020: Ross McGowan (-20/268); Chervo (Pozzolengo); 750-1
2019: Bernd Wiesberger (-16/268); Olgiata GC (Rome); 35-1
2018: Thorbjorn Olesen (-22/262); Gardagolf CC (Brescia); 80-1
2017: Tyrrell Hatton (-21/263); GC Milano (Monza); 18-1
2016: Francesco Molinari (-22/262); GC Milano (Monza); 25-1
2015: Rikard Karlberg (-19/269); GC Milano (Monza); 70-1*
2014: Hennie Otto (-20/268); Circolo Golf Torino (Turin); 80-1
2013: Julien Quesne (-12/276); Circolo Golf Torino (Turin); 80-1
2012: Gonzalo Fdez-Castano (-24/264); Royal Park i Roveri (Turin); 40-1
2011: Robert Rock (-21/267); Royal Park I Roveri (Turin); 66-1
2010: Fredrik Andersson Hed (-16/268); Royal Park i Roveri (Turin); 66-1
 
* - playoff win over Martin Kaymer
 
Selections
 
Antoine Rozner 40-1
 
Rozner is second in the field for SG: Off The Tee and sits in fourth place overall for the season in the category. In his last five starts, he has not finished outside the top 14, and last week he ranked third on his way to a 13th-place finish.
 
The Frenchman needed a 30-footer to make the cut last week in Switzerland but shot 133, including a Sunday 62, on the weekend and ended up ranking first for SG: Tee To Green and sixth for SG: Approach. 
 
Francesco Molinari 40-1
 
Molinari has been out of form this year but shot a 64 in the second round in Switzerland last week for his best round of the season.
 
He knows his Ryder Cup chances are long gone, so his total focus is on winning his homeland’s national open. 
 
Thomas Pieters 45-1
 
Pieters ranks seventh on the European Tour for SG: Off The Tee and eighth for SG: Tee To Green.
 
The Belgian’s power game should serve him well. 
 
Andrew Johnston 70-1
 
Johnston played his first start in seven weeks and was sixth at the halfway point before fading to 60th.
 
While he has played only 11 times this year, he has had some solid results, including two top-10s, a fourth in the Canary Islands and a ninth in the Irish Open. 
 
Laurie Canter 90-1
 
Canter leads this week’s field (second overall on tour) for SG: Off The Tee. 
 
He also ranks seventh for SG: Tee To Green and 10th for Greens In Regulation. 
 
Daniel van Tonder 100-1
 
The South African is another bomber who could do well, ranking fifth on tour for SG: Off The Tee. 
 
Last week in Switzerland he finished 21st with a SG: Tee-To-Green game ranking seventh, but his putting ranked 68th. 
 
Solheim Cup
 
The Ryder Cup takes place at the end of September, but the women’s competition is this weekend with the Solheim Cup. The European team comes in as the defending champion, having regained the cup in 2019 at Gleneagles when Suzann Pettersen holed the winning 7-footer on the 18th green of the last match on the course. It was Europe’s first Solheim Cup win since 2013 and gave Pettersen the ultimate career walk-off as she immediately retired. Nevertheless, Team USA is a -200 favorite this weekend at Inverness and is led by world No. 1 Nelly Korda. 
 
The Event
 
The Solheim Cup was created in 1990 and named after Karsten Solheim, the driving force behind its creation. Solheim was best known for founding golf equipment manufacturer Ping. The inaugural event was held in 1990, and it was staged in even-numbered years until 2002, alternating years with the Ryder Cup. As part of the general reshuffling of team golf events after the one-year postponement of the 2001 Ryder Cup following the Sept. 11 attacks, the Solheim Cup switched to odd-numbered years beginning in 2003. Another reshuffle took place in 2020 due to COVID-19, and the Solheim Cup will return to even-numbered years in 2024.
 
The U.S. leads the all-time series by a margin of 10-6. 
 
The Solheim Cup is a match-play event, with each match worth one point. The format is as follows:
 
Day 1 (Saturday): Four foursomes (alternate shot) in a morning session and four fourballs (better ball) in an afternoon session. Eight players from each team participate in each session.
Day 2 (Sunday): Four foursomes (alternate shot) in a morning session and four fourballs (better ball) in an afternoon session. Eight players from each team participate in each session.
Day 3 (Monday): 12 singles matches. All 12 players from each team participate.
 
With 28 points available, 14½ points are required to win the Solheim Cup, and 14 are required for the defending champion to retain it. All matches are played to a maximum of 18 holes. If the score is even after 18 holes, each team earns one-half point.
 
Team USA 
 
The team consists of the leading seven players from the LPGA Solheim Cup points rankings, the top two players in the Women’s World Golf Rankings not already qualified via the points rankings and three chosen by the team captain. LPGA Solheim Cup points are earned for top-20 finishes on the LPGA Tour over a two-year period ending Aug. 22 with the 2021 Women’s British Open. Points are doubled in major championships, and top-20 finishes during the 2021 LPGA Tour season earned 50% more points than those in 2019 and ’20.
 
Captain: Pat Hurst
 
Assistant captains: Angela Stanford, Michelle Wie West, Stacy Lewis
 
Team Europe
 
Team Europe consists of the top two players from the LET Solheim Cup standings, followed by the top four LET members on the Women’s World Golf Rankings who were not already qualified via the Solheim Cup standings, and six captain’s selections. The 2021 Women’s British Open ending Aug. 22 was the final event of the qualification period, and the full team, including the captain's picks, was announced Aug. 23.
Captain: Catriona Matthew
 
Assistant captains: Laura Davies, Kathryn Imrie, Suzann Pettersen
 
The Course
 
The Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, is a private club that opened in 1903. Donald Ross designed the championship course in 1916. The track will play as a par-72 of 6,903 yards for this match-play event. 
 
Inverness has hosted many major events, including the following:
 
U.S. Open (1920, ’31, ’57, ’79)
PGA Championship (1986, ’93)
U.S. Amateur (1973)
U.S. Senior Open (2003, ’11)
U.S. Junior Amateur (2019)
NCAA Championship (1944, 2009)
 
Solheim Cup Recent History
Year Venue Winning team Score USA captain Europe captain
2019 Gleneagles, Scotland   Europe
14½–13½ Juli Inkster   Catriona Matthew
2017 Des Moines Golf and Country Club, Iowa   United States 16½–11½ Juli Inkster   Annika Sorenstam
2015 Golf Club St. Leon-Rot, Germany   United States 14½–13½ Juli Inkster   Carin Koch
2013 Colorado Golf Club, Parker   Europe
18–10 Meg Mallon   Liselotte Neumann
2011 Killeen Castle Golf Resort, Ireland   Europe
15–13 Rosie Jones   Alison Nicholas
2009 Rich Harvest Farms, Illinois   United States 16–12 Beth Daniel   Alison Nicholas
2007 Halmstad GK, Sweden   United States 16–12 Betsy King   Helen Alfredsson
2005 Crooked Stick Golf Club, Indiana   United States 15½–12½ Nancy Lopez   Catrin Nilsmark
2003 Barseback Golf & Country Club, Sweden   Europe
17½–10½ Patty Sheehan   Catrin Nilsmark
2002 Interlachen Country Club, Minnesota   United States 15½–12½ Patty Sheehan   Dale Reid
2000 Loch Lomond Golf Club, Scotland   Europe
14½–11½ Pat Bradley   Dale Reid
1998 Muirfield Village, Ohio   United States 16–12 Judy Rankin   Pia Nilsson
1996 St. Pierre Golf & Country Club, Wales   United States 17–11 Judy Rankin   Mickey Walker
1994 The Greenbrier, West Virginia   United States 13–7 JoAnne Carner   Mickey Walker
1992 Dalmahoy Country Club, Scotland   Europe
11½–6½ Kathy Whitworth   Mickey Walker
1990 Lake Nona Golf & Country Club, Florida   United States 11½–4½ Kathy Whitworth   Mickey Walker
Selections
 
Nelly Korda (top American scorer) 9-2
 
The world No. 1 has three wins in her last five starts, including a major and Olympic gold. She went 3-0-1 on debut at the last Solheim Cup.
 
Anna Nordqvist (top European scorer) 7-1
 
She is the most experienced player on the European team and is a proven winner in fourball and foursomes. She should be riding high off winning the AIG Women’s Open a couple of weeks ago. 
 
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