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PGA TOUR: Mike Glasscott's TOUR Championship preview

The season-long race for the FedEx Cup ends this week at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

The top 30 players will get 72 holes to secure their piece of the FedEx Cup Playoffs bonus pie. Rory McIlroy, the 2022 winner, returns to defend his crown while looking to add his fourth FedEx Cup title.

Scottie Scheffler has accumulated the most FedEx Cup points leading into this week. He begins 10-under par through the Starting Strokes formula for the second consecutive year.

Designed by Tom Bendelow in 1910, Donald Ross put his mark on the property in 1913. The return to Bermudagrass greens, rough, plus heat and humidity stretched over 7,346 yards (Par-70), provides the final challenge.

Top of the Board (Odds, Starting Strokes)

Scottie Scheffler (29/20; -10): Let’s try this again! The tall Texan sat six shots clear after 54 holes last year before Rory McIlroy caught and passed him for the title. Last week, Scheffler was in control with five holes to play before Viktor Hovland’s historic finish took home the trophy. With a T2 and solo fifth from three previous visits, he shouldn’t have too many more questions to answer at East Lake.

Rory McIlroy (7/2; -7): With nine consecutive top-10 paydays, form isn’t the question. Coming from behind to win FedEx Cup Playoff titles twice in the last four years, making up a deficit isn’t the question. The only player to win the FedEx Cup Playoffs title three times, the big stage isn’t the question. McIlroy appears to be the answer.

Viktor Hovland (9/2; -8): If blazing home in 28 and setting the course record at Olympia Fields (61) to win the BMW Championship doesn’t grab your attention, nothing I am going to write tops any of that! The Norwegian will look to become the third European winner in the last six years, joining McIlroy and Justin Rose (2018). Solo fifth in 2021 is his best result from three starts.

Jon Rahm (8/1; -6): After finishes of T31 and T37 in the previous two FedEx Cup events, the Spaniard lost the lead he built over the regular season. Making his sixth consecutive start at East Lake, tied for the longest current streak on TOUR, he will look to bounce back from a career-worst finish of T15 in 2022. The 2021 co-runner-up was fourth in 2020. 

Patrick Cantlay (18/1; -4): The 2021 FedEx Cup champion backed up his title with his second top-10 result (T7) last season in his fifth visit. Before his recent vein of form, the Californian had never cashed a check inside the top 20. After falling in a playoff to Lucas Glover the last time Bermuda was in play, he should be adjusted and ready to run down Scheffler. 

Angles at East Lake

McIlroy is the only player to win in the Starting Strokes era without starting at 10 under. 

McIlroy posted 17 under par last year, the lowest gross total in event history, regardless of format. Sungjae Im posted 16 under and shared second.

Xander Schauffele (2017) and Bill Haas (2011) are the only players to win at East Lake on debut. Schauffele did not win the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

The defending champion has never finished better than solo seventh. No player, obviously, has successfully defended the title.

After the event ends the renovation by Andrew Green (Oak Hill) for 2024 will begin. Restoring East Lake to the Donald Ross days, similar to what he did at Oak Hill, site of this year’s PGA Championship, will be the task.

Others to Consider:

I can’t leave out Xander Schauffele (28/1; -3) with his history on this track. The 2017 winner has never finished worse than T7, posted a round above 70, and owns at 67.25 stroke average. Heating up at the right time with T8 last week, he has my full attention on a course he loves.

My love for Max Homa (28/1; -4) on courses where finding the fairway matters extends to East Lake. In his first visit last year, he posted the lowest round (62) since the change to Bermudagrass greens in 2008 and cashed T5. Posting 62 last week in Round 2 at Olympia Fields doesn’t hurt either!

Stats Matter

SG: Off the Tee

RankPlayer
1Scottie Scheffler
2Rory McIlroy
5Patrick Cantlay
15Corey Conners
16Tyrrell Hatton
18Sungjae Im
19Jon Rahm
20Collin Morikawa
25Si Woo Kim
28Jason Day

Attacking East Lake from the tee box will go a long way. Players bombing into the Zoysia fairways will find themselves with lofted clubs as their reward. The list above contains nine of 10 players who have hit the top 10 once (or more). The last seven winners have ranked seventh or better in this category.

Par-5 Scoring:

RankPlayer
1Patrick Cantlay
2Scottie Scheffler
3Jon Rahm
T4Sungjae Im
T6Collin Morikawa
T8Wyndham Clark
T10Jordan Spieth
T10Tony Finau
T15Rickie Fowler
T15Tom Kim

Playing half of a shot under-par annually, four of the last six victors have led or co-led this category. Stretching back to 2015, the winners finished ninth or better attacking these two opportunities. The top four players in this category have finished first or second at this event the last two seasons.

Sleepers

Sungjae Im is 2 under and sits at 125/1. He was T2 last year and posted 16 under gross. His worst round last season was 67.

Sepp Straka begins the week at even, tied for last. Last year he posted four rounds in the 60s in his first visit and posted 12 under gross. 

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