2023 Tour Championship Preview, Picks & Analysis
ONE LUCKY man is going to be standing on the final green at East Lake on Sunday hoisting aloft the Tour Championship trophy and with a cheque for $18m sticking out of his back pocket.
The top 30 players in the FedEx Cup standings head to Atlanta, and the good news for European Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald is that a number of European golfers are in the field. Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy both have very real chances of walking away with the ultimate prize.
And Tommy Fleetwood will be looking to put the finishing touches to a season that has seen him achieve everything other than a victory on the PGA Tour. Because of the handicap system employed at East Lake, winning the FedEx Cup is going to be beyond Fleetwood, but he will surely reflect on a job well done in 2023 and will now look forward to playing a crucial role for Europe as they attempt to win back the Ryder Cup in Italy.
He lost the Canadian Open in a playoff and finished joint third with McIlroy at the St Jude, a tournament that confirmed the revival of one Lucas Glover, who also won the previous week’s Wyndham Championship. Glover proves just how quickly everything can change. He turned up at Wyndham knowing the he had to win or finish second on his own if he were to make the playoffs. Putting like a god, he duly went ahead and finished top of the pile and then, incredibly, followed it with another fabulous week to win the St Jude and rocket up to fourth place in the standings ahead of the BMW Championship.
There are some things you can now depend upon. One of those is that McIlroy will be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.
He came within a whisker of winning the US Open, beaten only by Wyndham Clark. It is all too easy to criticise the Northern Irishman for failing to add to his major tally. Bu this consistency is truly remarkable.
He has made 17 starts on the PGA Tour this season. There were missed cuts at The Players and at The Masters, and you can be sure that he hated every moment of both this performances. But he won the CJ Cup and the Scottish Open - with a sensational finish. He was second at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, third at the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play and tied third at the St Jude Championship. In the 15 events in which he made the cut, he has finished in the top 10 on 12 occasions.
He is also the runaway leader in the Race to Dubai, closely followed by Rahm.
When it comes to consistency of performance, Rahm and Scottie Scheffler have been right up there with McIlroy.
Rahm came out of the blocks in mind-boggling fashion. It all began with victory at the Tournament of Champions, followed by another win the following week at the American Express. And he nearly made it three in a row at the Farmers Insurance Open, finishing tied seventh after a closing round of 74. He shrugged that off by claiming third at the Phoenix Open and then won his third title of the year at the Genesis Invitational. He crowned it all by winning The Masters for his second major title. He was also tied second at The Open, a performance that was all the more remarkable because he opened with a 74.
And Scheffler continues to perform like a machine. He hasn’t missed a single cut all season in 22 starts. That is a phenomenal achievement.
There have been two victories but it is what he does week in, week out that is most impressive. He has finished outside the top 15 just three times and has a scarcely believable SIXTEEN top-10 finishes. Not since Tiger Woods was at the peak of his powers has anybody been able to produce golf to such an incredible standard.
One of the idiosyncrasies of the Tour Championship is that man with the lowest 72-hole gross score may not win the tournament.
This is how the top five will start this week:
- Scottie Scheffler (moved from No. 2 to No. 1 with T2 finish) - will start 10 under
- Viktor Hovland (moved from No. 7 to No. 2 with win) - will start 8 under
- Rory McIlroy (stayed at No. 3 with fourth place finish) - will start 7 under
- Jon Rahm (moved from No. 1 to No. 4 with T31 finish) - will start 6 under
- Lucas Glover (moved from No. 4 to No. 5 with T22 finish) - will start 5 under
It was won in 2015 by Jordan Spieth, in 2016 and 2019 by Rory McIlroy, in 2017 by Xander Schauffele, in 2018 by Tiger Woods, in 2020 by Dustin Johnson, in 2021 by Patrick Cantlay and last year by Rory McIlroy.
East Lake opened in 1908 and was first redesigned by Donald Ross in 1913. Further renovations followed before Rees Jones created the layout we know today back in 2008. The Tour Championship was first played here in 1998. The course is a par 72 measuring 7,346 yards. As the name implies, it features plenty of water hazards. Zach Johnson set the course record of 60 in 2007.
Viktor Hovland has given himself a very real chance of winning after what he did at the BMW Championship. Lucas Glover’s recent form has been sensational. He has always been a wonderful ball striker but his fortunes have been transformed since he started using the long putter. And Rory McIlroy will continue to believe that he can pull off another FedEx Cup success. But, for me, Scottie Scheffler is the stand-out player of 2023. His record throughout the season is beyond compare.
Scottie Scheffler. The man to beat
Rory McIlroy. Just loves the Tour Championship
Viktor Hovland. Full of confidence
Five to Follow:
Scottie Scheffler. Has no weaknesses
Rory McIlroy. Looking for fourth FedEx Cup
Viktor Hovland. World-class
Matt Fitzpatrick. Can putt the lights out
Lucas Glover. Walking on water
Be part of the action with a selection of unique golf tournament experiences, from playing in a pro-am with the stars to watching the action at golf’s most illustrious events. Whether it’s the Masters or The Open, The Ryder Cup or WM Phoenix Open, build your own bespoke package with the experts at Golfbreaks.com.
What do you think? leave your comments below (Comments)
comments powered by Disqus