The 2013 PGA Tour season concludes this weekend as the top 30 in the FedEx rankings compete for the Tour Championship. Historic East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta is the venue, the home course of Bobby Jones has played host to this event continuously since 2004 and hosted the 1998, 2000 & 2001 renewals. Originally designed by Donald Ross, the course was redesigned by Rees Jones in 1995 and its par-70 layout provides an Augusta-like challenge in the sense that it is tough but the winning score is normally a low double figure number under par. The adjustments to the PGA Tour schedule mean that this is truly the scheduled season ending event with seasons being across two years from next season which will start with the Frys.com open on October 7th.
East Lake has a great mix of holes which will provide scoring opportunities and potential banana skins for the field. There are a number of par-4’s which are short in length by modern standards and neither Par 5 is formidable in length but East Lake’s main protection is its greens. Players who miss on the short side of pin positions will be punished more often than not and finishing above the hole will make getting down in two a challenge. Like many Rees Jones designs, these greens are well contoured and have both subtle and not so subtle slopes and breaks. It provides a classical test for golfers and if you look at the recent winners, Snedeker, Haas, Woods, Mickelson, Villegas, Scott, they are all either great ball strikers or great shot makers, in short it’s hard to win round East Lake without a complete game.
The riches on offer this week are a much discussed matter, no surprise really when you consider the numbers in question. Even if a player finishes 30th in the tournament and also in the FedEx standings, he will still pick up a cool $300k, which is almost as much as the Italian Open winner will pick up this week. The past three winners of the Tour Championship have also bagged the $10,000,000 FedEx bonus by topping those standings, so have walked away with close to $12,000,000. Brandt Snedeker was the $12,000,000 man last year when converted a tied 54-hole lead into a three shot victory to lift both the Tour and FedEx Championships. He entered the week ranked inside the top five of the FedEx standings and knew a win would guarantee clinching both crowns, this year Tiger Woods, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar are the five players who can control their own destiny with a win. And it is the latterly named player who is the first of my selections this week
This has been the best season of Kuchar’s career so far, two wins, both of which were in big events. Firstly, his victory in the WGC Accenture Match Play and then his battling victory in the Memorial Tournament in June. Admittedly he would have liked his best major finish for the year to be better than tied 8th but he did finish inside the top 30 in all four majors. He has finished inside the top 25 in all three playoff events, the best of which was his tied fourth finish at TPC Boston. When his game is on, he is as good a ball striker as anyone but it is putting that is his biggest strength, he’s ranked inside the top 15 for both strokes gained-putting and total putting. Another relevant stat is that he is ranked eighth in approaches from 125-150 yards, which is a common yardage range on East Lake’s par-4’s. Kuchar bagged his first top-ten in the event last year and as a Georgia resident he will count on plenty of support this week, I think this could the time it comes together for him at an event he desperately wants to win.
Billy Horschel is my second selection and I am happy to overlook his poor run of form prior to last week’s BMW Championship. His win at TPC Louisiana came on the back of three top ten finishes and the outpouring of emotion when he sunk the winning putt was typical Horschel. He has struggled in the main since his maiden win but did post a tied 4th finish at Merion in his first U.S. Open as a pro. That finish came on the back of a strong finishing top ten position at TPC Southwind so don’t underestimate the importance of the 66 he shot on Monday en route to his first top twenty finish since Merion. He struck the ball wonderfully at Conway Farms and I think he can continue that progression this week and rates a big danger.
My final selection is Gary Woodland who came close to winning earlier in the playoffs and looks back to his best after an injury plagued 2012. He had shown signs all 2013 that he was on the cusp of a return to form and this came to the fore when he won the Reno-Tahoe Open last month. Prior to that, it was easy to forget that it was only two years ago that he won at Copperhead, came inside the top thirty in all four majors and finished tenth in the FedEx standings . His ball striking as always been his strength but he is showing a lot more consistency on the greens, he has improved being ranked 114th in 2011 to 54th this year in total putting. He also came tied thirteenth on his East Lake debut in 2011, which is impressive considering Woods only managed 20th on his debut. Butch Harmon has long considered Woodland a major winner in waiting and this week could provide further evidence to support Harmon’s thoughts.
- Zach Johnson eyes £10m FedEx payday after grabbing his 10th PGA tour title at BMW Championship (dailyrecord.co.uk)
- Johnson clutch to finish off 65, claim BMW (espn.go.com)
- Johnson not the only winner at BMW Championship (timesleader.com)
- BMW Championship 2013 Leaderboard Round 4: Scores, Standings and Results (bleacherreport.com)
- Golf Tidbits: Johnson wins with karma on his side (bnd.com)
- Zach Johnson rallies to win BMW Championship (timesleader.com)
- FedEx Cup moves closer to the finale (timesleader.com)
- 2013 USPGA Championship Preview (carlothesportsman.wordpress.com)
- BMW Championship 2013 Preview And Tips (carlothesportsman.wordpress.com)
- BMW Championship GIFs (adamsarson.com)