TOUR Championship Starting Strokes
10 under - Patrick Cantlay
8 under - Tony Finau
7 under - Bryson DeChambeau
6 under - Jon Rahm
5 under - Cameron Smith
4 under - Justin Thomas, Harris English, Abraham Ancer, Jordan Spieth, Sam Burns
3 under - Collin Morikawa, Sungjae Im, Viktor Hovland, Louis Oosthuizen, Dustin Johnson
2 under - Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na, Brooks Koepka
1 under - Corey Conners, Hideki Matsuyama, Stewart Cink, Joaquin Niemann, Scottie Scheffler,
Even par - Daniel Berger, Erik van Rooyen, Sergio Garcia, Billy Horschel, Patrick Reed
Tour Championship Contenders
While two previous years isn’t the greatest sample size, it’s seemed clear that the top five in the rankings tend to go well, with the two previous winners (Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson) coming from that bracket of players (5th and 1st, respectively), while no one in the bottom half (-2,-1 or even par) has finished in the top four of this.
Xander Schauffele absolutely adores this track, shooting the second lowest 72-hole score in 2019, before pushing Johnson close last year in shooting the lowest, finishing three shots off despite starting seven behind.
He’s never finished outside the top-7 in that regard at East Lake, winning twice and looks well poised to go well again here.
It’s not been the most prolific of years for the American, although he did bring home Olympic Gold just a month ago and while performances since haven’t been up to par, a return to a course that he’s been so successful on in the past can bring out the best in him.
Despite it not being his best season, he’s still managed 11 top-15 finishes from his 17 made cuts, including seven top-10s and five top-5s and now starting further back than he ever has done in the three years of this format, he can prove once again that he will play on the front foot and attack a course that he’s made look weak in recent years.
The course is looking to play slightly longer than usual thanks to the weather over the last couple of days, though it shouldn’t impact Schauffele too much as he looks to gather some serious form ahead of the Ryder Cup.
Rory McIlroy is another who goes very well here. He’s twice been a winner here and finished runner up on another occasion and it could be argued that the course is set up even better for him this time around as it’ll play longer than expected.
McIlroy was phenomenal off the tee last week and if he can get his irons dialled in, which he’s shown signs of being better at of late, he’ll no doubt make a real push here.
He won’t be used to being this far adrift of the leaders as he sits on two under par, though that could give him the liberty to go and attack this course, and with Dustin Johnson playing alongside him for the first round at least, they can really challenge each other to go for it.
Finally, it’s Jon Rahm that looks best placed to capitalise on a strong season here.
He’s been unlucky in some respects, twice contracting COVID-19 which has interrupted his schedule and certainly prevented him from winning more than he has done, but the US Open champion is only four shots back off Patrick Cantlay and if he were to win the purse, it’s very difficult to argue that he wouldn’t deserve it.
Cantlay proved why many call him the iceman in the BMW Championship play-off, holding putt after putt in the final round to take the title and catapult him to the top of the standings and into Steve Striker’s Ryder Cup squad.
However, he had a tumultuous time here last year having started in second place (-8) and finishing in 21st (+1), and although he’s a more complete player now, that weekend last year is not what you want in your mind at this stage.
Finau hasn’t exactly proven he can go on a winning run, while DeChambeau looks too hot-headed to hold his nerve as he proved last week, leaving Rahm licking his lips over his chances here.
Furthermore, it can’t be understated what effect Sunday’s six-hole play-off will have on Cantlay and DeChambeau, so the Spaniard get the nod to cap off what will be a phenomenal season.
JON RAHM TO WIN
XANDER SCHAUFFELE BEST 72-HOLE SCORE
RORY MACILROY BEST 72-HOLE SCORE
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