The top 30 golfers in the FedEx standings will converge on East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta this weekend looking to claim the $10 million for being champion, along with the $1.575 million winner’s take (of $8.75 million total).
Jordan Spieth enters the event with a field high 2,000 points after the reset and will have plenty of competition if he hopes to be PGA Tour champion and FedEx Cup top dog. The world’s no. 2 ranked golfer topped the 2016-17 season with 5,421 points before the official reset (for 2017-18), based on three wins and 11 top tens in 22 events.
The majority of the 30-man field who will tee it up are American (21), including notables Spieth, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka (who are all in the top 10 in FedEx points). Otherwise, the field is populated with Aussies Marc Leishman and Jason Day, Spaniards Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia, Englishmen Justin Rose and Paul Casey, Japan native Hideki Matsuyama and Canadian Adam Hadwin.
In the 30-year history of the Tour Championship (which started as an event for the top 30 seasonal money winners) there have been some glorious moments.
Here are 10 we liked a lot, in chronological order.
10. Tom Kite Beats Payne Stewart In A Playoff – 1989
The third edition of the Tour Championship, then known as the Nabisco Championship, saw 1988 runner-up and 1989 top money earner Tom Kite cruise into Harbour Town Golf Links. He was having his best professional season, having won the Nestle Invitational and the Players Championship back-to-back in March of that year. The total purse for that Tour Championship was a modest $2.5 million, with $450,000 going to the winner. In wild and windy final round at the Nabisco, the slight Texan narrowly got to a playoff when Payne Stewart three-putted for bogey on the 18th. Kite had birdied the par-3 17th and needed par on 18, doing it with a chip from the fringe to get his ball within three feet of the hole. He won it with a par again on the second playoff hole, the 17th, after Stewart — who was dialed in earlier in the tourney — missed a four-foot putt for his par.
9. Hal Sutton Holds Off Vijay Singh In A Playoff – 1998
East Lake is the de facto home of the Tour Championship and in 1998, Hal Sutton christened the first ever played there, beating future champ Vijay Singh in a playoff. Sutton, who came to the fore in 1983 by winning the PGA Championship, by one stroke over Jack Nicklaus no less, opened his big 1998 season with a win at the Westin Texas Open. His playoff foe, Fijian Singh, rolled in hot to Atlanta too, having won his first major at the PGA Championship in August 1998, followed a week later with a victory at the Sprint International. Sutton’s first three rounds were all under par, with an even-par 70 giving him a 6-under total and a tie with Singh. It didn’t take him long to end it, as his six-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole won it.
8. Mike Weir Battles Three Giants In Playoff Win – 2001
In 2001, Mike Weir was the most celebrated Canadian on the PGA Tour, having broken through in 1999 to become the first Canuck to win a PGA Tour event at the ’99 Air Canada Championship. He wouldn’t win another tournament until a year later in the American Express Championship and then would wait another year for a big victory. He entered the 2001 Tour Championship at Houston’s Champions Golf Club not as a solid favorite. But the lefty shot all rounds under par to finish at 14-under (270), tying him with Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia and David Toms. Els was already a two-time U.S. Open winner by that time and Toms was that year’s PGA Champion. Garcia was just starting out, but had won his first two PGA Tour events that year. Weir, though, used all his steely resolve to beat the big 3, winning it with birdie on the first playoff hole.
7. Tiger Woods Blows Away Field With Largest Margin Of Victory – 2007
Woods, who won his first Tour Championship in 1999, would go into the 2007 iteration at East Lake knowing the disappointment of defeat. He came second in back-to-back years in 2004 and 2005, the first to Retief Goosen (four strokes) and then to unheralded Bart Bryant by six strokes, then tying the record for biggest margin of victory. In 2007 he was the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year and leading money winner, having won his fourth PGA championship (13th of 14 majors). His record-breaking ride through the PGA Tour would continue at East Lake for the Tour Championship and the inaugural FedEx Cup title, as he shot 23-under par for an eight-stroke victory over Zach Johnson and Mark Calcavecchia. That is a record that still stands.
6. Phil Mickelson Beats Tiger Woods, Sort Of – 2009
In 2009, two-time Tour Championship winner Tiger Woods entered that year’s event as the world’s no.1 golfer and FedEx points leader. Phil Mickelson, who had a tough year personally (as both his wife and mother were diagnosed with breast cancer), leading to him suspending his involvement in the tour for short periods of time. Having won the Northern Trust Open and a WGC tournament, he was a fair favorite to win at East Lake. But, he trailed his nemesis, Woods, by three strokes entering the final round. Undaunted, the Mick shot his best round of the tournament, a 65, to beat Tiger by three full strokes. However, Woods would claim his second FedEx Cup title, remaining the only player to accomplish the feat despite losing the finale.
5. Jim Furyk Wins It In A Downpour – 2010
Jim Furyk, with his folksy homemade swing, is a PGA Tour favorite. That swing, once described by TV commentator David Feherty as “an octopus falling out of a tree” sure has put him in the winner’s circle, multiple times. In 2010, he ended a three-year dry spell by winning the Transitions Championship and Verizon Heritage to put him among the top earners and FedEx Cup point leaders. He golfed well enough to put himself in the lead in the final round, which was played in rainy conditions. At the par-3 18th, he had a one-stroke lead, but hit his tee shot into a bunker. But, the popular Pennsylvanian finessed a 50-foot shot to within three feet and sunk his par putt to edge Englishman Luke Donald for the win. Not only did he win the FedEx Cup and the $10 million, but also the PGA and PGA Tour Player of the Year awards for the first time.
4. Bill Haas Makes Clutch Par Save In Playoff – 2011
The son of former PGA Tour veteran Jay Haas had to take some fatherly advice after his burgeoning career flatlined prior to the 2010 season. With a change to his foot positioning, courtesy of a talking to by his Dad and great uncle Bob Goalby, Haas would go on to win his first two PGA Tour tournaments. He rode that wave with some good golf in 2011, heading into the Tour Championship seventh on the money list. He played excellent golf at East Lake, finishing the tournament in a tie with Hunter Mahan at 8-under 272. The two sawed off on the first playoff hole and then on the second, Haas got in some trouble, putting his ball precariously on the edge of a water hazard. But, he played an exceptional pitch shot to save par and then won it on the third with a par to Mahan’s bogey. Haas picked up the big $10 million prize and the FedEx Cup title.
3. Billy Horschel Comes Out Of Nowhere To Win – 2014
In late 2012, Billy Horschel’s game was not what one would call PGA Tour ready. A lower ranked player on the web.com tour, Horschel had to go to Q school just for a shot at his PGA Tour card. He did it and then made the cut in every tournament he entered before wining his first PGA tour event, the Zurich Classic. A T4 at the U.S. Open cemented his status as a player. In 2014, he kept up his decent pace and in early September, he beat Bubba Watson by two strokes at the BMW Championship, putting him in the final 30 for the Tour Championship. Even though he was just 69th in FedEx points, Horschel played exceptional golf shooting an 11-under par to clip 2010 winner Jim Furyk and 2014 two-time major winner (Open Championship and PGA Championship) Rory McIlroy by three strokes.
2. Jordan Spieth Becomes Youngest Tour Champion Ever – 2015
At the tender age of 22 in 2015, when most of his peers will still slugging it out in college, Jordan Spieth had a PGA Tour season for the ages. He opened with his second tour win at the Valspar, then followed it up with his first major, winning the Masters by four strokes over Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose. Two months later, his second major was in the books at the U.S. Open. A fourth win at the John Deere and a second place at the PGA Championship put him no. 1 in the World Golf Ranking. Despite missing the cut at the first two FedEx playoffs (Barclays and Deutsche Bank), Spieth finished high enough at the BMW (12th) to keep him second in the FedEx Standings. Spieth tamed East Lake that year, winning by four strokes to become the youngest ever Tour champion. The $10 million bonus was on top of the $12,030,485 he won on the tour that year, which is a PGA tour record.
1. Rory McIlroy Roars Back To Relevance – 2016
By his own high standards, 2016 wasn’t a banner year for Rory McIlroy, that is until the FedEx Cup playoffs rolled around. He flubbed it at the Masters trying to win the career slam finishing T7, missed the cut at the U.S. Open and then mustered a T4 at the Open Championship. He didn’t win a tournament all year, but saved his best golf for the Deutsche Bank Championship, shooting a stellar 65 to eat Paul Casey by two strokes. At the Tour Championship, McIlroy found himself two shots off the lead entering the final round but went low again at the end, firing a superb 64 to force a playoff with Americans Kevin Chappell and Ryan Moore. The resulting four-hole playoff was one for the ages, as the Irishman birdied the par-4 16th to win it all.