This weeks TOUR Championship marks the end of one era, the final event before Team Ponte Vedra institutes the FedEx Cup.
Next year, points will be awarded at each of 33 regular season events leading up to a four-tournament playoff series. The top 144 points earners will qualify for three of those events ' Barclays Classic, Deutsche Bank Championship and BMW Championship ' and points will be reset. The top 30 players on the ensuing points list following those three tournaments will then compete in the TOUR Championship for a chance to win a $10 million bonus.
The 2007 TOUR Championship will be contested Sept. 13-16, before the heart of the football season and baseball playoffs.
Finchem and Co. are also hoping that not only will next year's changes increase fan interest, but do the same for the players.
There are only 27 players competing in an event in which everyone earns at least $100,000, and the winner will net a paycheck of $1.17 million.
The top 30 players on the money list qualify for this campaign ender. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Stephen Ames all opted out, making this the smallest field for the event since it began in 1987.
Woods said on his Web site Friday, 'I'm confident that this extended break will help me to recharge my batteries for the 2007 season.'
Woods, who won his last six starts on the PGA TOUR, last played five weeks ago in his victory at the WGC-American Express Championship. It's the first time in his professional career that he has not played this event. He will still win the money title, as he is up by nearly $3.5 million over Jim Furyk.
Mickelson is not playing for the second straight year in order to spend time exclusively with his family.
Ames is out with a back injury.
Another player not in attendance is Bart Bryant. Bryant won this event a year ago, winning wire-to-wire and dusting runner-up Woods by six strokes. Bryant, however, didnt make this years field, finishing 70th on the money list.
This means, for the 19th straight year, there will not be a repeat winner in this event.
For the third straight year, the 7,140-yard, par-70 East Lake Golf Club outside of Atlanta, Ga., will play host.
Here are our favorites for the title:
This would be a great way for Furyk to end a solid season. He has a pair of victories (Wachovia Championship and Canadian Open) and has nine top-5 finishes. He has also risen to No. 2 in the Official World Golf Ranking and will likely win the Vardon Trophy for lowest scoring average, since Woods will not play the requisite number of rounds to make him eligible. Furyk has never won this event, but he does four top-10s and tied for third at East Lake in 1998.
Scott is finally playing better in the bigger events. The 2004 Players champion tied for eighth at the Open Championship, tied for third at the PGA Championship, tied for 10th at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and tied for second at the WGC-American Express Championship. He also has top-5s in the Nissan Open, Wachovia Championship, Byron Nelson, Memorial Tournament, and Barclays Classic ' all among the top-tier regular events on TOUR. What he doesnt have yet this season is a win. He tied for seventh here a year ago.
Goosen, likewise, is winless on TOUR this season. But while Scott successfully defended his title a few months ago in Singapore on the Asian PGA Tour, Goosen hasnt won anywhere around the world since the Linde German Masters in Sept. 2005. Goosen has a great track record at East Lake. He has finished inside the top 10 in all three of his starts at the venue, winning in 2004.
This is the first time since 2001 that Durant has qualified for this event. That was also the last time he had won on TOUR, before doing so a couple of weeks ago at the Funai Classic. Durant is a streaky as they come on TOUR. In 01, he set the TOURs 90-hole scoring mark at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and then won a few weeks later at Doral. Hes on a solid streak right now. His last four starts include a victory at Disney; a playoff loss at the Southern Farm Bureau Classic; a tie for sixth in Greensboro; and a tie for third last week at the Chrysler Championship.
A year ago, Bryant won the TOUR Championship in his first ever appearance. Immelman would like to duplicate that feat. Immelman is technically in his rookie season on TOUR, even though he had competed in 42 TOUR events prior to this year. He is a good bet for Rookie of the Year, having won the Western Open. He enters this week seventh on the money list.