Stat attack!: Tour Championship preview

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Chris Kirk won his third PGA Tour title at the Deutsche Bank Championship. (Getty)

The PGA Tour’s first wrap-around season comes to a close with this week’s Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta, and you’re not wrong if you think this year has resulted in a changing of the guard.

For the first time since 1992, you won’t see Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or Ernie Els in the season finale.

The top five players on FedEx Cup standings – those who control their own destiny when it comes to winning the Cup – include 25-year-old world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and the three players who won playoff events at the Barclays (Hunter Mahan), Deutsche Bank (Chris Kirk, shown) and BMW Championship (Billy Horschel).

Here’s a look at those five players, plus a statistical look at the rest of the Tour Championship field: 

PGA Tour statistics of the FedEx Cup leaders

 Player Rank Starts Cuts Top 10s Wins Scoring Distance Accuracy GIR St. G. putting

 Chris
 Kirk

1 27 25 4 2 70.24 (31) 290.9 (81) 63.08% (64) 63.22% (139) .348 (25)
 Billy
 Horschel
2 26 19 4 1 70.68 (63) 291.4 (77) 67.74 (19) 70.03 (4) .190 (62)
 Bubba
 Watson
3 20 17 8 2 69.71 (9) 314.2
(1)
60.77 (102) 67.79 (26) -.041 (110)
 Rory
 McIlroy
4 16 16 11 3 68.90 (1) 311.2
(2)
60.00 (112) 69.35 (6)

.254 (45)

 Hunter
 Mahan
5 24 19 6 1 70.52 (46) 295.8 (45) 65.40 (35) 67.49 (31) .207 (59)

How the top five players have fared in the Tour Championship

 Player 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
 Chris Kirk              
 Billy Horschel T-7            
 Bubba Watson   T-5 T-23 T-17   30  
 Rory McIlroy   T-10          
 Hunter Mahan T-20 T-8 2 T-15 T-24 T-17 T-5

It might surprise you to learn that McIlroy has only played in one Tour Championship, in 2012, when he concluded his remarkable season with a T-10 at East Lake for a second-place finish in the Cup standings behind tournament winner Brandt Snedeker. McIlroy didn’t qualify for East Lake a year ago (finishing 50th in the FedEx Cup standings) or in 2010 (36th), his only previous years as a PGA Tour member.

Mahan, meanwhile, is playing his eighth straight Tour Championship. He is the only player to have appeared in every PGA Tour playoff event since the post-season series began in 2007.

Kirk - who was born in Atlanta, played college golf at Georgia and still makes the state his home - tops the FedEx Cup standings but the Tour Championship hasn’t been kind to the point’s leader in recent years. The only player to enter the Tour Championship ranked atop the standings and win the tournament was Tiger Woods in the inaugural Cup year of 2007. In the last four years, the player who won the Tour Championship has also won the FedEx Cup, and the points leader entering the finale has finished second in the final standings.

FedEx Cup leaders entering the Tour Championship

 Year Player TC finish Cup finish Cup winner
 2013 Tiger Woods T-22 2 Henrik Stenson
 2012 Rory McIlroy T-10 2 Brandt Snedeker
 2011 Webb Simpson 22 2 Bill Haas
 2010 Matt Kuchar T-25 2 Jim Fuyrk
 2009 Tiger Woods 2 Won FedEx Cup  
 2008 Vijay Singh T-22 Won FedEx Cup  
 2007 Tiger Woods Won Won FedEx Cup  

This year’s 29-man field (Dustin Johnson finished 30th on the point’s list, but remains on leave for personal reasons) is a strong one. Eight of the top 10 players on the Official World Golf Ranking are at East Lake, as are seven of the next 10. Only four players are ranked outside the top 50.

World ranking of the Tour Championship field

 Rank Total Players
 Top 10 8 McIlroy (1), Scott (2), Garcia (3), Rose (5), Watson (6), Furyk (7), Day (8),
Kuchar (9)
 11-20 7 Fowler (11), Kaymer (12), Spieth (13), Johnson (15), Walker (18), Matsuyama (19),
Mahan (20)
 21-30 3 Horschel (23), Kirk (24), Reed (28)
 31-40 3 Haas (31), Simpson (33), Na (36)
 41-50 4 Palmer (44), Todd (46), Woodland (49), Senden (50)
 51-75 3 Henley (53), Tringale (72), Ogilvy (74)
 76+ 1 Hoffmann (101)

Morgan Hoffman is the highest-ranked player to qualify for the Tour Championship since Kevin Streelman (147th) in 2010. The 25-year-old New Jersey native is certainly trending in the right direction. At the, Barclays in his home state, Hoffmann finished T-9 for his first top-10 finish of 2013-14. Two weeks later at Cherry Hills, his stellar closing rounds of 62-63 (the best final 36-hole scores this season) moved him from T-53 to third in the tournament and into the Tour Championship for the first time.

Highest ranked players to qualify for the Tour Championship in the playoffs era

 World rank Player Year TC finish
 147 Kevin Streelman 2010 T-9
 112 Marc Leishman 2009 T-28
 101 Morgan Hoffmann 2014  
 96 Bubba Watson 2008 30
 91 John Senden 2009 T-10
 90 Briny Baird 2008 T-27
 90 Gary Woodland 2013 T-22

Only 13 players are retuning to the Tour Championship from 2013. Defending champion Henrik Stenson failed to qualify, as did co-runner-up Steve Stricker. The other runner-up, Jordan Spieth, is back. There are nine first-timers in the field this week, including Kirk and Hoffmann.

First-timers in the Tour Championship field

 Player FedEx rank Best 2014 finish
 Chris Kirk  1 Won McGladrey, Deutsche Bank
 Jimmy Walker 6 Won Frys.com, Sony, Pebble Beach
 Martin Kaymer 14 Won Players, U.S. Open
 Patrick Reed 18 Won Humana, WGC-Cadillac
 Cameron Tringale 19 T-2 Barclays
 Russell Henley 20 Won Sony
 Morgan Hoffmann 21 3 BMW Championship
 Brendon Todd 27 Won Nelson
 Hideki Matsuyama 28 Won Memorial

Hoffmann and Tringale are two of 10 players in the field who have not won on Tour in 2013-14. Hoffmann, in fact, is the only player in the Tour Championship who did not have a win or a runner-up finish this season. Here’s the list of non-winners. Some of the names might surprise you.

Players in the Tour Championship who have not won in 2013-14

 Player FedEx rank Best finish in 2013-14
 Jim Furyk 7 2 Wells Fargo, Players, Canadian Open
 Rickie Fowler 9 T-2 U.S. Open, British Open
 Jordan Spieth 11 2 Hyundai T of C, T-2 Masters
 Sergio Garcia 13 2 WGC-Bridgestone, T-2 Travelers, British Open
 Bill Haas 16 T-2 Wyndham
 Cameron Tringale 19 T-2 Barclays
 Morgan Hoffmann 27 3 BMW Championship
 Ryan Palmer 23 2 Humana, T-2 Honda
 Kevin Na 24 2 Valspar, Memorial
 Gary Woodland 29 2 CIMB

One final thought: Bill Haas is the only player in the playoff era to make the Tour Championship his first win of the season. Haas won in 2011 in a playoff over Hunter Mahan. Haas hasn’t won yet in 2013-14 and needs a victory this week to extend his streak of consecutive years with a win on Tour to five.

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