ATLANTA – It could be the grasses, or maybe just blind luck. Either way, there’s no ignoring similarities between this week’s leaderboard at East Lake and last month’s marquee at the PGA Championship, which was played just down the road at Atlanta Athletic Club. Or even April’s Masters.
Adam Scott, your Round 2 frontrunner at East Lake, finished second at Augusta National, tied with Jason Day, who is currently two strokes behind Scott. Luke Donald, tied for third this week, finished tied for fourth in April, and K.J. Choi, one behind Scott, tied for eighth at the season’s first major.
Ditto for the PGA, with champion Keegan Bradley tied for fifth at the finale, and both Scott and Donald finishing in the top 10 last month. Bradley and Jason Dufner, who dueled into a playoff at Atlanta Athletic Club, were even knotted atop the Tour Championship leaderboard for a short time on Thursday.
It was all enough to make one wonder if they’d stumbled into the wrong championship, or a time vortex.
“I’d like to play all of our championships in this area,” smiled Phil Mickelson, who has multiple Georgia wins including three Masters, three BellSouth Classics, two Tour Championships and a runner-up showing at the 2001 PGA at Atlanta Athletic Club.
Although it’s difficult, if not impossible, to compare East Lake or Atlanta Athletic Club to Augusta National there is no denying there is something about north Georgia that brings out the best in certain players.
“With the greens running like they are now (at East Lake) they are a lot closer to what they are at Augusta National,” said Charles Howell III, who grew up in Augusta. “There’s a certain feel to these events, they have similar memberships. They just have a southern-type feel to them.”