ATLANTA – If history is any indication, the decision to reverse East Lake’s nines for this week’s Tour Championship will add another measure of excitement to the finale and FedEx Cup.
In previous years, players arrived at East Lake’s par-3 closing hole with few, if any, chances to either gain ground on the leader or stumble at the finish.
Last year, Jordan Spieth arrived at No. 18 on Sunday with a four-stroke lead and made a stress-free par to win both the finale and FedEx Cup. Billy Horschel won the event in 2014 in a similar fashion after arriving to the 72nd tee with a three-stroke lead.
Officials hope that by reversing the nines and finishing on what has been the par-5 ninth hole there will be more of an opportunity for dramatic lead changes.
“I like the idea of going for it, trying to put it on that left center of the green, but if you can't quite get it to the green or on the green, there's always a place to leave it that's an easier birdie chance than a full wedge,” Spieth said.
The new 18th hole, which can be played at 600 yards but probably won’t measure that long this week, has historically been among the course’s easier birdie chances, and Nos. 16 and 17 both gave up more birdies than bogeys last year.
In 2015, Nos. 7, 8 and 9 were the 13th, 10th and 16th toughest holes and played to a combined .188 under par; compared to Nos. 16, 17 and 18, which ranked as the sixth, fourth and fifth most difficult holes last year, respectively, and played nearly a half stroke (.402) over par.
“Obviously, I love the old 18,” said Brandt Snedeker, who won the 2012 Tour Championship. “To be honest, guys are all excited about it because we know we've got a chance come Sunday afternoon. Even from four back, we have a legitimate chance of winning the tournament.”