The 34th Tour Championship begins Friday at East Lake GC. Here’s a statistical look at the 30 players in the field and their scoring totals for the staggered start.
1. Dustin Johnson (-10): Aiding his effort to go from worst to first in the Tour Championship (he finished T-29 in 2019), Johnson begins the tournament with a two-stroke lead over Jon Rahm, thanks to the scoring system the Tour implemented a year ago. He’ll be tough to overtake if he continues overwhelming the golf course from tee to green the way he has in the first two playoffs events. Johnson’s strokes gained: tee to green of 3.296 strokes per round is more than 1.5 strokes better than the next best player who has qualified to play at East Lake (Scottie Scheffler, 1.722). He’s no slouch on the greens, either, ranking eighth on Tour in strokes gained: putting during the postseason, but second among those who qualified for East Lake. Not bad for a player who was 111th on the FedExCup standings prior to the PGA Tour’s restart in June, the worst position for any player who qualified for the Tour Championship.
2. Jon Rahm (-8): The PGA Tour leader in strokes gained: total, Rahm is the only player in the Tour Championship field who ranks in the top 50 this season in driving distance (22nd), driving accuracy (47th) and putting average (10th). Although last week’s BMW Championship marked his first playoff victory, Rahm’s play in the postseason is unmatched. He is the career playoff leader in scoring average (68.48; better than Tiger Woods’ 68.64) and has 10 top-12 finishes in 13 starts.
3. Justin Thomas (-7): With four top-10 finishes in four starts in the Tour Championship, Thomas is a good bet for a solid finish again this week. But his T-3 finish a year ago was buttressed by the fact he was given a two-stroke advantage entering the tournament as the FedExCup leader. By pure score, Thomas would have finished T-9, 10 strokes back of winner Rory McIlroy.
4. Webb Simpson (-6): One of the best players on Tour since the restart, Simpson won in Hilton Head and was T-3 in the Wyndham Championship. But he won’t have Carolina on his mind at East Lake, where he was last in the field in strokes gained: off the tee in 2019, en route to a disappointing T-16 finish.
5. Collin Morikawa (-5): Morikawa is the highest-ranked of the nine first-timers in the Tour Championship field. Beginning the week, five strokes off the lead, he’s in the same position Rory McIlroy was when he won the FedExCup in 2019.
6. Daniel Berger (-4): One of the Tour’s hottest players both before and after the restart, Berger sandwiched five straight top-10 finishes around the coronavirus hiatus. After a missed cut at the Memorial, he was T-2 in Memphis, T-13 at the PGA Championship and solo third at The Northern Trust. He’s averaging more than four birdies per round and for the first time in his career has a scoring average in the 60s.
7. Harris English (-4): After missing the playoffs in 2019, English’s comeback season in 2020 was accomplished by improving his play from tee to green. Entering the Tour Championship he is on pace for career bests in driving accuracy (61.81%), greens in regulation (71.14%), and scoring average (69.48).
8. Bryson DeChambeau (-4): It appears Hank Kuehne’s single-season driving distance record of 321.4 yards in 2003 is finally going to be topped. DeChambeau, whose intensive weight gain and muscle activation techniques during the past year were geared toward gaining distance, enters the Tour Championship averaging 325.0 yards per measured drive.
9. Sungjae Im (-4): The hiatus probably impacted Im’s season more than anyone else on Tour. Fresh off a win at Honda and a solo third at Bay Hill, Im was red-hot entering The Players Championship. But three months off must have felt unnatural for one of the Tour’s ironmen, and he has struggled upon returning with only two top-30 finishes since the restart.
10. Hideki Matsuyama (-4): The Japanese star ranks second on Tour in strokes gained: tee to green, but his putting numbers in 2019-20 have disappointed. Matsuyama’s strokes gained: putting is a career-low -.473 strokes per round, the worst of any player in the Tour Championship.
11. Brendon Todd (-3): The 2019-20 PGA Tour regular season can be divided into three parts, with 11 events held in the Fall Series, 11 before the pandemic break in March, and 11 events from the restart to the playoffs. Todd was the star of the first part with 967 of his 1,316 regular season FedExCup points coming during the Fall Series. His T-8 at the BMW Championship was his first top-10 finish of 2020.
12. Rory McIlroy (-3): He was third on the FedExCup standings in March, but doesn’t have a top-10 in eight starts since the restart, due partly to his anxiety over becoming a father. Still, he is the only player in the Tour Championship field who didn’t miss a cut in 2019-20. There is no cut at East Lake, but there might not be a Rory, either, if his daughter is born this week.
13. Patrick Reed (-3): Like Matsuyama, Reed is making his seventh straight appearance in the Tour Championship, best in the field given Johnson’s absence in 2014. Although his driving accuracy and greens in regulation numbers are in the bottom half of the Tour statistics, Reed’s putting numbers remain off the charts. He’s second on Tour in putts per GIR, third in one-putt percentage, and 13th in strokes gained: putting.
14. Xander Schauffele (-3): The winner of this event in 2018, Schauffele is playing in his fourth Tour Championship in four years on Tour. He is on pace to set career bests in driving accuracy (60.71%), greens in regulation (70.96%) and scoring average (69.34) in 2019-20.
15. Sebastian Munoz (-3): At 80th on the world ranking, Munoz is the lowest-ranked player in the field, but he has impressed in the playoffs with T-18 and T-8 finishes the last two weeks. They’re his best results since the restart. Munoz had his three best finishes of the season during the 2019 Fall Series (a win at the Sanderson Farms Championship, a solo third at the RSM Classic, and a T-7 at the Safeway Open).
16. Lanto Griffin (-2): Griffin returned to the PGA Tour this season and broke through by winning the Houston Open in October. His T-10 at the BMW Championship was his first top-10 since the restart. If he completes the Tour Championship, Griffin will have played 96 rounds in 2019-20, one more than Patrick Rodgers for most on Tour. Rodgers and Griffin will lead the Tour with 27 starts.
17. Scottie Scheffler (-2): The 24-year-old rookie has played well in the last month or so, with top-20 finishes in his last four starts. He has struggled on short putts this season, missing 26 measured putts from inside 4 feet. He ranks 180th in putting from 3 feet or less and 185th from 3-to-4 feet. However, he ranks eighth from beyond 25 feet, making 25 of 292 putts from long range.
18. Joaquin Niemann (-2): Two months shy of his 22nd birthday, Niemann is the youngest player in the field, having gained entry by moving from 31st to 18th in the FedExCup standings with his T-3 at the BMW Championship. He led the field in greens in regulation and strokes gained: tee to green at Olympia Fields.
19. Tyrrell Hatton (-2): The Englishman has made just 10 starts on Tour this season, three fewer than any other player who qualified for the Tour Championship. Incredibly, of the 38 rounds he has played, his worst – a 74 at Bay Hill – came in the final round of his victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
20. Tony Finau (-2): Making his fourth straight appearance in the Tour Championship, Finau has had success at East Lake, with nine of his 12 rounds at par or better.
21. Kevin Kisner (-1): Making his fifth start at East Lake, Kisner has improved from 22 over par in his first two appearances (2015, ‘16) to 15 under par in his last two Tour Championship starts (2017, ‘19).
22. Abraham Ancer (-1): One of two players in Tour Championship who has never won on the PGA Tour – Scottie Scheffler is the other – Ancer has qualified for the season-ender for the second straight year. He does have two victories as a pro, the 2015 Nova Scotia Open on the Korn Ferry Tour and the 2018 Australian Open.
23. Ryan Palmer (-1): Making his first appearance since 2014, Palmer joins Todd as players snapping the longest drought between appearances. At 43, Palmer is the oldest player in the field by a wide margin. He’s four days shy of being a full seven years older than Kevin Na, the second-oldest player at East Lake.
24. Kevin Na (-1): Sixth on Tour in strokes gained: putting in 2019-20, Na set a record by making 558 feet, 11 inches worth of putts during his win at the Shriners Hospital for Children’s Open in Las Vegas last October.
25. Marc Leishman (-1): Leishman was seventh on the FedExCup standings when the hiatus postponed the season in March and hasn’t finished better than T-40 (Memorial) since the restart. He has dropped from 38th on Tour in scoring average to 123rd. He has made just 51 birdies in his last 20 rounds (2.55 per round).
26. Cameron Smith (E): With just two top-10s, the two Cameron’s – Smith and Cameron Champ – have the fewest such finishes in 2019-20 among players who qualified for the Tour Championship. In the playoffs, Smith was T-18 in The Northern Trust and T-20 in the BMW, his best weeks since winning the Sony Open in January.
27. Viktor Hovland (E): One of two PGA Tour rookies at East Lake (with Scheffler), Hovland is the only one of the two with a victory (Puerto Rico), perhaps giving him a leg up in the Rookie of the Year voting. Hovland hasn’t missed a cut since the Tour returned, playing the weekend in all 10 appearances. He began the restart with 20 straight rounds of par or better, but he only has nine subpar rounds in his last five starts.
28. Mackenzie Hughes (E): Getting into the Tour Championship for the first time by making a 5-foot par putt on the 72nd hole of the BMW Championship took nerve, but the putt was right in his wheelhouse. Hughes ranks 11th on Tour in putting from 4-8 feet, making 75% of his putts from that distance.
29. Cameron Champ (E): If it weren’t for DeChambeau, fans of the power game would be watching Champ this week. Owner of the fastest clubhead speed on Tour this season (126.94 mph), Champ is second on Tour in strokes gained: off the tee and driving distance. In fact, Champ enters the Tour Championship with a driving distance of 322.2 yards, which if maintained, would also break Hank Kuehne’s record.
30. Billy Horschel (E): He might be too far back of the leaders in the Tour Championship’s staggered-stroke start to make up 10 shots, but Horschel’s record at East Lake gives him a puncher’s chance. He won in 2014 and was second in 2018 in his two most recent appearances, and in 12 career rounds at East Lake has a 67.83 scoring average.