As the dust settles from Patrick Cantlay’s wild six-hole playoff victory over Bryson DeChambeau at the BMW Championship, one question remains ahead of the final event of the PGA Tour season.
What does the Tour Championship have planned for an encore?
The PGA Tour’s most exciting season yet is set to conclude just how it started – with epic storylines, big moments and dramatic finishes. After 49 thrilling tournaments, only one player is set to walk away with the PGA Tour’s Ultimate Prize – the FedExCup trophy and its accompanying US$15 million prize.
“It's a fantastic place to be,” said South African Erik van Rooyen, who qualified for the 30-player field thanks to a fifth-place finish at Caves Valley. “Obviously it's my first full year on the PGA Tour, and it was a goal of mine to get there. Six weeks ago or so I wasn't even sniffing it. Just really proud of myself.
“It's probably the best of the best that make it to Atlanta, and I’m really happy to be part of the group.”
Best-of-the-best is certainly one way to describe the star-studded field set to tee it up at East Lake Golf Club. Five former FedExCup winners are in the field this week, including defending champion Dustin Johnson, who looks to become the first player to win back-to-back titles.
In a testament to the strength of the field, Johnson—the 2020 Masters Tournament winner—will enter the week at No.15 in the standings, good for a start of three-under par. That means he will begin seven strokes back of Cantlay, who took over the top spot in the standings after his win over DeChambeau.
Cantlay, the only three-time winner on the PGA Tour this season, will open with a two-shot lead over The Northern Trust winner Tony Finau and a three-shot advantage over DeChambeau, who this season claimed wins at both the 2020 U.S. Open and the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
“I think just trying to reset and play the golf tournament like any other golf tournament, just trying to put a bunch of rounds in the 60s on the board,” Cantlay said of his approach this week. “It's a really good golf course. It's usually in fantastic shape. Those guys down there always bring their ‘A’ game when it comes to course conditions.
“It's a golf course that I actually like. I haven't played that well there in the past, that's true, but it's a golf course I like. I like the visuals out there, and I'm looking forward to having a better result this year.”
To do so, Cantlay must stave off a stacked field that also includes two-time FedExCup winner Rory McIlroy (two-under) and 2015 champion Jordan Spieth, who qualified for the first time since 2017.
Spieth, who snapped a nearly four-year winless drought in April with his victory at the Valero Texas Open, will begin the tournament at four-under-par alongside Justin Thomas, Harris English, Sam Burns and Abraham Ancer.
"It's a golf course I like. I like the visuals out there, and I'm looking forward to having a better result this year.” - Patrick Cantlay.
“When you run the numbers you see that you can't give up on any round,” Spieth said. “I think that's great. If you're not playing well, you can't be like, ‘Well, it's not really going to make a difference; I'll finish 25th and I'll only drop four spots in the FedExCup.’ Instead, you've got to buckle down and make sure every stroke counts. On that side I like it.
“You could have four or five guys right up within a stroke of the lead with those last four holes to go or five holes to go. With the nines changed now, I think that it could make it more exciting than it's ever been.”
Exciting as ever seems like a safe proposition after this one-of-a-kind season. With six players with multiple victories, 10 first-time winners and champions from 10 different countries outside the United States, the 2020-21 Super Season is set for another one-of-a-kind finish.