Thirty of the world’s best golfers have descended upon East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta for this week’s season-ending Tour Championship.
However, only five hold their FedEx Cup championship destinies in their own hands, with the other 25 needing a victory in the Tour Championship and some help to claim the $10 million playoff prize.
Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Rose, Tony Finau, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas know all they need to do is win this week. Take 5 looks at why each will — or won’t — claim the ultimate PGA Tour bounty.
5. Justin Thomas
Thomas will win because: Expectations are tempered after he showed up to East Lake wearing a bandage on his wrist, saying he took last week off after suffering the injury at the BMW Championship. Sometimes the most dangerous athletes are the ones forced to take some pressure off the gas and play within themselves. Perhaps the break from pounding balls last week was just the mental rest Thomas needed after a busy summer.
Thomas won’t win because: No one has successfully defended a FedEx Cup title. In fact, only Tiger Woods has won more than one, and that came nine years ago. Oh, and there’s the chance the injury is a very real factor and Thomas will have to make some choices in order to be ready for next week’s Ryder Cup.
4. Dustin Johnson
Johnson will win because: The FedEx Cup is one of the glaring omissions from his resume. He not only lost his No. 1 ranking two weeks ago — he dropped to No. 3. The pressure to hold onto the top spot is off, and he can let it rip. Arguably no one has a better all-around game than Johnson, yet somehow he enters this week as a dark horse.
Johnson won’t win because: He tied for 17th at East Lake last year and while he has played solidly at times during the playoffs, D.J. has struggled to put together four solid rounds over the past month. Despite his one U.S. Open title, there are lingering questions about his play down the stretch while in contention on Sundays.
3. Tony Finau
Finau will win because: He has finished in the top eight in each of the first three playoff events and few have been as consistent all summer as Finau. East Lake is a Par 70, but a long one at 7,385 yards. He tied for seventh here last year, and a good week with the driver should have the bomber sniffing contention again.
Finau won’t win because: Well, because he hasn’t all season. Finau has 11 top-10s on the 2017-18 season, but the 6-foot-4 Salt Lake City native has only one career victory, at the 2016 Puerto Rico Open.
2. Justin Rose
Rose will win because: Newly minted as the No. 1 player in the world, Rose admitted he is motivated to hold onto that ranking through the end of the year. He has a victory at the Fort Worth Invitational, top-20s at all four majors and two playoff runner-up finishes in 2018 and finished T10 at last year’s Tour Championship.
Rose won’t win because: Nerves. He admitted the thought of claiming No. 1 was on his mind when he bogeyed the 18th hole — twice — to finish second at the BMW Championship. Short putting woes have dogged Rose for years in pressure situations, and there’s nothing like the No. 1 ranking and $10 million at stake to test your hands standing over a 5-footer on 18.
1. Bryson DeChambeau
DeChambeau will win because: He’s the hottest golfer on the planet and has already smashed his way into elite status since his win at the Memorial in June. DeChambeau won the first two legs of the playoffs, then admirably tied for 19th at the BMW while playing on fumes. He’s a notoriously hard worker, and proved his strong mental game by overcoming some adversity late in the summer to put together the best stretch of golf in his career.
DeChambeau won’t win because: This is all new territory and there’s a ton at stake. It’s hard to win three tournaments in a year, much less do it over a five-week stretch against a motivated field of the best players in the world trying to close the season out with a bang.
There’s no shame in DeChambeau not winning this week, especially if the consolation is building momentum toward his Ryder Cup debut.
–Derek Harper, Field Level Media