In addition to exemptions in many invitations, the 30 qualified for the TOUR Championship receive places in the 2023 editions of the Masters, the US Open and the Open Championship. Although these are secure, the cash prizes collected at the end of the tournament vary.
Included in the link to Starting Strokes at the top is the bonus money reserved for golfers who have qualified for the TOUR Championship. The winner will take home $18 million, tenth place will pay $1 million, while the last place pledges $500,000. (Winnings are unofficial.)
For the fourth consecutive edition of the TOUR Championship, Starting Strokes establishes the first classification. It’s designed to reward performance throughout the BMW Championship and you can view its impact as the result of a run that’s already been completed. Scoring against Starting Strokes’ contribution is all that matters.
Last year, Patrick Cantlay opened as the top seed at under 10. He scored 11 under 269 in four rounds to go 21 under and win by one over Jon Rahm. The Spaniard opened as the fourth seed at 6 under and scored 14 under 266.
In 2019 and 2020, exactly six golfers have come out of the opening top 10 on arrival to record a tournament top 10. Five did it last year, including Billy Horschel, who opened tied and finished T9 under 10. His 29th jump is the best since the introduction of Starting Strokes.
A dozen qualifiers are experiencing Starting Strokes for the first time, 10 of whom are tournament newbies. The learning curve at East Lake is flattened a bit by the opening position, but the story-influenced course management can serve as speed slots on the lowest standings of the season.
East Lake is the same par 70 stock that recent entrants have played. It peaks at 7,346 yards and the greens are basically medium sized at just over 6,000 square feet. Speeds are governed at 13 feet fast, so, as usual, it takes a full bag for the final review. That said, the classic summer weather in Hotlanta could soften the turf any day, so the score could be lower than normal. (The field registered at 68,805 last year.) Rain and the potential for storms are in focus throughout, but the overall effect should be minimal given the size of the field. Wind won’t be a factor and daytime temperatures will climb comfortably into the 80s.
While the FedExCup playoffs are now old enough to drive, East Lake still caters to that upfront. The par 5s are among the most outstanding on the calendar. On his four trips through numbers 6 and 18, Cantlay birdied each time.
Speaking of the defending champ, he’s in an unprecedented doubled position. After becoming the first to successfully defend a FedExCup Playoffs event in last week’s BMW Championship, he can not only become the first to win consecutive events in the Playoffs for the second time (2021), but he would be the first to successfully defend the FedEx Cup itself. Of course, if he did, he would also become the second to successfully defend a FedExCup Playoffs event after last week’s accomplishment.
Whoever claims the title will be credited with an official PGA TOUR victory. This comes with an invitation to the Sentry 2023 Tournament of Champions for which a third of players are not yet eligible. Rookies Cameron Young and Sahith Theegala will not only and likely decide who voted Rookie of the Year, but they are the only two non-TOUR winners in the field. The champion will also extend his membership for up to five seasons until 2027.
Incidentally, in January it was announced that Andrew Green and his design firm would be renovating East Lake after next year’s TOUR Championship. If you like his work, you don’t have to look far to find more. He was also responsible for updating Wilmington Country Club’s South Course ahead of last week’s BMW Championship.
ROB BOLTON’S CALENDAR
PGATOUR.com’s Rob Bolton recaps and previews each tournament from many perspectives. Look for his following contributions as expected.
MONDAY: Power ratings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Draws & Fades
WEDNESDAY: Preview of Pick ‘Em
SUNDAY: Qualifications, Reshuffle, Rookie Ranking
* – Rob is a member of PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks panel for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.
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