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Your 2016 TOUR Championship Preview

Well, this has been fun, but like all good things, the 2015-2016 PGA Tour season must come to an end.

Thankfully, it ends in Atlanta at historic East Lake.

With 30 of the best players in the world.

Competing for ten million dollars.

TEN. MILLION. DOLLARS.

Ok, so maybe we’re not done having fun quite yet.

With the season’s top-30 ready to chase the big payday, and join some pretty elite company in the FedExCup Playoffs’ tenth year, here’s what you need to know heading into Thursday.


FOR THE TOP 5, A WIN TAKES IT ALL.

Though the points for the Top 5 are reset heading into this week, all 5 players have a surefire way to claim the overall cup: Win. The current five leaders (more on that later), automatically take the whole shebang with a win, and can even win it all without winning in Atlanta, depending on how they and others fare. In 2009, points race leader Tiger Woods was out-dueled by Phil Mickelson, but still had more than enough points for the overall victory, as Phil entered the week outside the Top-5.

EVEN IF THE TOP GUYS DON’T WIN, THEY STILL COULD WIN.
As mentioned above, just because a player doesn’t win in Atlanta doesn’t mean they can’t win it all. Here are the scenarios that allow them to take home the big trophy and the big check, even without a W. Some very complicated situations can play out. We’ll highlight how the top guys can take home the Cup, but also make sure to check out Golf Digest’s full rundown.

No. 1 — Dustin Johnson
• Wins the Tour Championship
• Reasonable chance of winning with a top-5 finish
• Can finish as low as 29th and still have mathematical chance at Cup

No. 2 — Patrick Reed
• Wins the Tour Championship
• Reasonable chance of winning with top-3 finish
• Can finish as low as a two-way tie for sixth and still have mathematical chance of winning

No. 3 — Adam Scott
• Wins the Tour Championship
• Reasonable chance of winning with second place finish
• Can finish as low as T-4 and still have mathematical chance of winning

No. 4 — Jason Day
• Wins the Tour Championship
• Has a reasonable chance of winning with a second place finish
• Can finish as low as T-3 and still have mathematical chance of winning

No. 5 — Paul Casey
• Wins the Tour Championship
• Can finish as low as a two-way tie for second and still have mathematical chance of winning

No. 6 — Rory McIlroy
• Wins the Tour Championship AND Dustin Johnson finishes T-2 or worse
• Can finish second and still have mathematical chance of winning

No. 7 — Jordan Spieth
• Wins the Tour Championship AND…
Dustin Johnson finishes in a three-way tie for second or worse
Patrick Reed finishes T-2 or worse

For a look at all 30 players’ winning scenarios, again, check out Golf Digest’s full breakdown.

NOT A FRONTRUNNER? NOT A PROBLEM.
Bill Haas went to East Lake in 2011 25th in points, meaning he was effectively playing for a big—but not $10 million big—bonus to tie off his year.

But he also brought his A–Game.

And he played phenomenally all week.

And he did this in a playoff:

Now, if you’re impressed by his ability to hit THAT shot with so much on the line, consider this: Haas didn’t realize he was playing not only for the Tour Championship, but for the whole FedExCup Championship.

While Hass was trying to win the TOUR Championship, he hadn’t realized that the long odds and convoluted scenarios that would lead to his FedExCup title had all played out. This meant that by beating Hunter Mahan (who would’ve also won it all with a victory), Haas won the TOUR Championship tournament, the FedExCup Playoffs and about 11.4 million dollars. He had to hit more great shots than just that one from the water, but that one from the water sure was the most important. And lucrative.

EAST LAKE WILL BE PLAYING VERY DIFFERENTLY THIS YEAR.
Haas won the playoff above with an up-and-down par on the 232-yard par-3 18th in 2011. Impressive, sure, but wouldn’t an eagle have been much better?

This must have been the tournament committee’s thinking for this year, as East Lake will be played with reversed 9s for the time ever, setting up a reachable, risk/reward par-5 as the closing hole. This will be the first time the PGA Tour stars will have played this tournament with such routing, and hopefully, it will result in some incredible TV moments on Sunday.

TWO 2016 MAJOR WINNERS WON’T BE IN THE FIELD.
With as many points that are won as a result of winning a major and as much talent that is required to do so, you would think all 4 tournament victors would qualify for Atlanta, right? Not this year. Danny Willett, who claimed his first major victory at Augusta National this year, opted not to compete in the first Playoff events, instead returning home for some European Tour dates. Though he entered the end of the year high in FedExCup points, he didn’t have enough to guarantee a place at East Lake.

Henrik Stenson, whose 10-birdie Open Championship final round was arguably one of the greatest rounds in major championship history, also won’t be available. Though he was 20th in points heading into the Deutsche, a reoccurring knee injury flared up, causing him to opt out of the BMW Championship, all but eliminating his Top-30 chances. Stenson noted he would rather save himself for the Ryder Cup than the Tour Championship.

Davis Love III is probably not thrilled by this decision.

LESS PLAYERS. MORE TV COVERAGE.
With only 30 players in the field and no cut, you can count on expanded TV coverage all tournament long, with more shots of the biggest stars. TV coverage starts at 1PM EST on Thursday and Friday on Golf Channel. Saturday coverage starts at 10AM EST on Golf Channel and continues at Noon on NBC, with Final Round coverage beginning Sunday at Noon EST on Golf Channel and switching over to NBC starting at 1:30PM EST. For the full coverage rundown, click here.

So, the end is nigh, the culmination of a phenomenal season in golf. Four first-time major winners. A Sunday 63 to win the Open Championship. A milestone year for runaway Player of the Year favorite Dustin Johnson. Almost six consecutive months at #1 for Jason Day. The resurgence of Paul Casey, Jhonattan Vegas, Ryan Moore, Aaron Baddeley, and others. The rise of Daniel Berger, Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Si Woo Kim, Bryson DeChambeau, and of course, Andrew “Beef” Johnston.

Cheers to the season, cheers to the finale, and of course, cheers to the TOUR Champion.

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