September 17, 2018
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
FedExCup update: The final 30 in Atlanta
The PGA TOUR took a week off before its season finale, but the Monday Finish isn’t taking a break. Instead of looking back at last week, we will look ahead to the TOUR Championship and the race for the FedExCup. Here are some numbers you need to know before the action gets underway Thursday at East Lake.
1. THE YOUNG AND VICTORIOUS
FedExCup leader Bryson DeChambeau celebrated his 25th birthday on Sunday. That could be a good omen. The average age of the past four FedExCup champions? Twenty-five years old.
That’s a drastic difference from the first seven FedExCups, when the average champion was 35.1 years old.
DeChambeau leads the FedExCup after winning the first two events of the Playoffs. He and Rory McIlroy are the only players to win multiple Playoffs events before the age of 25. Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele and Justin Thomas are the only other players to win a Playoffs event before the age of 25.
DeChambeau’s wins were the ninth and 10th victories this season by a player 25 or younger. That’s tied for the second-most in TOUR history (since the PGA TOUR started keeping age records in 1970).
Most wins by 25 and under
In 2000, Tiger Woods accounted for nine of the 10 wins by a player aged 25 or under.
2. DRIVE FOR DOUGH
Here’s a quick look at how the TOUR Championship field ranks in the four Strokes Gained statistics. Though the saying “Drive for show and putt for dough” has been around for decades, the modern thinking on TOUR is that ball-striking is the true key to consistent success. It’s obviously important to putt well, and each player gets it in the hole in a different fashion, but the game’s top ranks are dominated by its best ball-strikers.
Average ranking of TOUR Championship qualifiers
Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee: 54.2
Strokes Gained: Approach: 42.2
Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green: 58.7
Strokes Gained: Putting: 69.4
TOUR Championship qualifiers in top 20
Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee: 13
Strokes Gained: Approach: 11
Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green: 9
Strokes Gained: Putting: 5
Nearly half of the TOUR Championship field is in the top 20 of Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee. Eight of the top nine players in that statistic – Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Gary Woodland, Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Francesco Molinari, Patrick Cantlay and Rory McIlroy – qualified for East Lake.
3. DJ’s FEDEXCUP QUEST
Dustin Johnson is fourth in this year’s FedExCup standings. He has already finished in the top five of the FedExCup four times, tied with Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk for most top-five finishes in FedExCup history.
Woods (2007, ’09) and Furyk (2010) each have a FedExCup victory included among their handful of high finishes. Johnson is seeking his first.
This is the 10th consecutive season that Johnson has qualified for East Lake, the longest streak on TOUR. He finished a career-best second in the 2016 FedExCup. He shared the 54-hole lead at that year’s TOUR Championship but shot 73 in the final round. Rory McIlroy beat Ryan Moore in a playoff to win the TOUR Championship and FedExCup (Johnson would have claimed the Cup if Moore had won the playoff).
Johnson finished fourth in last year’s FedExCup.
4. WISE FOR HIS AGE
Aaron Wise is the only rookie to qualify for East Lake, a feat that should make him a lock to win the Rookie of the Year award. Just two years ago, Wise was winning the NCAA Championship as a sophomore at Oregon.
Wise, 22, is in a select group to make the TOUR Championship at such an early age. Only Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Sergio Garcia and Si Woo Kim have made the TOUR Championship at an earlier age.
Wise arrives at East Lake ranked 21st in the FedExCup standings.
He turned pro immediately after winning the national championship, then graduated from the Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada that same year. He needed just one season on the Web.com Tour to graduate to the PGA TOUR.
Wise has won in each of his first three pro seasons, claiming a title on each of the three tours he has played in his brief career.
5. XANDER RETURNS
Xander Schauffele waited until the 11th hour to earn the opportunity to defend his TOUR Championship title. Schauffle jumped from 41st to 18th in the FedExCup with his third-place finish at the BMW Championship.
The TOUR Championship may be the toughest title to defend in golf. There are no invitations for past champions. Every player, even the previous year’s champion, must finish in the top 30 of the FedExCup to make it to East Lake.
Schauffele is just the fourth player in the FedExCup era to earn an opportunity to defend his TOUR Championship title. Phil Mickelson (won in 2009), Brandt Snedeker (2012) and Jordan Spieth (2015) are the others.
Schauffele hasn’t won this season after his two-win rookie campaign, but he has had several impressive finishes in some of golf’s biggest events. In addition to his third-place finish at Aronimink, he was runner-up at both THE PLAYERS Championship and Open Championship and sixth at the U.S. Open.
The pressure of increased expectations has had an impact on Schauffele. He finished third in last season’s FedExCup, the highest finish ever by a rookie. He had been a career-long underdog, an overlooked member of the sterling Class of 2011 who starred at a smaller school (San Diego State). Now he’s one of the game’s top prospects.
“I felt like I was supposed to come out here (this year) and win and make it look easy. It’s been quite the contrast,” Schauffele, 24, said at the BMW. “We’re dealing with that and just trying to get better.”