In addition to exemptions into many invitationals, all 30 qualifiers for the TOUR Championship receive points in the 2023 editions of the Masters, US Open and The Open Championship. While these are safe, prize money collected at the end of the tournament varies.
Included in the Starting Strokes link at the top is the bonus money reserved for the golfers who advanced to the TOUR Championship. The winner will bank $18 million, tenth place pays $1 million, while last promises $500K. (The earnings are unofficial.)
For the fourth consecutive edition of the TOURNAMENT Championship, Starting Strokes sets the starting scoreboard. It is designed to reward performance through the BMW Championship and you can think of its effect as the result of a round that has already ended. Scoring relative to the Starting Strokes contribution is all that matters.
Last year, Patrick Cantlay opened as the top seed at 10-under. He scored an 11-under 269 in four rounds to total 21-under and win by one over Jon Rahm. The Spaniard opened as the fourth seed at 6-under and scored a 14-under 266.
In 2019 and 2020, exactly six golfers rose from outside the opening top 10 upon arrival to record a top 10 in the tournament. Five did it last year, including Billy Horschel, who opened at even par and finished T9 at 10-under. His jump of 29 is the best since Starting Strokes was introduced.
A dozen of the qualifiers are experiencing Starting Strokes for the first time, 10 of which are tournament debutants overall. The learning curve at East Lake is slightly flattened due to open position, but course management influenced by history on it can serve as speed cracks on the smallest board of the season.
East Lake is the same stock par 70 that recent entrants have played. It tees off at 7,346 yards and greens basically average just over 6,000 square feet. Speeds are controlled to a fast 13 feet, so, and as usual, it requires the full bag for the final exam. That said, classic summer weather in Hotlanta could soften the turf every day, so scoring could be lower than usual. (The field checked in at 68,805 last year.) Rain and the potential for storms command attention throughout, but the overall impact should be minimal given the size of the field. Wind won’t be a factor and daytime temperatures will comfortably climb into the 80s.
While the FedExCup Playoffs are now old enough to drive, East Lake always serves that up off the tee. The par 5s are among the most winnable on the schedule. In his four trips through Nos. 6 and 18, Cantlay birdied each one every time.
Speaking of the defending champion, he is in an unprecedented place twice. After becoming the first to successfully defend a FedExCup Playoffs event at last week’s BMW Championship, not only can he become the first to win consecutive events in the Playoffs for a second time (2021), but he would be the first to successfully defend. the FedExCup itself. Of course, if he were to do so, then he would also become the second to successfully defend a FedExCup Playoffs event after last week’s feat.
Whoever claims the title will be credited with an official PGA TOUR win. With that comes an invitation to the 2023 Sentinel Tournament of Champions, for which one-third of the field is still ineligible. Newcomers Cameron Young and Sahith Theegala not only and will probably decide who voted Rookie of the Year, but they are the only two non-winners on TOUR in the field. The champion will also extend its membership status to the maximum of five seasons until 2027.
Moreover, in January it was announced that Andrew Green and his design firm will renovate East Lake after next year’s TOUR Championship. If you like his work, you don’t have to look far to find more of it. He was also responsible for the upgraded South Course at Wilmington Country Club ahead of last week’s BMW Championship.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.com’s Rob Bolton recaps and previews each tournament from multiple perspectives. Look for his next contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Draws & Fades
WEDNESDAY: Pick ‘Em Preview
SUNDAY: Qualifiers, Reorganization, Rookies Rank
* – Rob is a member of the PGATOUR.COM Expert Picks panel for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesdays.