Tour Championship: Top 5 players to watch this week at East Lake

Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports

Tour Championship: Top 5 players to watch this week at East Lake

PGA Tour

Tour Championship: Top 5 players to watch this week at East Lake

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ATLANTA – Exciting times ahead for this week’s Tour Championship at East Lake, where a fundamental understanding of algorithms and FedEx Cup points projections is no longer needed to follow the action.

All 30 players in the field now directly control their own destiny and don’t need to rely on other players’ results to figure out their standing – just get to the top of the leaderboard come Sunday.

It’ll be a tougher climb for some with the PGA Tour unveiling its new tiered scoring system, giving higher-ranked players a head start with under-par scores before they tee off.

FORWARD PRESS PODCAST: Previewing the Tour Championship

Will the new format clear up viewer confusion and inject some drama into the proceedings? Could someone come from eight shots back to start the week and take home the $15 million bonus?

We’re about to find out. Here are five players to watch at this week’s Tour Championship.

Justin Thomas

The 2017 FedEx Cup champ starts the week at 10-under, with a two-stroke advantage over Patrick Cantlay. Seems a little unfair after he just boat raced the BMW Championship field to win by three at 25-under-par. But the guys behind him in the gates aren’t exactly easy money. He’ll have to go out and earn the $15 million with another solid week and avoid overly conservative play with the early lead.

Patrick Cantlay

Cantlay finished the 2017-18 season ranked 153rd in Strokes Gained putting. So it’s impressive to see him at 14th this season, and he’s coming off his two best putting performances of the year with 1.496 Strokes Gained putting at the BMW Championship and 1.151 at the Northern Trust. The rest of Cantlay’s game is so solid that he’ll be extremely tough to beat this week if he can keep it rolling on the greens. Huge props for the year’s Most Improved Putter.

Brooks Koepka

He’s already a lock for Player of the Year, and he’s only three shots behind Thomas starting the week at 7 under in the new format. Results were average in the first two playoff events, but what could possibly be more on-brand for Koepka than swooping into East Lake and leaving with $15 million and his first FedEx Cup title?

Kevin Kisner

Well behind the eight ball starting the week eight shots back at 2 under, but the game is looking good. He finished T-9 at the BMW Championship and T-12 at the Northern Trust, and was T-3 when he last teed it up at East Lake in 2017. The University of Georgia alum seems like a sneaky-good upset pick this week.

Sungjae Im

He’s the only rookie in the field this week and should earn Rookie of the Year honors over Cameron Champ after a Cal Ripken-esque season. Im made a ridiculous 35 starts this year, racked up seven top-10s and caught a few eyes in the process – Joel Dahmen’s caddie, Geno Bonnalie, tweeted last week that Im was “The most impressive player I’ve ever seen.” Now would be a good time to start paying attention.

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