Tour Championship: Winners and losers from Atlanta

Butch Dill/USA TODAY Sports

Tour Championship: Winners and losers from Atlanta

PGA Tour

Tour Championship: Winners and losers from Atlanta

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Here’s a look at some of the winners and losers from the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.

Winners

Rory McIlroy

Almost a year removed from being lapped by Tiger Woods at East Lake, McIlroy delivered a stout final-round 66 to cap a sensational season. While the driver was again awe-inspiring at times (five strokes gained on the field), it was McIlroy’s work around the greens that separated him from the rest (2.467 strokes gained, second in the field).

Staggered scoring

The numbers crunchers at PGA Tour headquarters ran through many years of past Tour Championships and said the strokes-based FedEx Cup points reset would make for a compelling finish. While it may take more getting used to and some tweaks to strengthen season-long rewards, the final round could not have been easier to follow.

First round

The opening day proved to be the most compelling of the season thanks to the new scoring system. Justin Thomas quickly gave back some of his lead. Just as Thomas predicted the day before, there was a genuine sense that leading the FedEx Cup came with big-time pressure. A few short putts and a water ball later, we had a tournament and a sense more drama was coming.

NBC/Golf Channel Production

They had all their stars on site, with Mike Tirico lending a big-event quality. That, combined with tons of production extras – including the use of East Lake aerials to show viewers where drives finished and launch monitor data overload – gave the Tour Championship an extra sprinkling of special.

Justin Thomas

Technically the loser on paper since he started the week 10-under par, Thomas still saved an injury-plagued season with a final-round 68, strong playoffs and honest assessment about the burden of starting with a two-stroke lead.

East Lake rough

After a birdiefest at Medinah where even fans of red numbers felt uncomfortable, the short-by-modern-standards remodeled Donald Ross design held its own against the world’s best in peak form. The magnificent conditioning even went noticed by players, who often take today’s amazing manicuring for granted.

Losers

Money

Hearing from announcers how much money was on the line felt undignified at times given the setting: the home of lifelong amateur Bobby Jones. For an organization that raises more for charity than all other major sports combined, perhaps each player can designate a $1 million charitable beneficiary if they are fortunate enough to win the $15 million prize?

Season long points and playoff early rounds

Given how many times during the year fans have to hear about the importance of every FedEx Cup point, the sudden meaninglessness of positioning was felt by Friday night at East Lake. Points will always matter to get inside the top 15 or the tour’s top 125, but bloated allotments for the first two playoff events negated the importance of regular-season consistency. The new staggered scoring at East Lake even defused advantages gained at the Northern Trust and BMW, putting players who enjoyed nice, but non-championship seasons within plausible reach of $15 million.

East Lake pins

A few in the final round looked like they were on the fringes. The NBC announcers repeatedly mentioned how they’d never seen many of the locations used, code for “borderline.” Asking for exceptional shots is one thing, but the totality of so many super-tucked pins seemed to stifle final round excitement.

Atlanta in August 

A lightning strike Saturday injured six fans and left players questioning why tee times did not start until 1 p.m., even with the forecast showing a strong chance of afternoon storms. Tour officials said they were trying to get “lucky” missing the storms and a blunt admission about not moving times from the PGA Tour’s Mark Russell suggests August is not the month to visit Atlanta. “I think if we did that every time we had a possibility of thunderstorms in the Southeast, we’d do that basically every time we played golf.”

Whoever decided not to move up tee times Saturday

A thirty-player field affords the luxury of getting play in before forecasted storms arrive. The PGA Tour was lucky no one was seriously injured from two lightning strikes on the property.

Weekend before Labor Day weekend

The PGA Tour’s season-ending playoffs have felt uncomfortably jammed in between the final major and the start of football season. The move to late August was designed to help fans enjoy one more burst of golf before they move on to football and baseball pennant races. But with the increasingly beloved Little League World Series cutting into ratings and the Florida-Miami game moving to Saturday (with Gameday turning up), college football’s new kickoff weekend may now be Tour Championship weekend. So much for having the weekend all to golf.

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