THE TOUR Championship
Presented by Coca-Cola Notes
Vijay Singh leads the field in TOUR Championship experience, playing in his 15th TOUR Championship. Ernie Els is next, playing in his 13th tournament, with Phil Mickelson in the field for the 12th time in his career.
Anthony Kim, Kevin Sutherland, Dudley Hart, Ken Duke, D.J. Trahan, Ryuji Imada, Andres Romero and Bubba Watson are all playing for the first time.
There are five past champions of THE TOUR Championship in the field. They are Billy Mayfair (1995), Phil Mickelson (2000), Mike Weir (2001), Vijay Singh (2002) and Chad Campbell (2003).
Twelve players have made the field both seasons that THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola has been the finale of the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup. They are Vijay Singh, Camilo Villegas, Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk, K.J. Choi, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Stewart Cink, Hunter Mahan, Robert Allenby, Ernie Els and Tim Clark.
Two players moved into the field (from outside the top 30), thanks to strong finishes at the BMW Championship. Dudley Hart improved from 67th to 14th in the standings, while D.J. Trahan moved to 25th after beginning the tournament in 35th place.
Andres Romero is the 16th rookie to play in THE TOUR Championship since its inception, joining Robert Gamez (1990), John Daly (1991), Vijay Singh (1993), Ernie Els (1994), David Duval (1995), Woody Austin (1995), Tiger Woods (1996), Stewart Cink (1997), Carlos Franco (1999), Notah Begay III (1999), Todd Hamilton (2004), Zach Johnson (2004), Sean O’Hair (2005), Trevor Immelman (2006) and Brandt Snedeker (2007).
East Lake Golf Club closed on March 1 this year and will reopen for THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola this week. During the time the course was closed, East Lake has renovated all putting surfaces and greenside bunkers and completed other competitive enhancements to the former home club of World Golf Hall of Fame member Bobby Jones.
E NOTES FROM THE PGA TOUR
This week’s field at THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola features eight players who have won a total of 14 major championships. The 30-man field has also collected 21 victories this season and a total of 192 career titles. All but four of the 30 players have career victories and 11 countries are represented.
Winning is obviously important, but don’t underestimate consistency. The 30-man field at THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola features 15 players who have won this season, but still 15 others who have won this year did not qualify.
Nine of the 30 players in the final field for the final PGA TOUR Playoff event for the FedExCup began the playoffs outside the Top 30. Dudley Hart made the biggest move climbing from 68th place in the FedExCup standings all the way to 14th.
There are five former TOUR Championship winners in the field this week—Billy Mayfair (1995), Phil Mickelson (2000), Mike Weir (2001), Vijay Singh (2002) and Chad Campbell (2003). However, only Mickelson and Singh claimed their titles at East Lake GC, site of this week’s event.
The field average last year at East Lake GC was 68.325—the lowest scoring average of any event on TOUR last season.
David Duval finished T22 last week at the Viking Classic for his best TOUR finish since a T16 at the 2006 U.S. Open.
A quick look at the stats would make you think that Ryan Palmer is having a great year. He’s first in Birdies (4.11 per round), 2nd in Putting (1.723), T28 in hitting his approach shots close to the hole and 34th in Ball Striking. He’s also 134th on the money list. How can that be? The answer would appear to be his short game. He’s 161st in Scrambling (54.7%) and T172 in Sand Saves (43.3%).
When R.W. Eaks won the most recent Champions Tour event, the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn, it continued his great play at the event. In his last three starts at the tournament, Eaks has won twice and lost in a playoff the other year. He’s 48-under par for those three starts. He now has four wins in his last 32 starts on the Champions Tour after beginning his career 0 for 89.
Hale Irwin can probably point to his putter for his struggles this year. In his storied career on the Champions Tour, Irwin has led the circuit in Putting four times and has finished among the Top-10 eight times. This year, he’s 73rd on the Tour.
The defending champ of this week’s SAS Championship is Mark Wiebe. Despite winning that event in 2007, Wiebe is a candidate for Rookie of the Year honors this year since he competed in only four Champions Tour tournaments in 2007. He’s got tough competition for that honor, though, with Bernhard Langer, Jeff Sluman and John Cook also having standout rookie campaigns.
The Nationwide Tour is taking this week off before the stretch run of four final events. Brendon de Jonge is currently the leading money winner, but he’s just $7,911 ahead of number two, Jarrod Lyle.
The Nationwide Tour will be well represented at this week’s THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola with 14 of the 30 competitors having come from the Nationwide Tour.
Grinding it out week to week has paid off for Matt Bettencourt. The winner of last week’s Oregon Classic is tied with five others for the most starts on Tour this year, having played in 25 of the first 26 events. Three weeks ago, Bettencourt was 77th on the money list, but after finishing 5th and 1st in his last two outings, he’s now 19th in strong position to earn a spot among The 25 and earn his PGA TOUR card for 2009.