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Tour Championship 2017

Round 4 - Xander Schauffele & Justin Thomas both winners

September 24, 2017

Rookie Xander Schauffele outdid the big guns to win the Tour Championship on Sunday but Justin Thomas hit the jackpot by taking home the $10 million prize for claiming the FedEx Cup playoff title.

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The 23-year-old Schauffele fired a two-under 68 in the fourth round to became the first rookie to win the Tour Championship as he beat Thomas by one shot at East Lake golf course.

Thomas put the finishing touches on his breakthrough season by closing with a 66 to claim the PGA Tour's playoff title and the $10 million first place prize that goes with it.

"As a competitor you are mad that you didn't win the tournament but then you realize what an unbelievable honour this is, the fact that you can win something over the entire course of the season," said Thomas, who won five tournaments in 2017, including the PGA Championship.

"I played really well over the season and it is nice to finally play well in some playoff events and have it all pay off."

The last time different players won the tournament and the FedEx Cup was in 2009, when Phil Mickelson won the Tour Championship and Tiger Woods won the Cup.

Jordan Spieth made a run at the FedEx Cup title with a Sunday charge but his three-under 67 left him in second place overall, 660 points back of Thomas in the standings.

"He has that belief now that he can make it happen," Spieth said of Thomas. "The progression he has made this year into becoming a phenomenal closer has been a pleasure to watch."

The Tour Championship is the last of four events of the FedEx Cup playoffs and the finale to the PGA Tour campaign for the 11th consecutive season.

Thomas' playoff win brings to a close the year-long schedule that began last October in California.

Five players, including Thomas, controlled their own playoff destiny if they could capture the Tour Championship this week, but Schauffele came out of the shadows to make it interesting. Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Marc Leishman and Jon Rahm also could have all won the FedEx Cup title with a Tour Championship victory.

Schauffele finished with a 12-under 268 total, one stroke ahead of Thomas.

Russell Henley (65), and Kevin Kisner (70) tied for third at 10-under 270.

England's Paul Casey, who began the final round with the lead, struggled from the beginning. He had back-to-back bogeys on the front nine and wound up with a 73 and finished in fifth at 271. The consolation prize for Casey is he gets to go home and see his newborn daughter for the first time.

Spieth made a run but finished in a tie for seventh at seven-under 273 and was left to muse about missed opportunities.

"I almost cheated my way into winning the FedEx Cup when (Thomas) really deserved it," Spieth said.

Schauffele added some drama to his final hole when his two foot putt for the win ringed the cup before falling in.

"I thought I missed it, that's why I couldn't' even react to celebrate because I thought I just missed a two-footer to win," Schauffele said.

Rory McIlroy, the 2016 FedEx Cup champion, finished 58th in the FedEx Cup standings and did not qualify to play this year in the Tour Championship.

Round 3 - Paul Casey takes two shot lead

September 23, 2017

Paul Casey had an easy time keeping it simple even as he was presented all the scenarios, projections and possibilities of winning $10 million for the FedEx Cup.

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''They went in one ear and out the other,'' Casey said. ''All I know is that none of them matter if I don't win. So I have to win.''

And for a guy who has gone more than eight years and 143 starts on the PGA Tour since his last victory, winning the Tour Championship was his sole objective when he left East Lake on Saturday evening with a two-shot lead.

Casey closed out the front nine by twice having to get up-and-down for bogey, and then he kept a clean card the rest of the way. He holed a 40-foot birdie putt from the back of the 17th green that carried him to a 5-under 65, giving him another chance to finally have something to show for his stellar performance in the FedEx Cup playoffs.

He lost a three-shot lead at the TPC Boston a year ago. He ran into Dustin Johnson at Crooked Stick. Six times in his last eight FedEx Cup playoff events, he has finished among the top five. And he's still trying to earn that first PGA Tour victory since the 2009 Houston Open.

At stake Sunday is not only a chance to end the drought, but to take home the richest payoff in golf - a $10 million bonus, with $9 million paid out immediately.

''It would be amazing,'' the 40-year-old from England said. ''Yes, I have given that thought. And then I try not to think about it.''

Casey was at 12-under 198.

Kevin Kisner had a 64, his best round at East Lake by three shots, and still rued too many birdie chances that burned the edge of the cup. He left East Lake in a hurry without too much reflection on his round or his chances so he could take a helicopter to Georgia's football game.

''You can't win the FedEx Cup if you're not at the Tour Championship,'' Kisner said. ''And to have a chance on Sunday is all we can ask for.''

Also two shots behind was Xander Schauffele, the PGA Tour rookie who looks comfortable on a big stage against some players he hasn't had the occasion to meet this year. The 24-year-old from San Diego made it into the Tour Championship by playing his final six holes in 6-under par last week at the BMW Championship. He showed that explosive scoring again in the third round at East Lake for a 65.

''I had nothing to lose last week, and I have absolutely nothing to lose this week,'' he said.

The top five seeds in the FedEx Cup only have to win to claim's golf's biggest payoff, and those numbers are dwindling.

Justin Thomas, the No. 2 seed and a five-time winner this year, was tied for the lead and played in the final group with Casey. He fell back with a three-shot swing on the par-5 sixth hole when Casey made eagle and Thomas missed the fairway and chopped his way to a bogey. Thomas made a double bogey on No. 14 from another wild tee shot and a three-putt from about 35 feet.

Two birdies over the last three holes gave him a 70, and he was still in the mix at five shots behind.

Jordan Spieth, dressed all in black, opened the back nine with consecutive bogeys, and then missed a 3-foot birdie putt on No. 12. He put together three birdies to salvage a 69, though he was eight shots behind. Even so, as the No. 1 seed, the FedEx Cup was not out of reach. Spieth could still move up the leaderboard, though he likely would need someone other than Casey to win, and to stay near Thomas on the leaderboard.

''Unfortunately, I'm not really in control of my own destiny at this point, but I'll go out tomorrow, try and shoot a really solid round of golf and then do some cheerleading,'' Spieth said.

Jon Rahm, the No. 5 seed, had to settle for a 70 and was six shots behind. Dustin Johnson (No. 3) had a 69 and will be paired again Sunday with Spieth in a tie for 13th.

Casey wants to leave town with at least one trophy.

His last victory was the KLM Open on the European Tour in 2014. His biggest victory to date was the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, England, in 2009, the year in which he won three times and rose to No. 3 in the world.

''This would be the biggest victory of my career at the latest point in my career,'' he said. ''It would be very, very satisfying.''

Round 2 - Trio share halfway lead

September 22, 2017

With two swings, Justin Thomas showed that every shot counts in the FedEx Cup, even at the season-ending Tour Championship.

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Thomas had six players ahead of him Friday when he smashed a 335-yard drive down the bottom of the hill on the par-5 18th hole at East Lake, and then a 5-iron that settled 6 feet below the cup for a closing eagle.

Just like that, Thomas had a 4-under 66 and a share of the lead with Paul Casey and Webb Simpson and was back in control - a loose term the way this tournament is shaping up going into the week - of his chase for the $10 million bonus.

''It's nice to have everything in my own hands and know that if I just take care of what I need to do, then it's over,'' Thomas said.

It's not over yet, not even close.

Casey stumbled with some errant tee shots into the troublesome rough for back-to-back bogeys in a 67 that slowed his momentum. Simpson paid for a wild drive on No. 13 with a double bogey and made nothing pars coming in for a 67.

They joined Thomas at 7-under 133.

As one of the top five seeds, Thomas only has to win the Tour Championship to capture the FedEx Cup. Even a third-place finish might be enough to take home golf's richest bonus depending on who wins.

But that list is plenty deep after two sweltering days at East Lake.

Jon Rahm, the No. 5 seed who also has a clear path to the top prize, played bogey-free for a 67. He was one shot behind, along with Patrick Reed (65), Justin Rose (66) and Gary Woodland (67), all of them trying to win for the first time this year.

Dustin Johnson, the No. 3 seed, has been sputtering along. He failed to birdie either of the two par 5s, managed only a 69 and still was only four shots behind.

''I just want to get within striking distance,'' Johnson said. ''If I can get it within three, I would be happy.''

He was four behind, so it doesn't require much math to figure out he's not far away.

Jordan Spieth was lucky to still be just four shots behind. The No. 1 seed in the FedEx Cup missed five straight greens in regulation on the back nine and kept in the game with some crucial par putts. He had to settle for a 70 and headed straight for the practice area.

Twenty players from the 30-man field were under par, meaning they were separated by just six shots with 36 holes ahead of them.

''It's the easiest one to win because there's only 30 guys,'' said Kevin Kisner, who shot another 68 and was three behind. ''But then I look up there and everyone is 6 under, and it doesn't look so easy.''

Thomas made birdies with a wedge in his hand, failed to save par from a bunker on the fifth hole, and then turned a mediocre round into a solid one with that 5-iron into the 18th for birdie.

He already can state his case as the best player on the PGA Tour this year, with five victories and his first major at the PGA Championship. Thomas outlasted Spieth and Marc Leishman to win at the TPC Boston three weeks ago, and now he's tied for the lead going into the weekend at East Lake.

Much like Spieth in 2015 when he ended his best season with the FedEx Cup, Thomas would love to have the perfect ending.

''I want to win any week,'' he said, ''but it definitely would be a nice cap.''

Casey and Simpson are enduring long droughts. Casey last won at the KLM Open in 2014, while Simpson last won four years ago in Las Vegas. Both overcame a few stumbles on the back nine to share the lead.

Casey seems to have done everything but win the last three years, with six top-5 finishes in the last eight FedEx Cup playoff events.

''It would cap off a very good season, make a very good season a great season,'' he said. ''Yeah, it would be a lot of satisfaction in that. Hopefully, ask me again on Sunday and I can give you the full explanation. Right now, I'm too busy just trying to focus on trying to string together four great rounds of golf. It's amazing how this golf course just bunches and you can't seem to get away.

''Guys are right there, sort of biting at your heels,'' he said. ''So it's going to be a tough one.''

Round 1 - Kyle Stanley leads with opening 64

September 22, 2017

Kyle Stanley and Jordan Spieth got off to strong starts in the Tour Championship with entirely different goals in mind.

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Stanley ran off four straight birdies on the front nine, one of them from 40 feet, and then added two more late in his round on a steamy Thursday afternoon at East Lake for a 6-under 64. In his Tour Championship debut, he had a two-shot lead over a group that included U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka.

Spieth had a 67, and while it was a grind, he had no gripes about that.

He is the No. 1 seed in the FedEx Cup, and no one from the top five had a lower score. That kept Spieth on track in his bid to join Tiger Woods as the only two-time winners of the $10 million bonus since the FedEx Cup began in 2007.

The top five seeds only have to win the Tour Championship to claim the FedEx Cup, though there have been three occasions where someone else won at East Lake and walked away with golf's biggest payoff when the leading players faltered.

That explains why Spieth spent more time looking at the leaderboard than he typically does in the opening round.

''I don't know the scenarios, so it really doesn't make a difference for me to watch the scoreboard other than to figure out how to get to the leaders,'' he said. ''It's a weird scenario teeing off last when it's the first round and there's only 30 guys.''

And it didn't help to see what Stanley was doing.

Stanley, the No. 22 seed and a long shot for the FedEx Cup, thought East Lake was plenty tough during the practice rounds. He just didn't make it look that way, stuffing a wedge into 2 feet on No. 3 to start his run of four straight birdies.

He extended his lead by hitting a tee shot over the water to a front pin on the nervy par-3 15th and making his 18-foot birdie, and then holing a 10-foot birdie on the 16th.

''I don't have too good of a game plan for this golf course seeing it for the first time,'' Stanley said. ''But I felt like maybe that would be key, just hitting a lot of fairways and giving myself chances on second shots.''

Stanley isn't too wrapped up about the $10 million bonus, though Bill Haas won it in 2011 as the No. 25 seed.

He was two shots ahead of Koepka - who played bogey-free - Webb Simpson, Paul Casey and Daniel Berger, who made eagle on the final hole.

Spieth was among five players at 67 that included two other top seeds, Justin Thomas (No. 2) and Jon Rahm (No. 5). Rahm made eagle on the par-5 sixth, and he nearly ended his round with another eagle.

For Spieth, it was a struggle.

He spent most of the week trying to eliminate the right side of the golf course and thought he had that ironed out. And then he pulled his opening tee shot Thursday and was happy just to reach the green on East Lake's toughest hole for par. He hit a sharp draw on the par-3 11th, turning and swinging his club in disgust as it bounded down a hill. He turned to his caddie and said, ''We might have to hit a provisional,'' fearing the ball would leave the property.

Instead, he took two shots to reach the green, the second a daring flop from the Bermuda rough to a pin that ran away from him. He hit that to 2 feet for bogey.

That was the last of his blunders. He settled in with three straight birdies and a tough par from the bunker on the par-3 ninth, and then couldn't make a putt. Spieth missed four birdie chances inside 12 feet on the back nine.

''I get done and look back and I'm surprised we're at 3 under,'' he said. ''I felt like it was really a grind out there, and it's just because the first four, five holes of the round, I was all over the place tee-to-green. And then my whole back nine, I had a chance to birdie all but one of the holes and only made one of them.''

The good starts by Spieth, Thomas and Rahm are not helpful for most of the players around them. Koepka is the No. 9 seed, with Casey at No. 10, so they would need the top seeds to stumble over the next three days.

Dustin Johnson, the No. 3 seed, is not out of the picture after his bogey-free round. His problem was that he made only two birdies, the first one on the par-3 11th hole and the other with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 18th. He had a 68.

Marc Leishman, at No. 4 coming off his victory in the BMW Championship last week, opened with a 71.

Scores

1 USA Xander Schauffele -12 18 -2 69 66 65 68 268
2 USA Justin Thomas -11 18 -4 67 66 70 66 269
T3 USA Kevin Kisner -10 18 Par 68 68 64 70 270
T3 USA Russell Henley -10 18 -5 67 71 67 65 270
5 ENG Paul Casey -9 18 3 66 67 65 73 271
6 USA Brooks Koepka -8 18 -1 66 69 68 69 272
T7 ESP Jon Rahm -7 18 -1 67 67 70 69 273
T7 USA Jordan Spieth -7 18 -3 67 70 69 67 273
T7 USA Tony Finau -7 18 -4 68 71 68 66 273
T10 ENG Justin Rose -6 18 -1 68 66 71 69 274
T10 USA Matt Kuchar -6 18 -3 69 71 67 67 274
T10 ESP Sergio Garcia -6 18 -3 73 66 68 67 274
T13 USA Patrick Reed -5 18 2 69 65 69 72 275
T13 USA Webb Simpson -5 18 Par 66 67 72 70 275
15 USA Daniel Berger -4 18 -2 66 70 72 68 276
16 USA Pat Perez -3 18 -1 68 68 72 69 277
T17 USA Dustin Johnson -2 18 2 68 69 69 72 278
T17 AUS Jason Day -2 18 4 69 67 68 74 278
19 USA Gary Woodland -1 18 4 67 67 71 74 279
T20 USA Jason Dufner Par 18 2 68 67 73 72 280
T20 USA Kyle Stanley Par 18 3 64 73 70 73 280
T20 USA Patrick Cantlay Par 18 -1 74 66 71 69 280
23 CAN Adam Hadwin 1 18 Par 71 67 73 70 281
T24 USA Brian Harman 3 18 Par 72 70 71 70 283
T24 AUS Marc Leishman 3 18 2 71 71 69 72 283
T26 JPN Hideki Matsuyama 6 18 Par 75 68 73 70 286
T26 USA Rickie Fowler 6 18 -1 73 74 70 69 286
T28 USA Charley Hoffman 9 18 2 73 73 71 72 289
T28 USA Kevin Chappell 9 18 -1 76 72 72 69 289
30 VEN Jhonattan Vegas 10 18 4 72 74 70 74 290

 





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