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Shotgun Start: Previewing the Tour Championship

Jonathan Wall
Devil Ball Golf

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East Lake Golf Club / Getty Images

It's tournament time! The top 30 players in the FedExCup standings travel east to East Lake Golf Club, located in Atlanta, Ga., for the Tour Championship -- the final phase of the PGA Tour playoffs. Here's a tournament primer to get you prepared for the week.

The course: FedExCup courses come and go, but over the years East Lake has remained the one constant, having hosted the Tour Championship since 1998. The course is a classic Donald Ross design that was first established in 1913 and was the home course of one Robert Tyre "Bobby" Jones Jr. Maybe you've heard of him before?

Needless to say, East Lake has some seriously deep golf roots. Just 7,154 yards, the course isn't what you'd call a bomber's paradise. The par-70 layout requires precision off the tee to score, as evident by the the 52.86 fairways hit percentage last year that happened to be the seventh-lowest clip of 49 courses on tour.

But just being accurate off the tee and hitting greens won't cut it if you have aspirations of winning. Three of the past four years, the Tour Championship has gone to the golfer who led the field in putting for the week, so wielding a hot flatstick gives you a leg up on the rest of the competition.

[Related: It's time for Tiger Woods to show what he's made of]

As far as the course is concerned, East Lake's three-hole closing stretch (comprised of two par 4s and a par 3) is without a doubt the most difficult on the course, and likely will make or break the tournament on Sunday afternoon. The 481-yard 16th and 453-yard 17th are stern tests and will likely yield few birdies this week.

While the 16th and 17th are certainly holes to keep an eye, the 235-yard 18th is the most intriguing at East Lake. One of only two par-3 closing holes on the PGA Tour -- the 18th at the Old White TPC, site of the Greenbrier Classic, is the other -- the two tiered-green requires you to hit a precise tee shot to have a birdie opportunity. Anything left or right of the green will likely find a couple deep bunkers that could bring bogey into the picture.

The schedule: The tournament runs Thursday-Sunday. It'll be broadcast on the Golf Channel from 1 to 6 p.m. ET on Thursday and Friday, 12 to 2 p.m. on Saturday and 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Sunday; and on NBC from 2 to 6 p.m. ET on Saturday and 1:30 to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

The field: This is it: we're down to the final 30 players in the FedExCup. The best of the best will be at East Lake this week, so there's really no need to do a rundown of the top names in the field. If you're looking for juicy storylines, know that Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy will once again be paired together over the first two days of the tournament. (Must-see TV!) They been rather chummy over the last few events, but with $10 million on the line and Rory rolling into the Tour Championship with back-to-back wins, you can be sure Tiger will have his game face on. Other notables in the field, to name a few, include Phil Mickelson, Brandt Snedeker, Lee Westwood, Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner and Dustin Johnson.

The video: Check out some of the memorable moments from the Tour Championship's history.

Your turn. Who are your picks for this week? Swing away!

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