Adam Scott, the former world No 1, has labelled the Tour Championship “a big old exhibition with a pot of gold at the end” as the PGA Tour’s season finale employs a bizarre scoring format to find the $15 million (£12.3 million) champion.
Never before will a professional golfer have started the first round with a two-stroke advantage and Justin Thomas admits it will be a “weird” sensation on Thursday. The American hurtled to the top of the FedEx Cup standings with a win in Chicago at the weekend, meaning he will begin the famous East Lake event on 10 under.
With the 30-strong field handicapped based on their positions in that points list, the player in second, Patrick Cantlay, will tee off on eight under, with Brooks Koepka, in third, on seven under, and then a sliding scale down to the players in 26th to 30th on level par.
Understandably, Thomas is at a loss to explain how he will feel. “I truly have no idea,” he said. “Nobody in the history of this sport has experienced this.”
This is just a part of a radical revamp inspired by the PGA Tour’s desperation to avoid the awkward scenario of crowning two winners on Sunday – that of the FedEx Cup and the Tour Championship. And with the first prize hiked from what was already an obscene $10 million, the officials are certain they will raise eyebrows and, thus, interest.
However, Scott – the Australian who starts in Atlanta on three under – is also adamant the unprecedented system will raise the hackles of at least one competitor. “I’m sure someone is going to be very disappointed with it,” Scott said, referring to the strong possibility that the player taking the fewest shots in the 72 holes will not receive any silverware.
If that has the obvious potential to leave a bitter taste, then so, too, does the fact that this latest incarnation of FedEx Cup, as the US circuit’s supposed “season-long race”, is hardly favouring consistency. For instance, Koepka, with three wins, one major and eight top 10s, might well wonder why he has to concede three shots to Thomas, who has one win and six top 10s.
Scott, however, would advise Koepka not to take the FedEx’s grandiose claims too seriously. “You can play great all year and not win and you can play average all year and win,” said Scott. “It’s hard to know what it is.”