The final individual event of the 2013-2014 PGA season kicks off Thursday in Atlanta and the East Lake Golf Club, where the tour’s 29 best players compete for $2.5 million immediately, and $10 million for the right to be crowned as the overall FedEx Cup champion.
East Lake is not only the oldest golf course in Atlanta, but also the home course of the legendary Bobby Jones. Established in 1904, the course first hosted the TOUR Championship in 1998, and has hosted it consecutively since 2004, with past winners including Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Brandt Snedeker, Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson.
The course’s signature hole is No. 6, a 213-yarder that boasts the claim of the first island green hole in the US. This par-3 requires a deft touch or your ball is going to be fetching a drink.
The toughest hole – according to the course’s handicap guide – is the No. 17, a 455-yard par 4. It’s a designer’s demonic dream – a narrow fairway with two bunkers and a lake on the right, and two more bunkers plus a copse of trees on the right.
Not surprising with only 29 players left in play, the pairings are all fantastic at this stage of the game. Even still, there are few more intriguing than others, and whether fans are following them on TV, the Internet or lucky enough to be there in person, here are a few duos to watch out for on Thursday.
1 p.m. – Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer – The only two players to make the final round from continental Europe, they are also two of the top six men in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai. These two have seen each other all over the world this year. They’ll compete here for huge prize money, then turn around in 15 days to be teammates for the European Ryder cup team, only to jump back into “lone gun” mode for the Race to Dubai after that.
1:10 p.m. – Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott – You could have bet good money that Spieth would have at least one win coming into the final tournament of the year, but you’d be going home with an empty wallet. Still, he’s the youngest player left, he had 8 Top 10 finishes and was second at The Masters. Scott hedl onto the No. 1 ranking for a good bit of the year and thrives in big events – he had Top 10 finishes in two Majors, the Memorial, Colonial and Bridgestone, and last week’s stop in Denver.
1:20 p.m. – Rickie Fowler and Jason Day – Fowler, like Spieth above, didn’t actually win a tournament in 2014, but his nine Top 10s and unprecedented four Top 5 Major finishes are truly amazing. Day was very impressive during the first two weeks of the playoff before a back injury forced him out of the BMW.
1:30 p.m. – Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar – He might not like it, but at age 44, Furyk is the Old Man River of this field. He’s also the only guy in the field with a legit chance to win with zero wins this season. Kuchar has never really regained the fire he started the season with.
1:50 p.m. – Bubba Watson and Rory McIlroy – Worried about the demise of Tiger and Phil? These two should have you thinking otherwise. A Southern crowd like Atlanta eats up a guy named Bubba, especially considering he’s won The Masters twice in-state. And McIlroy is likely the most recognizable foreign athlete in the world to American audiences right now.
2:00 p.m. – Chris Kirk and Billy Horschel – If you claim you had these two guys entering the final week leading the field, you’re either a liar or you should stop reading this blog and head for Las Vegas. Their placement just goes to show how vital playing well in the post-season is. Horschel is the hottest thing going with a second place followed by a first place, but Kirk is a resident of Atlanta and graduated from UGA.