When the PGA Tour changed the format for the Tour Championship, it was supposed to make the proceedings at East Lake much clearer. No longer would there be two different winners, one for the FedEx Cup and one for the Tour Championship, which had happened twice in the last three seasons. One winner, one grand prize, and no more confusion.
Unfortunately for the tour, the new format, which we've yet to actually see, has created just as much if not more confusion than the old format, at least for the casual fan. Things are going to look a little strange on Thursday in Atlanta, where Justin Thomas will begin a tournament with the lead without having hit a shot yet. How's it all going to work? We answered every burning question.
What will the leader board look like?
The leader board is based off where the top 30 players who qualified for East Lake finished in the standings. Justin Thomas' win at the BMW Championship vaulted him into the No. 1 overall spot, meaning he will begin the Tour Championship with a two-shot lead over Patrick Cantlay, who locked up the second spot in the standings thanks to his runner-up finish at Medinah. Brooks Koepka, who was the clear No. 1 when the playoffs began, has dropped to third. Here's what the full leader board will look like with "starting strokes" before the first shot is struck Thursday:
-10 — Justin Thomas
-8 — Patrick Cantlay
-7 — Brooks Koepka
-6 — Patrick Reed
-5 — Rory McIlroy
-4 — Jon Rahm, Matt Kuchar, Xander Schauffele, Webb Simpson, Abraham Ancer
-3 — Gary Woodland, Tony Finau, Adam Scott, Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama
-2 — Paul Casey, Justin Rose, Brandt Snedeker, Rickie Fowler, Kevin Kisner
-1 — Marc Leishman, Tommy Fleetwood, Corey Conners, Sungjae Im, Chez Reavie
Even — Bryson DeChambeau, Louis Oosthuizen, Charles Howell III, Lucas Glover, Jason Kokrak
So there are no longer two different winners?
Correct. Since the FedEx Cup Playoffs' inception in 2007, there have been four instances of separate Tour Championship/FedEx Cup winners, including two of the last three seasons. Last year was the most notable occurrence, as it was Tiger Woods who claimed the Tour Championship while Justin Rose, who finished with a final-round three-over 73, won the FedEx Cup. This year, there will be only one winner, and it could be any of the 30 players in the field. In previous years, chances of a player in 30th place winning the FedEx Cup were slim, but this year that player (Jason Kokrak) could win the whole thing if he can come from 10 shots down to start the week.
But wait, what if Jason Kokrak shoots 14-under for the week, and Justin Thomas shoots five-under but has the lower total at 15 under? Kokrak can beat Thomas by nine shots over four days and lose?
That's right. If Kokrak shoots rounds of 65, 67, 68 and 66 to post 14 under for the week, and Justin Thomas goes 69, 69, 70 and 67 to get to 15 under, Thomas would be the winner even though Kokrak was nine shots lower for the week. That is the advantage Thomas earned himself with his BMW victory that got him the No. 1 spot.
Will there be two separate leader boards?
The PGA Tour will keep a separate leader board just for the four rounds played at East Lake without "starting strokes" and Official World Golf Ranking points will be awarded based off that. It's unclear whether that leader board will be shown on the broadcast, but it seems doubtful that it would, because it will only create more confusion.
What will the winner receive? And the rest of the payouts?
The other big change this year is to the payout, otherwise known as the FedEx Cup bonus money, a record $70 million if you include the $10 million that was distributed among the Wyndham Rewards top 10 winners. There is no longer a purse for the Tour Championship, just bonus money given based off a player's finish at East Lake. This year's winner will receive $15 million, a $5 million increase from the previous top prize. The runner-up will earn $5 million, and every player at East Lake will make at least $395,000. Below are the payouts for each player finishing inside the top 10:
1st place - $15 million
2nd place - $5 million
3rd place - $4 million
4th place - $3 million
5th place - $2.5 million
6th place - $1.9 million
7th place - $1.3 million
8th place - $1.1 million
9th place - $950,000
10th place - $830,000
What happens if there is a tie?
If players are tied for first at the end of the Tour Championship, there will be a sudden death playoff to determine the FedEx Cup winner. If players further down the leader board are tied, the FedExCup bonus distribution will be allocated using the same method the tour currently uses to distribute prize money in the event of a tie. The total money for each tying position will be averaged and that average will be distributed to each player in the tying position.
Will it count as an official victory for the Tour Championship winner?
Yes, even though the winner may not shoot the lowest 72-hole total for the week, it will count as an official PGA Tour victory.
What else does the Tour Championship winner get?
The winner also receives a spot in the 2020 Sentry Tournament of Champions as well as a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour.
What if a player withdraws from the Tour Championship or is disqualified?
If a player WDs or gets DQ'd, he automatically finishes in 30th place.
Who are the notable players that did not qualify?
Tiger Woods, the defending champion at East Lake, will not get to defend his title because he finished outside the top 30 (42nd) in the FedEx Cup standings. For the second straight season, Jordan Spieth will also miss out on East Lake, as he finished in 44th on the points list. Past FedEx Cup champions Billy Horschel, Henrik Stenson and Jim Furyk all failed to qualify this year, as did Open Championship winner Shane Lowry, who began the BMW Championship in 25th place but fell to 33rd thanks to a T-48 at Medinah. Jason Day, who struggled for much of 2018-'19, also did not finish in the top 30.