Now for the final act.
After Dustin Johnson won the first FedEx Cup playoff event by shooting 30-under par and after Jon Rahm’s 66-foot mind-bending birdie putt to beat Johnson on the first extra hole in the BMW Championship, the FedEx Cup playoffs arrive at their conclusion this week at the Tour Championship.
The 30-player event at East Lake has a hard act to follow.
(pictured above), Rahm and Justin Thomas – the three top-ranked players in the world – will start the season finale in the top three positions as they chase the $15 million bonus.
Johnson will start the Tour Championship at 10-under par, two strokes ahead of Rahm and three in front of Thomas. It’s an advantage, but considering Johnson has gone 1-2 in the playoff events his edge could evaporate in one hole at East Lake where a summer’s worth of Bermuda grass rough awaits players.
“Obviously the goal was to be No. 1 going into East Lake, and I am still No. 1,” said Johnson, who holed a 43-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to force the playoff.
“I like my position. I feel like the game is in really good form right now. I'm really, really pleased with all aspects of the game. I'm really looking forward to next week and a chance to win the FedEx Cup.”
Before the playoff format was adjusted last year, effectively seeding players based on their standing among the 30 who advanced, Johnson would start the season-ending event with a more significant advantage.
Last year Thomas began with the lead, Rory McIlroy won the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup after starting the final event five strokes behind Thomas.
It will be a harder climb for McIlroy this year because starting in 11th place, he will begin seven strokes behind Johnson at East Lake as he tries to become the first three-time FedEx Cup champion.
For Rahm, the victory at difficult Olympia Fields was his second since the PGA Tour season restarted and came a day after he cost himself one stroke when he accidentally picked up his ball from the fifth green without marking it. At the time, Rahm wasn’t near the lead but he made a 6-foot putt for bogey after the mistake and went on a roll from there.
The last man into the East Lake field was Mackenzie Hughes, who made the elite event for the first time. Knowing what a par at the difficult par-4 finishing hole meant – a spot in all four major championships, all of the World Golf Championship events and the Sentry Tournament of Champions – Hughes had to grind to get in.
After a good tee shot, he dumped his approach shot into a greenside bunker then needed to hole a slippery 5-foot par putt to lock up his trip to Atlanta.
“That’s the last hole you want to have to make a par on,” Hughes said. “I totally messed up the second shot but somehow got it done. … I just somehow willed it in.”
Among the players who failed to advance to East Lake were Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Paul Casey, Bubba Watson and Gary Woodland.
Ron Green Jr.