ATLANTA — The 2022-23 PGA Tour FedEx Cup season comes to an end this week at East Lake Golf Club.
There’s still plenty to settle this weekend, including who’s going to take home the FedEx Cup and an $18 million bonus that comes with it. World No. 1 golfer Scottie Scheffler is the No. 1 seed, followed by Norway’s Viktor Hovland and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy.
“It’s obviously good to be back in the position that I’m in,” Scheffler said. “I’m certain that it’s most people’s goal at the beginning of the year is to be No. 1 going into this tournament. It’s a bit of a strange format. I feel like I’ve joked a decent amount about being No. 1 [and how] you don’t get any extra strokes. You show up this week and I do get some extra strokes. So it’s a bit strange, but it should be a fun week.”
There are also a handful of players trying to make an impression on U.S. Ryder Cup team captain Zach Johnson.
The LPGA Tour season continues at the CPKC Open in Canada, where U.S. Solheim Cup captain Stacy Lewisr will be competing and evaluating the contenders for the final roster spots on her squad.
Here’s what to watch in professional golf this week:
What’s next on the PGA Tour
Where: East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta
Defending champion: Rory McIlroy
World No. 1 golfer Scottie Scheffler will start the opening round Thursday at 10 under, which is 2 shots better than the rest of the field. Viktor Hovland, who won last week’s BMW Championship, the second playoff event, starts at 8 under. McIlroy tees off at 7 under, Jon Rahm at 6 under, and Lucas Glover at 5 under.
A year ago, McIlroy started at 4 under and chased down Scheffler in the final round to become the first three-time FedEx Cup champion. In the previous 16 iterations of the FedEx Cup, only three players who started No. 1 in the TOUR Championship went on to win. Tiger Woods did it twice, in 2007 and 2018, as well as Vijay Singh in 2008 and Dustin Johnson in 2020.
“I fell 11 shots behind Scottie after two holes of the tournament [in 2022],” McIlroy said. “So if I can come back from 11 shots, I feel like everyone in this field should feel like they have a chance to win.”
The bad news for Scheffler: In the FedExCup era (since 2007), according to ESPN Stats & Information, no player has won the Tour Championship after finishing as the runner-up the previous year.
Hovland, who has climbed to No. 5 in the world rankings after his latest victory, started last season’s Tour Championship at 2 under. He tied for 15th at 11 under.
“I’m still trying to do the same thing on the golf course, but I think in the back of your mind not starting 10 shots behind makes it a little bit easier,” Hovland said. “You don’t feel like you have to get off to a fast start. You can just kind of play your game and if you make six, seven, eight pars in a row, you’re not stressing out. You’re not thinking, ‘Man, I’m 13 shots back now.’ You’re still right in the thick of it.”
Money, money, money
A $75 million FedEx Cup bonus pool will be distributed after this week, with the top 30 players competing over 72 holes at East Lake to determine how much they’ll make. The winner receives $18 million, second place gets $6.5 million, third takes home $5 million and fourth collects $4 million. The 30th-place finisher leaves with $500,000.
The top 150 finishers in the FedEx Cup points standings will receive some kind of bonus. Ryan Moore, who is 150th in points, will get $85,000. The bonuses will not count toward career earnings.
Money has already been flowing on the PGA Tour this season. In fact, four of the top five spots in single-season on-course earnings were set this season: Scheffler ($21 million), Rahm ($16.5 million), Hovland ($14.1 million) and McIlroy ($13.9 million). Seven players earned at least $10 million (a PGA Tour record), 34 made at least $5 million (another record), 53 collected at least $3 million (another record), and 124 received $1 million or more.
Ryder Cup update
Zach Johnson will make six captain’s picks on Aug. 29.
Thomas missed the FedEx Cup playoffs after finishing 71st in points.
Geoff Ogilvy, a past Presidents Cup vice-captain, said he’d still take the two-time major champion, despite his season-long slump.
“If they don’t take him, it’s the worst call ever,” Ogilvy told Golf Week. “He’s the best head-to-head match player in the world.”
Thomas has a 6-2-1 record in two previous Ryder Cup appearances and 10-3-2 mark in three Presidents Cups, tallying 17.5 points for the Americans.
“JT would be my first pick,” Ogilvy said. “I’ve been inside the ropes at enough Presidents Cups, there’s just no chance you don’t take Justin. He does something to the team. He goes out front and leads and fist pumps and makes everyone behind him believe.”
What’s next on the LPGA Tour
CPKC Women’s Open
Where: Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club, Vancouver, British Columbia
Defending champion: Paula Reto
Solheim Cup countdown
The U.S. Solheim Cup team will be finalized after this week’s CPKC Women’s Open (Canadian Women’s Open). It’s the last qualifying event for the American squad that will compete against Europe at Finca Cortesin in Andalucia, Spain, on Sept. 22-24.
Jennifer Kupcho is fifth in points, followed by Danielle Kang, Lexi Thompson, Andrea Lee, Ally Ewing and Alison Lee. Thompson is 157th in the Race to CME Globe, the season-long points race, and is at risk of losing her LPGA card without having to use a one-time career money exemption. She is only 12.5 points ahead of Lee in the Solheim Cup.
The two highest-ranked players in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Ranking not otherwise eligible after Sunday’s final round also will make the team. Rookie Rose Zhang is 31st in the world and would be the highest-ranked after Kupcho, Kang and Thompson. Angel Yin is 32nd.
Lewis will also make three captain’s picks. She told reporters in Vancouver on Wednesday that she had a list of about 20 to 25 potential players last year. It’s now down to 13 or 14.
“I don’t think anything crazy is going to happen this week,” Lewis said. “I like where we are. We have some scenarios in our head of what’s going to happen. Could be some movement within the points and Rolex. In my head, I don’t think there will be a lot of movement.”
Crank up the computers
Like the U.S. men’s team has done while building up to the past few Ryder Cups, Lewis has pushed the Solheim Cup squad to invest in analytics. She learned that Yin plays very well on bermudagrass, which is going to be the playing surface in Spain. Ewing pairs up well with just about anyone and excels in team events.
“A lot of it is based on the golf course that we’re going to play,” Lewis said. “We’re able to input if they’re hitting driver or 3-wood off the tee and what club you’ll be hitting from there. We now have the data that shows who is going to birdie that length of hole.
“People have trends. They make birdies with certain clubs, so it’s that. I mean, it’s hard to explain. There [are] just consistent players. There [are] more variable players. And they work differently for each format.”
Vu will be back on the course this week for the first time since picking up her second major of the season at the AIG Women’s Open in England. She had earlier captured the Chevron Championship in Texas.
The former UCLA star said there isn’t much that has changed about her life, other than her mindset.
“I think it’s definitely different,” Vu said. “I think I can view golf in a different way now and just have fun and know that my game is good enough to be out here and just keep doing what I’m doing.”
Vu’s father, Douglas, also offered extra motivation before she closed out a 6-stroke victory at Walton Heath Golf Club in Surrey, England.
“Only thing is my dad tried to bribe me,” Vu said. “He was basically saying if I won another major we can get a cat, so I’ve been browsing for that.”