ATLANTA — Scottie Scheffler came within one stroke of winning the FedEx Cup last season, and he’ll start the opening round of Thursday’s Tour Championship with a 2-stroke advantage over the rest of the 30-man field.
The world No. 1 golfer still isn’t convinced the Tour Championship, with its staggered-scoring format, is the best way for the PGA Tour to decide its season-long champion and winner of an $18 million bonus.
“I wouldn’t say that it is the best format to identify the best golfer for the year,” Scheffler said Wednesday at East Lake Golf Club. “Jon Rahm played some of the best golf of anybody this year and he’s coming into this tournament fourth and he’s 4 shots back. And, in theory, he could have won 20 times this year and he would only have a 2-shot lead.”
Scheffler will start the Tour Championship at 10 under. Hovland will be at 8 under, McIlroy at 7 under, and Rahm at 6 under. Open Championship winner Brian Harman is among five golfers who will begin the tournament at 4 under. The rest of the field will start 3 under to even.
“I mean, I get it,” Scheffler said. “It’s made for TV. It may be more exciting for the fans to have this type of format. But as players I think it’s not the best identifier of who is playing the best throughout the year. But with that being said, I’m starting this week with a 2-shot lead and, I mean, I’m not complaining about it.
“It’s pretty nice. And we’re playing for a lot of money this week and I’m very grateful for that. But as far as identifying the best player throughout the year, I don’t think it’s the best format.”
Last season, Scheffler was first in points and started the Tour Championship with a 2-stroke lead at 10 under. He carded a 5-under 65 in the first round, followed by a pair of 4-under 66s. He had a 6-shot lead over McIlroy and Xander Schauffele heading into the final round.
Scheffler could manage only a 3-over 73 over the final 18 holes and lost to McIlroy by a stroke.
“Definitely wanted to end the season on a better note than I did last year, for sure,” Scheffler said. “What did I learn? I think you take something away from every tournament. I don’t know if impatient is the right word, in the final round, but I just didn’t get off to a good start. After that, I played really well. So I learned about myself that, you know, how much I like to fight out there, and I kind of had a good talking to to myself. I think I lost that six-stroke lead pretty early in the round.
“I remember walking down No. 8 and kind of just having a talk with myself about, you know, ‘This is why you practice. This is why you prepare.’ Just kind of give yourself a little pump-up speech, and then after that I snapped right back in.”
McIlroy was 11 strokes behind Scheffler at one point last season before winning his third Tour Championship. Unlike Scheffler, McIlroy said he likes the current format.
“I do like it this way,” McIlroy said. “I think it gives the guys that have had the better years an advantage going into the week, which I think they should have. If anything, Scottie this year, he probably should have more of an advantage than a 2-shot lead. But it makes it an exciting week, you know, if guys feel like they have a chance to win. Of all the iterations of the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup playoffs, I think this is the best one yet.”