Tour Championship: Steve Palmer's final-day analysis, free tips, TV details
Justin Thomas set for second FedEx Cup success
TV: Sky Sports Golf, 4.30pm Sunday
Story so far
It had all been going so well for FedEx in their hope for an exciting denouement to the FedEx Cup, with all eyes focused on a thrilling finish between the elite for the $15m first prize, but the Georgia weather intervened early in round three to change the dynamic.
PGA Tour chiefs issued a baffling set of third-round tee-times – even with thunderstorms forecast, they sent the leaders out at 3.20pm local time – and the final twoball of Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas completed just five holes before play was suspended for lightning.
The blunder means a marathon Sunday lies in store for both players and spectators, with the action set to resume at 1pm UK and Ireland time. It remains to be seen whether Sky Sports provide a red button Tour Championship service during their final-round Scandinavian Invitation coverage.
Thomas is one shot ahead, his ball in prime position in the fairway, 220 yards from the flag, at the par-five sixth, so he will be hitting his second shot when play resumes feeling confident of making an immediate birdie.
Rory McIlroy, one shot behind Thomas, is already on that sixth green in two shots, requiring two putts from 43 feet to make birdie. Koepka, one shot behind, is out of position off the tee at the sixth, while Xander Schauffele is in the right rough through the green in two shots, so birdies will not be as straightforward for that duo.
-12 Justin Thomas (through 41 holes)
-11 Rory McIlroy (41), Brooks Koepka (41)
-10 Xander Schauffele (41)
-9 Chez Reavie (43), Paul Casey (42)
-7 Patrick Reed (43)
-5 Gary Woodland (48), Matt Kuchar (43), Adam Scott (43), Patrick Cantlay (42)
9-4 R McIlroy, J Thomas, 100-30 B Koepka, 7-2 J Thomas, 15-2 X Schauffele, 22 P Casey, 35 C Reavie, 70 P Reed, 150 P Cantlay, 200 bar
The Tour Championship and FedEx Cup appears to have developed into a four-runner race between a quartet of the best players in the sport and it is difficult to pick between them going into Sunday.
Although there are 31 holes still to play, a tight finish seems likely given the quality of all four superstars, so punters may be best advised to assess who would be most likely to handle the rigours of a $15m bum squeak down the stretch. This has become a physical challenge with a 31-hole Sunday, but remains more of a mental challenge with so much glory and money on the line.
Rory McIlroy should join the lead with a two-putt birdie at the sixth, but given the fragility he has shown in recent weeks in missing the cut in the Open Championship, then folding in a Sunday duel with Brooks Koepka for the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational, it would be a surprise should he manage to hold himself together to see off Koepka, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele in a closely contested Tour Championship.
Koepka admitted to a crisis of confidence prior to this event, working hard on his swing with coach Claude Harmon to restore self-belief, and the world number one may not be as trustworthy as he usually is over the final stretch. He teed off this week carrying arguably more pressure than anyone else in the field, given that he has clearly been the outstanding performer of the year and nobody is more deserving of the FedEx Cup. Koepka's record this year betters anyone else, yet he started three shots adrift on the new handicap system and will be fuming if he fails. A loose drive at the sixth does not set him up well for a fast start to this marathon Sunday.
Xander Schauffele, two shots behind and far from certain to make birdie at the sixth, is the only player in the quartet without a Major title to his name. His status and bank balance is greatly inferior to his Tour Championship rivals, two of whom have won the FedEx Cup before, and the stuttering start to round three has left him up against it.
The player it is most difficult to question and the one who rates the best value going into what is hopefully the final day is Thomas, who won the FedEx Cup in 2017. He missed a couple of tiddlers early in the week and his pre-tournament two-shot lead did not last long, and a flat back-nine in round two did not bode well, either. Five rock-solid holes in round three, though, indicate last week's BMW Championship winner is back in the groove.
The pre-event handicap system, which Thomas admitted made him feel uncomfortable in round one, appears to have been forgotten by players and fans alike going into Sunday. Thomas will just see himself at the top of the leaderboard and know that he has started round three with five greens in regulation, hitting every fairway and every green, and the swing which saw him dominate the BMW Championship is still very much there.
Thomas should make birdie after a solid drive at the sixth hole, keeping his nose in front as he boards the seventh tee, and the softening of the course by the storms will only help this pint-sized powerhouse. He ripped a soft Medinah to pieces last week and can gallop to the line at East Lake, where his form figures of 6-2-7 are respectable.
Chez Reavie leads Paul Casey by a shot in the 'without handicap market', but all eyes are on the FedEx Cup battle and Thomas is best equipped to emerge triumphant.
A cloudy, calm day is forecast, and any thunderstorms should be short and sharp, so the tournament should get completed on time.
J Thomas to win FedEx Cup
2pts 9-4 general
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