FedEx Cup Format 2019: Tour Championship Current Leaderboard and New System Explained

The final event of the PGA Tour season caused a stir before the first round even begun.

For once, however, the pace of play has nothing do with it, as the issues center around The Tour Championship's new format.

As is tradition, the season finale at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia, will feature the top 30 ranked golfers on the FedEx Cup ranking.

That, however, is where similarities with previous editions of The Tour Championship end.

Up until this year, points in the FedEx Cup standings were reset after the BMW Championship. However, the PGA has introduced the "starting strokes" system in a bid to simplify the season finale.

Specifically, it is designed to ensure the winner of The Tour Championship is also the winner of the FedEx Cup.

Since the FedEx Cup Playoffs made their debut in 2007, the winner of the FedEx Cup has differed from the winner of The Tour Championship—the last event of the three-legged playoffs—on four occasions.

That happened twice in the last three seasons, including last year, when Tiger Woods won The Tour Championship and Justin Rose claimed the FedEx Cup

Under the new format, the FedEx Cup leader will start the event at 10-under par, while the second seed will start at 8-under, the third seed at 7-under and so on down to the fifth seed at 5-under.

Justin Thomas, PGA Tour
Justin Thomas of the United States walks to the 18th green during the final round of the BMW Championship at Medinah Country Club No. 3 on August 18 in Medinah, Illinois. Cliff Hawkins/Getty

Players seeded between six to 10 will begin at 4-under, while seeds 11–15 will begin at 3-under, all the way down to seeds 26–30, who will start at even par.

That means Justin Thomas will start at 10-under-par on Thursday, two shots ahead of Patrick Cantlay.

Thomas, who won the FedEx Cup in 2017, took the lead in the standings after winning the BMW Championship in Medinah, Illinois, last weekend, finishing ahead of Cantlay.

World number one Brooks Koepka and 2018 Masters winner Patrick Reed will begin at 7-under and 6-under respectively, with 2016 Tour Championship winner Rory McIlroy a shot further back.

In other words, Koepka could finish The Tour Championship at 16-under, but Thomas would win the tournament if he finished a 10-under because of the seven-shot advantage he holds.

"I think that fans know this is a season-long competition; it's not a tournament," PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan told a press conference Tuesday.

"The FedEx Cup is not a tournament. The Tour Championship is now for the FedEx Cup. So when you make that transition, you have to recognize that there are 45 weeks and 45 tournaments that precede it. As we make this transition, I think you have to take a longer perspective on it."

However, there are concerns the new format will reward players who are coming into form at the right time, rather than those who have shone throughout the season.

The winners of regular PGA Tour tournaments earn 500 points, while the winners of the majors and The Players Championship earn 600 points.

The points at stake in the FedEx Cup playoffs, however, are multiplied by four.

That has allowed Thomas and Reed to move into first and fourth place in the FedEx Cup standings, despite winning just once this year.

Conversely, Koepka and McIlroy have won multiple events this season, but will start three and five shots behind Thomas.

Things have gone even worse for Woods and Open Championship winner Shane Lowry, who were in the top-30 on the FedEx Cup standings when the playoffs began three weeks ago.

Neither will be at East Lake, but Monahan dismissed the suggestion the format was skewed in favor of golfers who performed well in the playoffs.

"It's really hard to get to Atlanta and the Tour Championship," he said. "You've got to play exceedingly well over the course of an entire season.

To further complicate matters, the PGA Tour will keep a separate leaderboard for the four rounds of The Tour Championship discounting the "starting strokes", in order to award Official World Golf Ranking points.

One can only hope this particular leaderboard will not be shown on TV or it could lead to some serious confusion.

The Tour Championship leaderboard

-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