Golf: Injured Zalatoris out of Tour C'ship; Cantlay slams FedEx Cup's scoring method

Will Zalatoris withdrew after a back injury during the third round. It was later diagnosed as two herniated discs. PHOTO: AFP

MIAMI (AFP, REUTERS) - Will Zalatoris has withdrawn from this week's PGA Tour Championship and next month's Presidents Cup after suffering a back injury at the BMW Championship last weekend, his management team said on Tuesday (Aug 23).

The 26-year-old world No. 9 had been riding high after winning the St Jude Championship on Aug 14 - his first PGA Tour title and the first leg of the season-ending FedEx Cup playoffs. He is currently No. 3 in the playoff standings.

However, the three-time Major runner-up withdrew from last weekend's BMW in Delaware after suffering a back injury during the third round that was later diagnosed as two herniated discs.

Playing the third hole on Saturday, he tweaked his back noticeably. He tried to continue, with stretching and a trainer visit, but withdrew after the fourth hole while just four strokes off the lead.

Zalatoris, 26, was slated to start at East Lake three strokes behind Scottie Scheffler in the Starting Strokes format.

"Unfortunately this means that Will is unable to play this week at the Tour Championship," his agent Allen Hobbs said in a statement.

"He is also very disappointed that he will not have the opportunity to play in next month's Presidents Cup, where he was hoping to play for Captain (Davis) Love and represent the United States.

"He is fully focused on getting healthy and back onto the course as soon as he is able."

In Atlanta, the complex and often criticised system for determining the FedEx Cup champion is again a topic of discussion at the Tour Championship.

And as he sets out to defend his 2021 title, Patrick Cantlay continues to be among the system's detractors.

Before 2019, the winner of the Tour Championship did not necessarily win the season-long FedEx Cup title too. The PGA Tour changed it so that any of the 30 players who qualify for the Tour Championship had a theoretical shot at winning the FedEx Cup by tying the two together.

The PGA Tour accounted for the difference in FedEx Cup points among players by implementing a "staggered" start, in which the points leader begins the Tour Championship 10 under par, second place begins at eight under and so on down the list.

Though a beneficiary of the system, Cantlay remains opposed to it.

"I've talked before about it. I'm not a fan," he said on Tuesday at East Lake Golf Club. "There's got to be a better system, although frankly I don't know what that better system is."

Cantlay rocketed into first position last year by winning the BMW Championship and the corresponding 2,000 FedEx Cup points that come with winning either of the first two legs of the playoffs. He then held off Jon Rahm of Spain at East Lake to capture the FedEx Cup.

Cantlay did not score the lowest aggregate 72-hole score that week. Rahm and Kevin Na did, at 14-under 266. But Cantlay began the tournament at 10 under, enough of an advantage to edge out Rahm.

"I've played pretty poorly here in general other than last year," Cantlay said.

He noted that Xander Schauffele came close in 2019 and shot the best 72-hole score in 2020 but has not won a FedEx Cup.

Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick entered the week 15th in points, meaning he will start the Tour Championship at three under. Players in sixth through 10th entering Atlanta are beginning at four under.

"I don't know who's on one shot ahead of me. I don't know who it is," Fitzpatrick said. "But I feel like the guy that finished sixth and I finished 15th, I think that's right, I'm right in thinking he's only one shot ahead of me I think is probably a little bit unfair, I guess. I feel like he probably should be more."

So how to solve it?

Fitzpatrick floated the idea of placing the qualifying players into a match-play setting.

"Golf is just so different from the other sports," Fitzpatrick said. "That's why I think looking at match play would probably be more of an answer because you've got a team that makes the Playoffs in last place or whatever and you don't think they're going to go anywhere, and then they end up going all the way. And then you could have a guy say in 90th gets all the way to the final."

As it stands this week, Scheffler will start the Tour Championship at 10 under, Cantlay in second at eight under and Schauffele in third at six under.

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