Golf: 'Mad scientist' Bryson DeChambeau sitting pretty for huge bonus at Tour Championship

DeChambeau aside, Rose, Finau, Johnson and Thomas will win US$10m with the title

ATLANTA • Bryson DeChambeau is taking his unorthodox approach to golf to the next level as he heads into today's Tour Championship, where FedExCup honours and the US$10 million (S$13.7 million) winners' bonus are on the line.

Every man in the elite field of 30 has a mathematical chance of claiming both titles at East Lake.

But only DeChambeau, who leads the standings after winning the first two play-off events, the Northern Trust and Dell Technologies Championship, and four others would be guaranteed the overall prize by winning the US$9 million season-ender.

World No. 1 Justin Rose, Tony Finau, Dustin Johnson and defending FedExCup champion Justin Thomas round out the quintet.

Still, no player has as favourable a scenario as DeChambeau, since the 25-year-old American can finish as low as 29th place and still bag the top prize.

And the Southern Methodist University graduate is leaving nothing to chance, with the physics major aiming to become the first top seed going into the final event to win the FedExCup since former world No. 1 Tiger Woods in 2009.

The sport's "mad scientist", known for using analytics to improve his swing, caused a stir on social media on Tuesday after he was observed to be hitting golf balls that had been sprayed with water to replicate East Lake's morning dew.

If the world No. 8 fails, he would stand alongside Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy (2012) and Australian Jason Day (2015) as winners of two of the first three play-offs events without taking home the big prize.

The Englishman Rose, DeChambeau's flight mate, is considered one of the favourites as he is coming off a pair of runner-up finishes, notably at the BMW Championship, while Finau has been consistent all season and was recently selected as the final captain's pick for the US Ryder Cup team by Jim Furyk.

Bryson DeChambeau on the putting green practising for the Tour Championship - the FedExCup play-offs' finale - at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia, on Tuesday, as coach Stephen Harrison shades him with an umbrella.
Bryson DeChambeau on the putting green practising for the Tour Championship - the FedExCup play-offs' finale - at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia, on Tuesday, as coach Stephen Harrison shades him with an umbrella. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Thomas, who is aiming to become the first player to retain the FedExCup title, tweaked his wrist during the final round of the BMW Championship, but the injury has given him time to clear his head.

"I'd never had an injury before," said the world No. 4, whose wrist was wrapped in medical tape at his pre-tournament news conference.

"But in all honesty, this time of year, it's nice to take time off. You're better off being mentally fresh."

The tournament also represents one final chance for Woods to close his comeback season with a win.

The 79-time PGA Tour winner, who is making his first appearance at the elite event since 2013, can become the FedExCup's first three-time champion, having won previously in 2007 and 2009, but that scenario is out of his hands.

Not only does the 14-time Major champion have to finish on top of the leaderboard, but DeChambeau must also finish with no better than a share of 15th, while relying on help from others.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan believes that regardless of Woods' final ranking, the return of the fully fit 42-year-old has had a "tremendous and significant" impact both on and off the course.

  • FEDEXCUP STANDINGS

  • 1 Bryson DeChambeau 2,000 

    2 Justin Rose 1,800 

    3 Tony Finau 1,520 

    4 Dustin Johnson 1,296 

    5 Justin Thomas 1,280 

    Any of the top five players will claim the FedExCup if they win the Tour Championship and the 2,000 points that come with it.

"If people ask me if that is a good or a bad thing, my answer is that Tiger's return has been so positive as you only have to witness the fan reaction at the tournaments Tiger has elected to play this year," he said, while referencing March's Valspar Championship, which saw a surge in ratings to an average 6.9 million viewers in the final round, with Woods finishing runner-up to Paul Casey.

Monahan also confirmed a raft of major changes to next season's PGA Tour schedule, with the FedExCup play-off series to be reduced from four to three events with a new final event scoring system.

He added that there was to be a 5 per cent increase in prize money, with the overall FedExCup winner receiving US$15 million and an improved US$60 million bonus pool from US$25 million.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2018, with the headline ''Mad scientist' sitting pretty for huge bonus'. Print Edition | Subscribe