We’ve reached the final week of the truncated 2019-20 US PGA Tour season, but some players’ minds are already on other matters. AFP Sport looks at this week’s talking points in golf:
– Rory ‘can’t wait’ for baby –
Before the coronavirus shutdown Rory McIlroy was close to his very best — back at world number one after six consecutive top-five finishes, including a WGC victory in Shanghai.
Since the restart, his struggles with only two top-15 finishes in eight starts had seemed inexplicable… until now.
During the BMW Championship last weekend, the Northern Irishman revealed why his mind may have been elsewhere.
McIlroy and wife Erica are expecting the birth of their first child, a daughter, any day now.
“I think from the get-go my mind has been wandering the last few weeks, and now you guys sort of know the reason why,” said the four-time major winner.
“I didn’t think it was something that I really particularly needed to share out there. It’s a private matter, but we’re really excited and can’t wait for her to get here.
“You’re going out to play and maybe not knowing whether you’re going to finish the round or not. Look, it’s definitely not an excuse. I just haven’t played well enough.”
He still intends to defend his Tour Championship and FedEx Cup crown this week in Atlanta, but will not hesitate to jump on a plane if he gets a call.
“I’m going to play in many more Tour Championships and it’s only going to be the birth of your first child once.”
– DJ in driving seat –
For the first time since the US PGA Tour playoffs began, the top three players in the FedEx Cup standings entering the Tour Championship are also the top three players in the rankings — Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas.
For the second year running the FedEx points are wiped clean and replaced by a handicapped leaderboard for the winner-takes-all shootout at East Lake.
With a victory and runner-up finish in the two playoff events so far, “DJ” Johnson is rewarded by starting at a nominal 10-under par with at least a two-shot cushion to everyone else in the 30-man elite field chasing the massive $15 million first prize.
BMW Championship winner Rahm begins at eight-under, Thomas seven-under but world number four McIlroy, if baby allows, will have to make up seven shots from three-under par to become the first player to win the FedEx Cup three times.
Bringing up the rear at even par are numbers 26-30 in standings Cameron Smith, Viktor Hovland, Mackenzie Hughes, Cameron Champ and Billy Horschel.
– Tiger on familiar hunting ground –
The 2018 Tour Championship winner, Tiger Woods, did not make the top 30, so will instead be able to rest his creaking body ahead of an assault on a 16th major at the US Open in two weeks.
He also can look forward to a title defence at the Zozo Championship next month, not in Japan where he won it last year, but in California after the event was moved because of coronavirus restrictions.
Woods won’t be too unhappy at the new, temporary venue. He has six victories at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks.
It was the site of the Woods-hosted World Challenge from 2000-2013, where he didn’t afford his guests many favours, winning five times.
He also beat David Duval in the televised “Showdown at Sherwood” match between the world’s top two in 1999.
Last October Woods won the Zozo Championship — the first US PGA Tour event in Japan — to tie Sam Snead’s all-time tour victory mark of 82.
Claiming the outright record at Sherwood might just set up the 15-time major winner nicely for his rescheduled Masters defence in November.
– World rankings –
Top 10s, week beginning August 31, 2020:
1. Dustin Johnson (USA) 9.96
2. Jon Rahm (ESP) 9.87
3. Justin Thomas (USA) 8.34
4. Rory McIlroy (NIR) 7.86
5. Collin Morikawa (USA) 7.53
6. Webb Simpson (USA) 7.03
7. Brooks Koepka (USA) 6.14
8. Bryson DeChambeau (USA) 6.02
9. Patrick Reed (USA) 5.76
10. Adam Scott (AUS) 5.42 (+1)
1. Ko Jin-young (KOR) 7.97
2. Danielle Kang (USA) 6.28
3. Nelly Korda (USA) 5.67 (+1)
4. Park Sung-hyun (KOR) 5.57 (-1)
5. Minjee Lee (AUS) 5.24
6. Kim Sei-young (KOR) 5.19
7. Nasa Hataoka (JPN) 4.94
8. Park In-bee (KOR) 4.88
9. Brooke Henderson (CAN) 4.65
10. Kim Hyo-joo (KOR) 4.48