Golf

Why Does Dustin Johnson Get a 10-Stroke Head Start in the 2020 TOUR Championship?

Dustin Johnson doesn’t need any sort of advantage the way he’s playing golf right now. The 22-time PGA Tour winner has a win and two second-place finishes in his last three starts, and he really should’ve won all three tournaments.

Johnson is making the game of golf look impossibly easy, but the Tour is still giving him a head start for the season finale. When the 2020 TOUR Championship begins Friday, Johnson will start the tournament at 10-under-par. How come?

The TOUR Championship used to be a standard scoring tournament

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The TOUR Championship has always been a unique tournament in many ways. It’s the only PGA Tour event that features just 30 players with no cuts. Only the best of the best all season can punch a ticket to East Lake.

It’s also worth more FedEx Cup points than any other tournament all year, so it’s the most important one to win. The winner of the TOUR Championship will be crowned the FedEx Cup champion, and the winner of the FedEx Cup this season will be given a massive $15 million paycheck.

Despite its differences from most tournaments, the TOUR Championship has always been played using standard scoring. Everyone started at even par. May the best man win. This year, however, the best man through four rounds might not end up holding the trophy on Monday afternoon.

The TOUR Championship adjusted its scoring last year to reward the season leaders

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Before 2019, there was always a possibility that the winner of the TOUR Championship didn’t win the FedEx Cup title. It made for a confusing trophy ceremony afterward.

So, the PGA Tour tweaked the system so that the winner of the TOUR Championship is automatically the FedEx Cup champion. To do this, the Tour adjusted the starting scores at the TOUR Championship last season based on the FedEx Cup standings heading in. The top players all season got a head start up to 10-under and the players at the bottom started near even-par.

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan explained the decision last year.

As soon as the Tour Championship begins, any fan — no matter if they’ve followed the PGA Tour all season or are just tuning in for the final event — can immediately understand what’s going on and what’s at stake for every single player in the field. And, of course, players will know exactly where they stand at all times while in play, which will ratchet up the drama, consequence and volatility of the competition down the stretch.

Jay Monahan

It actually makes a ton of sense. The top players should get an advantage for their consistent play all year, and Johnson will get the biggest head start this year.

Where will everyone start the TOUR Championship?

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We know Johnson will start at 10-under, but what about the rest of the field? Here’s where everyone will start when the season finale tees off at East Lake Friday.

  1. Dustin Johnson: -10
  2. Jon Rahm: -8
  3. Justin Thomas: -7
  4. Webb Simpson: -6
  5. Collin Morikawa: -5
  6. Daniel Berger: -4
  7. Harris English: -4
  8. Bryson DeChambeau: -4
  9. Sungjae Im: -4
  10. Hideki Matsuyama: -4
  11. Brendon Todd: -3
  12. Rory McIlroy: -3
  13. Patrick Reed: -3
  14. Xander Schauffele: -3
  15. Sebastian Munoz: -3
  16. Lanto Griffin: -2
  17. Scottie Scheffler: -2
  18. Joaquin Niemann: -2
  19. Tyrrell Hatton: -2
  20. Tony Finau: -2
  21. Kevin Kisner: -1
  22. Abraham Ancer: -1
  23. Ryan Palmer: -1
  24. Kevin Na: -1
  25. Marc Leishman: -1
  26. Cameron Smith: E
  27. Viktor Hovland: E
  28. Mackenzie Hughes: E
  29. Cameron Champ: E
  30. Billy Horschel: E

Rory McIlroy came from five shots off the lead last year to win the TOUR Championship and take home the $10 million prize. Who can make a run from the middle of the pack this year and bank $15 million?