Fascinating end to PGA season

Patrick Cantlay en route to the Tour Championship title and FedExCup victory at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia. - Getty Images/AFP

THE Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia brought the curtain down on the US PGA Tour’s season in what turned out to be a fascinating and closely fought duel between two of the most in-form players in the world this year.

At the end of it all, Patrick Cantlay narrowly held off the protracted challenge of world number one Jon Rahm last Sunday, to win both the Tour Championship title and the season-long FedEx Cup, which duly earned him the US$15mil first prize. He finished with a 21-under total at East Lake to pip Rahm by a single stroke.

Cantlay’s triumph was wrapped up in victory in the final two FedEx Cup playoff events, given that he also captured the BMW Championship the week before.

Rahm, for his part, began the Tour Championship four shots behind Cantlay and put in a gutsy shift to try and reel in the eventual champion. For good measure he was earlier this week crowned PGA Player of the Year – he won the US Open at Torrey Pines in California in June.

Korean-American Kevin Na surprised many when he finished third in the Tour Championship, his best outing at the season-ending tournament yet. For his efforts he took home US$4mil.

Such is the prize money of the Tour Championship that Dustin Johnson in 8th place collected US$1.1mil, and Abraham Ancer and Billy Horschel were awarded US$890,000 each for finishing in a tie for ninth.

According to golflink.com the Tour Championship has a prize purse of US$46mil, of which US$15mil goes to the winner – making it the biggest single payout in all of golf. The runner-up collects US$5mil.

To put things in perspective, Cantlay’s first prize payout is equal to the Players Championship’s total prize money of US$15mil. The winner at Sawgrass takes home US$2.7mil, as did Justin Thomas when he won there in March.

Thomas was fourth at East Lake last week and banked US$3mil.

The Players Championship is not among golf’s four Major championship events, but carries more prize money than any of them.

The US Open has the best prize money of the four Majors – US$12.500, from which the winner collects US$2.25mil, while the Masters and the British Open have US$11.5mil, with the winners each receiving US$2.07mil of the pot.

The US PGA Championship, the fourth and final Major on the Tour calendar, has a purse of US$11mil and a cheque of US$1.98mil for the winner.

The World Golf Championship (WGC) events this season – the Workday Championship, the Dell Technologies Match Play and the FedEx St Jude Invitational, each had prize money of US$10.5mil, of which US$1.82mil went to the winner.

They were (in order) by Collin Morikawa, Billy Horschel and Abraham Ancer.

There was some good cheer for Asia at East Lake when Sung-jae Im set a new PGA Tour record of 498 birdies in a season. That mark eclipsed the previous season’s best of 493 set by Steve Flesch in 2000.

The PGA started counting birdies in 1980 and thus far, the 23-year-old South Korean’s mark is the best.

Im, who the 2020 Honda Classic for his only PGA Tour victory to date, finished joint 20th at the Tour Championship last weekend, for which he was rewarded with US$497,500. He remains Asia’s top-ranked player – 29th in the world – having slipped a couple of rungs this week.

Cantlay is unlikely to play in this week’s Fortinet Championship at Silverado Resort in Napa, California, which will be the start of the 2021/22 campaign.

But the world number four will be looking ahead with some anticipation to the Ryder Cup, when the United States take on Europe at Whistling Straits Golf Club in Kohler, Wisconsin from Sept 21 to 26.

And who knows, Cantlay might just come up against Rahm, in the singles? That would be some fun, again!

Not with as many dollars on the line, but certainly with an measure of needle in it.

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