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There’s an $18million payday awaiting the winner of this week’s Tour Championship, and while there are plenty of big names set to do battle after the East Lake field was confirmed, there’s plenty of stars who will be watching from the sidelines for one reason or another.
Injury has ruled out some, while loss of form has seen others fail to qualify. And of course, those that have signed to LIV Golf have been deemed ineligible and will not be playing. The top 125 finishers in the FedEx eligibility list, which replaced the Fedex standings and removed all LIV players, qualified for the St Jude Championship. The top 70 after that headed to last week’s BMW Championship, with the top 30 making it to the Tour Championship.
A whole raft of Major winners will be missing from the field. In the five years from 2016-2020, there were 15 Majors played, but only three of the winners will play this week at East Lake. Those that have qualified are guaranteed $500,000, even if they finish 30th this week, making it even more painful for those on the outside looking in.
1. Tiger Woods
The biggest name in golf for more than 20 years, and while he’s not quite the force he once was, Tiger Woods is still a name golf fans like to see in any event. He is one of those recent Major winners not playing, the 2019 Masters being the last of his 15 Major wins. Tiger has struggled to regain full fitness following his serious car crash last February, and lack of playing time saw him finish way down in 213th on the FedEx eligibility list.
2. Will Zalatoris
After a stellar season, Zalatoris was set to start to start the Tour Championship in third place at 7-under-par, but injury has forced him to pull out. He was actually leading the standings going into the BMW Championship, having won his maiden PGA Tour event a week earlier, the FedEx St Jude Championship, but he had to retire from that event and has confirmed his absence from the Tour Championship and Presidents Cup with herniated discs.
3. Shane Lowry
The 2019 Open champion missed out on an invite to East Lake by the slenderest of margins, finishing in 31st on the list, one short of the qualification places. In fact, as Adam Scott found the greenside bunker on the 18th green needing a par to deny the Irishman, Lowry will have fancied his chances, but Scott held it together to get up and down and Lowry was left languishing. Even the withdrawal of Zalatoris didn’t benefit him, with no replacements called up.
4. Gary Woodland
Another 2019 Major winner who didn’t qualify, although Woodland was a long way short compared to Lowry. He finished 75th on the eligibility list and bowed out after the St Jude Championship. The former US Open winner has had a down year, with only a couple of tied 5th finishes to show for his efforts.
5. Danny Willett
The 2016 Masters champion will not tee it up at East Lake. He missed the whole of the FedEx playoffs, having finished 130th on the eligibility list. He’s had only one top 10 finish on the PGA Tour this season and won less than $1million there.
6. Tommy Fleetwood
Tommy has not played since his tied-4th place finish at the Open in mid-July. He decided to take some time to be with his family following the passing of his mother and sat out the playoffs. He had qualified in 47th place, which meant he could have played both the St Jude and BMW Championships and would have had a decent shot at making the top 30 and the Tour Championship. He has confirmed he will be in the field for the ZOZO Championship in October.
7. Justin Rose
The 2013 US Open winner needed a strong showing at the St Jude Championship if he was to progress in the playoffs, but a disastrous 75 followed his opening 71, meaning he missed the cut at 6-over, finishing with only Stewart Cink below him. That pulled the plug on any dreams the former World No.1 had of making the Tour Championship.
8. Francesco Molinari
The 2017 Open champions is another recent Major winner who misses out. The Italian was not involved in the playoffs at all, finishing 137th on the eligibility list. He’s had only one top 10 on the PGA Tour this season, earning just over $800k.
9. Jimmy Walker
The 2016 PGA Championship winner, Walker finished 189th on the eligibility list, way outside the 125 playoff positions, and is another who will be watching the Tour Championship on TV. He’s had no top 10s this season, with a best finish of joint-24th, and has earned only $210k on Tour.
10. Jason Day
Another former World No.1 who won’t be at East Lake, Day started the playoffs in fine form, opening at the St Jude Championship with a five-under-par 65. It all went wrong the next day however, when he posted a 74, nine shots worse than his opening round, missing the cut by one. That was end of his hopes of making the BMW Championship and ultimately the Tour Championship.
11. Rickie Fowler
The nearly man of golf, who has finished in the top three of all four Majors without winning one, just scraped into the top 125 and therefore needed a strong showing at the St Jude to stand a chance of making the BMW Championship. He started well, and was at 7-under-par and set to challenge for the top-10 finish required as he approached the last hole of his third round. However, a disastrous quintuple bogey at the final hole, which saw him find the water twice, ruined the round, tournament and any chances of continuing in the playoffs.
12. Kevin Kisner
Kisner had a chance of making the Tour Championship, but needed a big result in the BMW Championship, and he never really got going. He ended up 38th in the eligibility list after a T48 finish at Wilmington Country Club, ending at level par. While others seized their opportunity and played their way in, a frustrated Kisner could only watch as the likes of Adam Scott and Scott Stallings flew up the standings while he dropped from 28th out of the qualifying spots.
Jeff graduated from Leeds University in Business Studies and Media in 1996 and did a post grad in journalism at Sheffield College in 1997. His first jobs were on Slam Dunk (basketball) and Football Monthly magazines, and he's worked for the Sunday Times, Press Association and ESPN. He has faced golfing greats Sam Torrance and Sergio Garcia, but on the poker felt rather than the golf course. Jeff's favourite course played is Sandy Lane in Barbados, which went far better than when he played Matfen Hall in Northumberland, where he crashed the buggy on the way to the 1st tee!