Leader Scheffler questions format at Tour Championship

World number one Scottie Scheffler of the United States putts during a practice round ahead of the US PGA Tour season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta (Kevin C. Cox)
World number one Scottie Scheffler of the United States putts during a practice round ahead of the US PGA Tour season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta (Kevin C. Cox)

Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm, each chasing a first FedEx Cup title at the season-ending Tour Championship, say there must be a better way to determine a PGA Tour season's top player.

World number one Scheffler topped the season points race and thus earned a two-stroke lead over his nearest rival for the 30-player showdown starting Thursday at East Lake in Atlanta.

"I wouldn't say it's the best format to identify the best golfer for the year," Scheffler said on Wednesday.

"I mean, I get it. It's made for TV. It may be more exciting for the fans to have this type of format. But as players it's not the best identifier of who is playing the best throughout the year."

Scheffler will begin the tournament on 10-under par with Norway's Viktor Hovland, last week's playoff winner at Olympia Fields, next at 8-under in the quest for an $18 million season playoff bonus.

Defending champion Rory McIlroy opens on 7-under, Masters champion Rahm on 6-under and Memphis playoff winner Lucas Glover on 5-under with others gaining strokes based on season points.

The event winner is season champion, unlike the prior format, where the points leader could lose the event but take the playoff crown.

"I don't think it's the best we can come up with," Rahm said. "I did like the old format where, if you came in number one, you really rarely ever fell out of the top three. I thought that was a little bit better."

The Spaniard sees it as the "easiest to understand" format but one that falls short.

"It feels like it's more than just one week. It's a culmination of a whole year," Rahm said. "So it has a little bit of a different special feel to it."

Scheffler was overtaken in last year's final round by three-time FedEx Cup winner McIlroy, who is happy with the status quo.

"I certainly see the reasoning of trying to have it all one competition and not having 'two' winners. I do like it this way," McIlroy said. "It gives the guys that have had the better years an advantage going into the week, which I think they should have.

"If anything, Scottie this year, he probably should have more of an advantage than a two-shot lead. But it makes it an exciting week if guys feel like they have a chance to win."

Since winning March's Players Championship, Scheffler has nine top-five finishes in 13 starts, with runner-up efforts at the PGA Championship and last week.

"I'm most proud of how I've approached each week and my consistency," Scheffler said. "Definitely my most consistent year as a professional."

McIlroy likes his odds as well, with top-10 efforts in his past nine starts, including a Scottish Open triumph and US Open runner-up effort.

"This has been a good place to me over the years," McIlroy said. "In a great position to try to add another FedExCup title to the mantle piece."

- Gamblers seek an impact -

Asked about a spectator trying to affect Max Homa's as he putted last weekend over a bet, Rahm said such things are all-too common.

"We hear it every single round. It's very, very present," Rahm said. "The tour maybe should look into it because you don't want it to get out of hand.

"It's very easy in golf if you want to affect somebody. You're so close, you can yell at the wrong time.

"But at the same time, it would be extremely difficult for the tour to somehow control the 50,000 people scattered around the golf course."

McIlroy said he and other Tour Policy Board members have discussed the issue for years.

"It is a bit of a slippery slope," McIlroy said.

"As long as it's policed the right way and as long as there's measures put in place... we're all for people out here having a good time and being able to put something on an outcome.

"As long as they don't feel like they can come here and influence that outcome, I think that's important."