By Sam McPherson
Tiger Woods won the moment, thrilling the fans in attendance, but it was Justin Rose who ended up winning the FedExCup. That is the way the golf world will remember the 2018 Tour Championship, as Woods ran away with the individual title, finishing 11-under par to beat Billy Horschel by two strokes. Rose tied for fourth place at 6-under, just enough to vault him to the top of the FedExCup standings and claim the PGA Tour’s big overall prize.
Rose came into the Tour Championship at the East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta in second place on the FedExCup leaderboard, and there were myriad possibilities for determining the overall season champion, depending on how each of the PGA’s best golfers performed over the four rounds. Rose put himself in position to win the Cup with rounds of 66-67-68 before struggling to post 73 on Sunday. In the end, combined with points leader Bryson DeChambeau finishing 19th at 1-under par, Rose did just enough to put his name in the history books.
He now has won the 2012 U.S. Open, an Olympic gold medal in 2016, and the FedExCup in 2018, while also earning the current No. 1 ranking in the world and finishing the season with that distinction intact.
Meanwhile, this tournament belonged to Woods and Woods alone, and he came very close to taking the Cup home, too. He began the event in 20th place on points, but Woods shot 65-68-65 to enter Sunday play with a three-stroke advantage. This was vintage Tiger on the course, too, as there was never really a doubt in the fourth round on Sunday as to who would win the event. In an impressive comeback from a variety of injuries, Woods won his first PGA Tour event in over five years, the last one coming at the Bridgestone Invitational back in August 2013.
Dustin Johnson finished third behind Woods and Horschel, carding a 67 in the fourth round to finish at 7-under par. Hideki Matsuyama and Webb Simpson finished in the fourth-place knot with Rose, while Rory McIlroy, playing with Woods in the final group on Sunday, shot 74 to finish in a tie for seventh place with Rickie Fowler, 2017 Tour Championship winner, Xander Schauffele, and Justin Thomas.
It was a crazy four days at East Lake, though, with every one of the top 30 golfers participating capable of winning the FedExCup, depending on how the balls bounced and found the cup. Fowler and Woods shared the first round lead at 5-under after Thursday’s play, although Rose and Gary Woodland were hot on the trail, just one stroke behind the leaders. Tony Finau, McIlroy, and Thomas all posted rounds of 67 to stay two shots off the pace. Points leader DeChambeau struggled to shoot 71, while Phil Mickelson was at the bottom of the board after posting a 73 in the first round.
Two of the pre-event favorites, DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka, shot themselves out of contention on Friday in the second round, with very high scores. Koepka, winner of both the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship this season, posted a 78, while DeChambeau had his second straight day over par, carding a 75. This left the overall FedExCup championship wide open for a host of players atop the leaderboard — most notably Woods.
Tiger once again was tied for the lead, this time after 36 holes and with Rose at 7-under par. McIlroy was alone in third place at 5-under, while a quartet of golfers lurked in fourth place, one stroke behind McIlroy. That made for a bunched-up leaderboard heading into the weekend, with seemingly endless possibilities for the tournament and the overall title chases.
By the end of the third round on Saturday, however, Woods was in command at 12-under after shooting a 65. He had a three-shot lead over both McIlroy and Rose, his closest pursuers at 9-under par. Tiger shot the low round of the day, although McIlroy’s 66 was not too far behind. That set up an interesting final pairing for Sunday, in perhaps a Ryder Cup preview, with McIlroy and Woods. Jon Rahm and Kyle Stanley were tied for fourth place at this point, six shots behind Woods.
It was all just the set up for the somewhat anticlimactic finish on Sunday. What stood out the most in this tournament was how so many of the world’s top players could not consistently shoot under par over the four rounds of the Tour Championship: No golfer posted four rounds in the 60s at East Lake. Interpret that any way you will, but it says a lot about the pressure and the situation the tournament had to offer the best golfers on the final weekend of a long season.
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Next On The Tee: The Ryder Cup
For the 42nd time in history, many of the world’s top golfers will compete against each other in the now-established United States vs. Europe format. Jim Furyk captains the American team, while Thomas Bjorn is the European captain. The U.S. squad currently holds the Cup itself after its 2016 victory at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota, but the Americans have not won or retained the Cup on European turf since 1993. That makes for an interesting weekend of exciting golf, now that the PGA Tour has concluded its 2017-18 season.
On both Friday and Saturday, the teams will compete in two different formats: four alternate-shot matches in the mornings and four better-ball matches in the afternoons. On Sunday, the final day of competition, there are 12 singles matches, and that almost always provides a tremendous amount of drama and excitement for the fans. McIlroy and Rose, as well as 2018 British Open champion, Francesco Molinari, lead the European squad against Woods, Koepka, Johnson, and DeChambeau, among others.
Each match carries a point for the winning team, and the U.S. needs 14 points out of 28 to retain the Cup. Europe will need to win 14.5 points to earn back the trophy.
This Ryder Cup event will be played at Le Golf National outside of Paris. The Albatros Course has hosted the French Open almost every year since 1991, and the 2024 Olympic golf competition is scheduled for this venue as well. The course opened in 1990 and was designed by a trio of architects. Interestingly, the term albatross in golf diction equates to the double eagle. Eduardo Romero of Argentina set the course record here in 2005 by shooting 62. Since this competition is not stroke-based, that record will remain intact despite the high level of golfing talent descending on Le Golf National later this week.
The Albatros Course plays 7,331 yards long and is a par 72.
Favorite: United States
Players to Watch: Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Tiger Woods
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf and fantasy sports for CBS Local. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach. Follow him on Twitter @sxmcp, because he’s quite prolific despite also being a college English professor and a certified copy editor.