Rory McIlroy (pictured) will be playing in the Tour Championship for the first time in his career this week. That lack of experience of the East Lake course inAtlanta that hosts the event for the ninth successive year could be a decisive factor in determining whether McIlroy can win for the third time during the FedEx Cup playoffs and claim the 10 million dollar bonus for leading in points at the conclusion of the series.
The Irish player is now the best player in the world statistically and on current form. He has won four tournaments on the US Tour this year, including three of the last four. He won the Honda Classic in April, the US PGA Championship by eight shots last month and the latest two FedEx Cup events.
McIlroy has been breaking records ever since he turned professional as a 17-year old in 2007. In 2011 he became the youngest player to reach $10 million in career earnings on the European Tour and this year achieved something similar on the US Tour. When he won the PGA Championship this year he became the youngest multiple major champion since Severiano Ballesteros won the US Masters in 1980 and the sixth youngest of all time.
East Lake will not be a perfect fit for McIlroy’s game. As the world number one he has few weaknesses but he does tend to prosper on courses that put a premium on distance over accuracy. This week’s host course is a par 70 track with just two par 5s. This means that McIlroy’s comparative advantage derived from his length off the tee will be less significant.
Mcilroy is currently sixth for driving distance but 142nd for driving accuracy, an illustration of the type of course on which he is more likely to score well. He now stands in 42nd place for hitting greens in regulation which is solid but not exceptional. In all key accuracy departme
nts Tiger Woods is performing better and that suggests the former world number one should be favourite this week.
Of course McIlroy has the talent to win in any circumstances and he is now playing at his best and with great confidence. He clearly is the best player of his generation and is destined to win many major championships. However, he may have to forgo another win this week but is still in great shape to claim the FedEx Cup bonus.