2023 Tour Championship: Top 10 power rankings at East Lake

Tour Championship, East Lake Golf Club,Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports
Tour Championship, East Lake Golf Club,Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports /
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Tour Championship, East Lake, FedEx Cup, PGA Tour, FedEx Cup Playoffs, 2023 Tour Championship, Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy, 2022 Tour Championship, East Lake, Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports /

Rory McIlroy is starting three shots off the lead, but that’s child’s play compared to the mountain he climbed last year.

McIlroy overcame a six-shot deficit on opening leader Scottie Scheffler to chase him down in a thrilling Sunday finish with the Netflix cameras rolling.

It was both his third Tour Championship victory and third FedEx Cup title. The rich get richer, as they say.

McIlroy is a great course fit at East Lake and has just once finished on the bottom half of the leaderboard in nine appearances. Even that one time in 2015 was a T-16th.

"“You’ve got to hit it in the fairway,” McIlroy was quoted by ASAP Sports in 2018. “Just the holes that I struggled on today are the holes where I missed the fairway. Put your ball in play, make life a lot easier for yourself.”"

A test of driving is music to McIlroy’s ears.

The Northern Irishman is second on the PGA Tour in strokes gained per round off-the-tee (1.023) and was in the lead for a large chunk of this season. He is first in driving distance (325.7). Don’t let the fact that he’s 153rd in driving accuracy (54.23%) fool you. McIlroy’s misses are usually miniscule and his iron play out of the rough is enough to overcome not playing from the short grass.

McIlroy comes into the week in solid form with a solo fourth last week at the BMW Championship. He carded 65-70-67-66 to shoot par or better each day at the par-70 Olympia Fields layout.

That was his ninth straight top-10.

Last year at the Tour Championship, he carded rounds of 67-67-63-66 to finish at 21-under on the net leaderboard to oust Sungjae Im and Scottie Scheffler by one. On the unofficial gross leaderboard, McIlroy fired 19-under to beat Im by one.

A theory why McIlroy is so successful at this event is that he’s one of few players where the allure of all that cash – this year $18 million goes to the champ – is not life-changing money.

He can go out there and play pressure-free. It’s the legacy-boosting major championships that are McIlroy’s true obstacles at this point.

Next. 2023 BMW Championship payouts by finishing position. dark

Plus, playing from behind allows him to freewheel it out there. That seems to be when he’s at his best.

McIlroy still has to slay the demons at Augusta National, but that problem is months away. For now, I envision him once again calling himself a FedEx Cup champion.