Hard to believe as it may seem, the final event of the 2013 PGA Tour season is upon us.
The PGA Tour is in Atlanta this week at historic East Lake Golf Club for the Tour Championship -- the finale of the PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedExCup. There are two tournaments in one going on, as one player will walk away with a $10 million prize for winning the FedExCup, while another player (possibly the same player), will be crowned the winner of the Tour Championship.
Before the tournament got under way, we had the chance to talk with East Lake PGA Head Professional Chad Parker about the course, the significance of everything at stake and what it's like to work at one of the most storied golf venues in the country.
PGA.com: How is East Lake looking this week and what's in store for the players in terms of conditions?
Parker: The golf course is in fantastic shape. Our superintendent Ralph Kepple and his crew have done an incredible job given the unusually wet and cool summer we had. The players will find the course to play fair and consistent. It’s been dry here for the last few weeks so conditions will remain firm unless we get a shower over the weekend.
PGA.com: Each year at East Lake since the Playoffs began, it's as if two tournaments are going on at once. First, there's the competition to win the tournament proper and then, of course, there's all the drama involved with those who have a chance to win the FedExCup. What's the level of excitement like on the final day at the tournament for all those involved?
Parker: We’re very fortunate that we have some great sponsors who work hard to provide an incredible environment for the players to compete. The atmosphere on Sunday is electric and has produced several memorable shots over the years, including Hal Sutton’s 4 wood into No. 18 in 1998 and Bill Haas’ miraculous shot on No. 17 in 2011. With all four major winners in the field and four of our previous champions in the top 10, we anticipate another memorable finish.
PGA.com: Past FedExCup champions Tiger Woods, Bill Haas, Brandt Snedeker and Jim Furyk are all going to have a shot to claim the grand prize at East Lake again this year. They'll all have challenges from the likes of Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Steve Stricker, to name a few. From your perspective, what's it like to not only have the biggest names in golf at East Lake, but to also have them all playing so darn well coming in?
Parker: We’re excited to host the game’s best this week at East Lake. The fact that many of the marquee players are playing well right now only adds to the excitement and anticipation for our sponsors and fans.
Going into the week, each of the top 5 has momentum to build on. Tiger Woods won here in 2007 and is playing well this year. Henrik Stenson has played well over the last several weeks, including a victory in the second playoff event. Adam Scott won our event in 2006, Zach Johnson shot a course record 60 in 2007 and won last week and Matt Kuchar has played the golf course perhaps more than anyone in the field as East Lake was his home course while he attended Georgia Tech. It will be interesting to watch how the tournament unfolds with so many great players in the mix.
PGA.com: A lot can happen on East Lake's closing hole, a lengthy, uphill par 3. Can you tell our readers a little about the hole and where the trouble lurks there?
Parker: East Lake’s 18th hole will certainly test the players this week. There are several variables that contribute to this. The hole can be played anywhere from 200 to 235 yards and can be made very difficult with a tucked hole location. Players will avoid being long at all costs, choosing to play from the bunkers that pinch the green on the left and right if their shot is missed.
In 1998, Vijay Singh made bogey on the 72nd hole after hitting his approach shot long. This forced a playoff with Hal Sutton, who hit that 4 wood I mentioned earlier to 6 feet and made birdie to win. Over the years, par has been a great score. We certainly expect the same this year.
PGA.com: East Lake Golf Club is one of the most special places in the world, given its place in the game's history. In that respect, what's it like to work there?
Parker: East Lake is a special place. It is home course of Bobby Jones and is the oldest golf course in the city of Atlanta. The Club is not only historic, but philanthropic as well. Proceeds from operations support the East Lake Foundation, which has helped transform one of the nation’s worst public housing projects into a thriving community. It’s incredibly rewarding to work here. Our motto “Golf with a Purpose” fully embodies the spirit in which we operate. It’s a pleasure to be able to share the history and traditions of East Lake with the players, fans and sponsors this week as we host the Tour Championship by Coca-Cola for the 13th time.
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair .