Monday 19 August 2019 5:10 pm

Justin Thomas is in the box seat for the Tour Championship but the $15m FedEx Cup finale's exciting new format means the race is far from over

This week’s Tour Championship, the finale to the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup, sees the debut of a unique new format which I wholeheartedly believe is an excellent idea for players and fans alike.

Players will start the week on a score determined by their place in the FedEx Cup standings, so current leader Justin Thomas will have a 10-shot head start on the lowest ranked player in the 30-man field.

The best way to think of it is as a five-round event in which they have already played one round.

Read more: Koepka shows why he’s No1 and tees up duel with McIlroy

Whoever finishes top of the Tour Championship leaderboard on Sunday evening will scoop the $15m first prize and I think this format simplifies the process.

For viewers, there is no longer any need for complicated calculations. And for the players, a potential 10-shot advantage represents a meaningful reward for having had a good season.

Thomas will rightly start the week as the favourite for the huge windfall having played fantastically well to win the BMW Championship at Medinah over the last few days.

Test of Thomas’s consistency

On Saturday he shot an extraordinary 61 to beat a course record that had only been set by Hideki Matsuyama 24 hours earlier and in the end the American’s three-shot victory was comfortable.

Brooks Koepka has had more success at Majors and that is why he’s world No1, but No5 Thomas – the leading money winner on the PGA Tour for the last two years – is hugely consisent.

That said, it is difficult for anyone to play as well as he did at the BMW Championship for a second week in a row, which means the FedEx Cup is not over in any way, shape or form.

While Thomas will start on 10 under par when he tees off on Thursday, Koepka – third in the standings – will begin on seven under and firmly in with a chance.

Rory McIlroy, at five under, and Jon Rahm, another shot back, will also feel they have a shout, but any further and it’s a tall order. Seven shots is a big head start in a golf tournament – if you give Usain Bolt an extra couple of yards he could stop for a shave and still canter home.

It’s sad that Tiger Woods hasn’t qualified to defend his Tour Championship crown, but it has been a great year which has seen him return to Major-winning ways so let’s look forward to next season.

Mature Pieters back on the up

Thomas Pieters showed wisdom beyond his 27 years to win his first European Tour event since 2016 at the Czech Masters on Sunday.

The key moment came at the 15th hole, where he found heavy rough and, instead of trying to hit it, chose to take an unplayable lie. Pieters dropped his ball onto a tractor track, hit a beautiful wedge and saved par.

It was a very clever play and probably decisive given that he won by just one shot.

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - AUGUST 18: Thomas Pieters of Belgium lines up a putt on the thirteenth green during Day Four of the D+D Real Czech Masters at Albatross Golf Resort on August 18, 2019 in Prague, Czech Republic. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Thomas Pieters ended his three-year wait for a win at the Czech Masters on Sunday. Credit: Getty

For someone with so much talent, Pieters can lack self belief and that can make an already gruelling tour even harder.

But this was a really encouraging performance, more like the Pieters who was Europe’s top scorer on his Ryder Cup debut at Hazeltine three years ago, and I’d love to see him be this player more in future.

Finally, congratulations to Paul Lawrie on his Scottish Senior Open win – his first on the circuit. It’s great to see Paul back from injury and in the winners’ circle where he belongs.

Main image credit: Getty