The PGA TOUR season ended Sunday, Sept. 24, at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta with Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele holding trophies and leaving no doubt who the PGA TOUR Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year, respectively, were likely to be.
Schauffele, 23, sank a 3-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole at East Lake for a 2-under 68 and 12-under 268 total to beat Thomas by a stroke to win the TOUR Championship presented by Coca Cola. It was the second win of the season for the San Diego rookie, who said after the winning putt rimmed the cup and fell in that, “I’m still kind of in shock.”
No one was shocked, however, that Thomas won the FedExCup title for his season-long performance that was extraordinary.
His final-round 66 lifted him into second and allowed him to pass his good friend Jordan Spieth for the coveted crown. Thomas won five times in the 2016-17 season, including the PGA Championship, and he put up some eye-opening scores, including a 59 at the Sony Open in Hawaii and a 9-under 63 at the U.S. Open at Erin Hills. He won the money title and that was without the $10 million bonus for winning the FedExCup.
"It's huge," said Thomas, 24, of Goshen, Ky. "It's awesome just because I feel like I played so well this year. I was consistent. A lot of great weeks and great memories even — life-changing events that just ended with another life-changing thing for me. To just have my name on the trophy with the rest of those guys is pretty awesome."
It was the first time in eight years that two players enjoyed trophy ceremonies at the TOUR Championship. In 2009, Tiger Woods, the five-time winner of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, won the FedExCup title and Phil Mickelson won the tournament.
Schauffele is the first rookie to win the TOUR Championship since it began in 1987, and the win made him the first rookie to win two PGA TOUR events in his rookie season since Keegan Bradley in 2011 (AT&T Byron Nelson, PGA Championship). He joins Thomas (5), Dustin Johnson (4), Jordan Spieth (3), Hideki Matsuyama (3) and Marc Leishman (2) as one of six players to capture multiple victories this season. Matsuyama was the 2013 winner of the Memorial Tournament.
"It's been a wild ride," he said after struggling for the first half of the year and then kick-starting his run to the TOUR Championship with a T-8 finish at the U.S. Open.
Thomas, meanwhile, was great all season starting with his successful title defense in Malaysia at the CIMB Classic. He won both Hawaii events in January, then rallied to win the PGA at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte for his first major title. When he won the Dell Technologies Championship in Boston, the second FedExCup Playoff event, he put himself in prime position to win the playoff title. His late burst up the leaderboard at East Lake was enough to pass Spieth, who came in with the top seed, but just barely.
"J.T. obviously is very well deserving of winning the FedEx Cup," Spieth said after his tie for seventh. "Not winning a playoff event, I almost cheated my way into winning the FedEx Cup when he really deserved it."
Spieth finished the season with three wins, including the British Open title, and also captured the Vardon Trophy for lowest adjusted stroke average.
Thomas became the fifth FedExCup winner under the age of 30 and the second-youngest behind Jordan Spieth. He is almost assuredly a lock to be voted the Jack Nicklaus Award for PGA TOUR Player of the Year.