Tiger Woods arrived at East Lake on Wednesday, looking to put an exclamation point on his most productive season since 2009.
Woods is seeking his sixth victory of the season, which would clinch the FedEx Cup title and a $10 million bonus. While that victory total does not include any of golf’s majors — he has gone winless in grand-slam events since 2008 — Woods arrived feeling fairly flush about 2013 on the whole.
“I think that the way I’ve come back and attained a world ranking that not too many people have ever gotten to, it’s something I’m very proud of,” Woods said. In March, he regained the No. 1 world ranking that he lost in late 2010.
Woods experienced back pain in last week’s BMW Championship, but said Wednesday, “I feel good. I just need to get a feel for this golf course.”
Woods has one victory and four runner-up finishes in eight Tour Championship appearances at East Lake. He owns the 72-hole record of 23-under 257 (2007).
“I’ve had a good run here,” he said. “This week’s going to be interesting. We’re going to get some different weather coming in here and obviously will have to make the adjustments.”
He, like the other 29 players in the Tour Championship field, will look skyward this weekend. All three of the previous playoff events leading to East Lake have been rain-plagued, with the finish of last week’s event delayed until Monday. The early forecast for Atlanta calls for a 80 percent chance of rain Sunday.
The other guy: It is fairly common knowledge that Woods is the FedEx leader and overall alpha dog at East Lake. But who’s that dude he’s teeing off with?
No. 2 in points standings is Henrik Stenson, the hottest golfer you couldn’t pick out of a lineup. The man won the Deutsche Bank Championship a couple of weeks back and was a contender at the British Open and PGA Championship.
A first-timer at East Lake, he is the only European in the top 5 in the points standings, and he will attempt to become the first European to win the FedEx Cup in its seven-year history.
Watch if he happens to miss a fairway or two here this week. They don’t grow a lot of Bermuda grass in Gothenberg, Sweden.
“It might not be my best surface to pitch from. So to hit a lot of greens is going to be crucial,” he said.
A happy return: Brandt Snedeker is the first player to win a FedEx Cup championship and make it back to East Lake the next year.
Why is just getting back here so difficult?
“It’s tough to maintain any kind of consistency,” Snedeker said. “To get into a Tour Championship, you’ve got to play well all year to get in position and then you have to play well in the playoffs.
“Obviously, Tiger probably would have done it if he hadn’t been injured after he won it. Phil was really close and had a bad tournament coming in and just missed out. I think Vijay got injured. It seems like there’s always something creeping up.”
Tour Championship demographics: There is a definite tilt toward youth in this field, eight of the 30 players are in their 20s (Jordan Speith just made it to 20 by a couple of months). Woods, 23 in 1999, is the youngest to win a Tour Championship.
Eight players are making their first appearance in the Tour Championship this week — two, Stenson (2) and Graham DeLaet (7) in the top 10 of FedEx Cup points.
Stenson is one of nine international players in the field and the one with by far the greatest chance to win the FedEx Cup.
Not a weekend warrior: Since winning the 2006 Tour Championship, Adam Scott has been plagued by weekend woes at East Lake. His cumulative score in the first two rounds of his four events since ’06: 12 under. His score on the weekend: 16 over.
“I just think I haven’t played as well on the weekend as I would have liked,” Scott said, finding no other hidden secret. “It is a tricky course, and as soon as you’re out of position, it demands a lot of you to save a par. And that’s not easy, especially if you short side yourself around here.
“And I expect nothing different this week. You’re going to have to play four solid days. Hopefully I’ve done enough work over the last couple of days that my game will hold up to four days of a tough test.”
The Masters champion will try to go 2-0 in Georgia, channeling his good feelings from Augusta.
If needed, there is some inspiration on the hanger in his hotel room, he said.
“(The green jacket) is here with me. It comes pretty much everywhere. I wear it in my hotel room all the time just by myself,” he said, chuckling.