It's no surprise that at the end of this latest PGA Tour season it was Rory McIlroy ultimately hosting the FedEx Cup, considering the statistically dominant campaign the Northern Irishman put together.

Though his three-win season might not appear at the top of his career highlights - the major championship triumphs in 2012 and 2014 may never be matched - it nevertheless culminated in one of the best statical campaigns of his heralded career.

After lifting the FedEx Cup for the third time, the first player in Tour history to do so, McIlroy capped off a season that saw him earn his fourth scoring average title, at 68.67, the only player on the PGA Tour to finish with a sub-69 average (the overall average for the 2021-22 season was 71.092).

Only Vijay Singh (2003) and Tiger Woods (eight different times) have matched McIlroy with a season-long average below 68.7.

McIlroy's six-shot comeback over Scottie Scheffler at the Tour Championship also cemented the 33-year-old’s fourth season of at least three wins, as he also jumpstarted his campaign with a victory at the CJ Cup before claiming the RBC Canadian Open midway through the year.

"I'm back to playing the golf that I'm used to playing, and the golf that I know that I can play," McIlroy said prior to the FedEx St. Jude Championship. "COVID was a weird time for everyone, and then coming out of it and going into the 2021 season, with my swing where it was, I was trying to change a couple of things and was going down a path I realised wasn't the path for me. [I'm] coming back out of that and now getting back to playing the golf I know I can play."

The late-season rise was in no doubt due to McIlroy's impressive resurgence across several aspects of his game. After ending The Masters ranked next-to-last among 209 TOUR players in average proximity from 50 to 125 yards (24 feet, one inch), McIlroy went on a tear that saw him close out the season with an average of 14 feet, one inch, best among all players with more than 30 attempts in that span.

But that wasn’t the only area where he’s upped his play. McIlroy ranked No. 131 in scrambling percentage last season, only to finish 30th this year, while also improving more than 50 spots in Strokes Gained: Around the Green (63rd in 2020-21 to 12th this season). Perhaps most importantly, the 22-time PGA Tour winner was 16th for Strokes Gained: Putting per round, after he finished 66th in 2021 and 122nd in 2019-20.

McIlroy ended the season ranked inside the top-50 in all four primary Strokes Gained categories (off-the-tee, approach the green, around the green and putting), only the second time he's done that, joining the 2018-19 season. That season he also won the TOUR Championship and RBC Canadian Open, along with The Players Championship.

"This year feels very similar to the way I played in 2019," he said. "It's a carbon copy in terms of the consistency and the numbers and the strokes gained numbers, but my finishes in the majors have been better and that's been – that's been a real positive looking ahead into next year and the future."

CANTLAY REPEATS

Before McIlroy hoisted the PGA Tour's ultimate prize, all eyes were on Patrick Cantlay for a potential repeat.

Last season's FedEx Cup champion was primed to go back-to-back after he became the first player to successfully defend a Playoffs event since their 2007 inception. At the BMW Championship, the 30-year-old birdied the 17th at Wilmington Country Club to hold off Scott Stallings in a one-shot victory, his second win at the event in as many years.

A year ago, Cantlay survived in a six-hole playoff at Maryland's Caves Valley Golf Club to win the BMW Championship, before sealing the FedEx Cup with a one-shot win over Jon Rahm.

"I think every time I've tried to defend, I don't think I've been able to do it, but it's something that you definitely circle on your calendar as something you want to do," Cantlay said. "These golf courses reminded me a lot of each other, and I was glad not to go six holes in a playoff."

Much like a season ago, it was largely the putter that lifted Cantlay to a post-season victory. Over the last two FedEx Cup Playoffs, Cantlay is +18.39 in total Strokes Gained: Putting, the most of any player.

The BMW Championship was a microcosm of that, as Cantlay was ranked 49th of 67 players in the third round, losing 1.493 strokes to the field. But after a late-night putting session, the Californian ranked 10th in Sunday’s final round, gaining 1.628 strokes on the field. He was a perfect 10-for-10 on Sunday putting inside 3 feet, after missing one in 13 attempts the day before. He was 16-for-17 from inside 10 feet on Sunday and just 15 for 20 on Saturday.

ZALATORIS BREAKS THROUGH

Fans have been anxiously awaiting Will Zalatoris’s first trip to the PGA Tour winner's circle, after heart-aching playoff losses this year at the Farmers Insurance Open and PGA Championship.

Viewers finally got their wish in the first leg of the FedExCup Playoffs, as the young 26-year-old poured in a clutch par at the last to force extra holes with Sepp Straka. He ultimately outlasted the Austrian on the third playoff hole.

"It's kind of hard to say 'about time' when it's your second year on Tour, but about time," Zalatoris joked. "Obviously this was a grind considering the start that I had. I love this golf course, I played well here last year. Considering all the close finishes that I've had this year, to finally pull it off, it means a lot."

The budding superstar led the field in both Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green (+1.93) and Tee-to-Green (+2.35), becoming just the second player to lead both at the FedEx St. Jude Championship (Dustin Johnson, 2020).

All the more impressive was that he finished the first round at one over, the highest score to par after the opening round by a winner at the FedEx St Jude Championship. The previous worst opening round by a winner? Vijay Singh, who was one under after 18 holes in 2008.

Zalatoris was tied for 86th after the first round, marking the lowest position by a winner after the opening round of the playoffs (McIlroy previously held the honor, sitting at T67 after the opening round of the 2016 Dell Technologies Championship). 

Will Zalatoris has withdrawn from the BMW Championship after suffering a lower back injury as he aims to ensure his fitness for a tilt at the upcoming Tour Championship in Atlanta.

Zalatoris – who moved to the top of the FedEx Cup standings by claiming his first Tour-level triumph at the FedEx St. Jude Championship last week – was forced to withdraw midway through Saturday's third round at the Wilmington Country Club.

The 26-year-old has finished as a runner-up at two majors this year, following up 2021's second-placed finish at the Masters by coming close to victory at both the US PGA Championship and the U.S. Open.

Zalatoris was four under for the tournament when he tweaked his back on the third hole in North Carolina, and his manager Allen Hobbs said his hopes of participating in the FedEx Cup finale were key to the decision to drop out.

"He felt that it was best to withdraw from the BMW Championship so he can work with his trainer the next few days to get the inflammation to calm down," Hobbs said.

"Will looks forward to playing next week in Atlanta."

Zalatoris, who moved to ninth in the world rankings with his long-awaited victory last Sunday, had trailed leader Adam Scott by five shots at the halfway stage of the BMW Championship.

Cameron Smith has withdrawn from this week's BMW Championship, the penultimate event of the 2021-22 PGA Tour season, amid reports he is set to defect to LIV Golf.

The Australian, who claimed his first major at The Open Championship last month at St Andrew's, has pulled out citing discomfort in his hip.

It means Smith, currently number three in the FedEx Cup rankings, will miss out on the final event before the season-concluding Tour Championship at East Lake.

"Unfortunately, Cam will be unable to compete in the BMW Championship this week in Wilmington," agent Bud Martin said. "He has been dealing with some on-and-off hip discomfort for several months and thought it best to rest this week in his pursuit of the FedExCup."

The Brisbane native struggled last week at the FedEx St. Jude Championship, where he was handed a two-stroke penalty for playing from the wrong place and, having challenged for the lead at one stage, finished tied for 13th.

Now, he will likely drop further away from the chance to dethrone Scottie Scheffler, particularly if the rumblings about a switch to the breakaway LIV Golf series prove well-founded.

Will Zalatoris took inspiration from Steph Curry and received congratulations from movie star Adam Sandler after getting the monkey off his back with a memorable first PGA Tour triumph.

Having made a terrific clutch par at the final hole, Zalatoris defeated Sepp Straka in an eventful play-off to win the FedEx St. Jude Championship on Sunday.

After sinking his left-to-right putt from 10 feet at his 72nd hole, Zalatoris yelled "what are they gonna say now?" in a seeming reference to those who have questioned whether he has a strong enough putting game to win the big tournaments.

Zalatoris, who grew up in the Bay Area and later moved to Dallas, said it was an acknowledgement to Golden State Warriors star Curry, a big golf fan himself, who had uttered the same words when his team won the NBA title.

"I did say that," said Zalatoris.

"Yeah, you know, I'm a big Warriors fan and obviously Steph, he's a Cal Club guy, he's a pretty big inspiration obviously. I follow the Warriors like crazy and when he said that, it kind of related to kind of my journey so far.

"So being that close and then kind of being written off here and there and then obviously finally pulling off, it was – I actually can't believe I said that actually."

Zalatoris had been in danger of becoming golf's nearly man having lost play-offs at the Farmers Insurance Open and US PGA Championship, and tied for second at the U.S. Open.

"Yeah, it's kind of hard to say 'about time' when it's your second year on Tour, but about time," he added.

Zalatoris' win was made all the more impressive by the fact he had gone through the upheaval of changing caddies.

He opted to part with Ryan Goble midway through last week's Wyndham Championship, explaining how he did not want the stress of professional golf to put a strain on their friendship.

In his place came the experienced Joel Stock, who Zalatoris said had helped keep him in the moment.

"We tried to communicate as much as we possibly could Monday through Wednesday to make this adjustment as easy as possible," he said, 

"But you never know what it's going to be like until you're in the heat of the moment. Joel was really playing more sports psychologist today. He was awesome. He was ripping dad jokes the entire day to try to keep it loose, and they're terrible but it gave us some pretty good laughs and kept it light.

"When the moment needed to be serious he told me to focus on my breathing. He did an amazing job."

And after his special win, Zalatoris earned recognition from Sandler, a man who has previously interacted with the 25-year-old.

It was noted how Zalatoris bears a resemblance to the caddy for Sandler's 'Happy Gilmore' character.

Posting on Twitter, Sandler wrote: " Congrats Will! I’m happy for you! Happy’s happy for you! Enjoy it all!"

Will Zalatoris held his nerve for a clutch par putt on the 72nd hole to force a playoff at the FedEx St. Jude Championship, setting up a dramatic three-hole showdown where he defeated Sepp Straka to claim his first career PGA Tour win.

Straka came into Sunday's final round at 12 under – one stroke off leader J.J. Spaun – while Zalatoris was one shot further back at 11 under with Cameron Smith. When Spaun imploded, going on to shoot Sunday's worst round with a 78, and Smith was handed a two-stroke penalty prior to his round for an illegal drop earlier in the tournament, the field fell away and left just Straka and Zalatoris at the top.

Zalatoris continued to shed his reputation as a poor putter, and he did so in the biggest moments, draining a must-make 10-footer on the last hole to finish his tournament at 15 under, where he and Straka were three strokes clear of the pack – and the playoff was anything but boring.

On the first playoff hole – the 18th, which was playing as the toughest hole on the course – both players reached the green in regulation, and while neither were in true birdie range, Zalatoris had a significantly longer distance to cover. But he showed why he was ranked number one for lag putting this week and was able to tap-in from a foot to head to the second hole.

Replaying the 18th, Zalatoris' tee shot hit the cart path, seemingly handing Straka the tournament, but then Straka put his tee shot so close to the water's edge that he opted to take the penalty instead of trying to hack one out with a foot in the water.

Straka pulled off what would usually be a title-winning approach shot, taking an aggressive line and landing six feet from the hole, but due to the penalty stroke it allowed Zalatoris to chip back out into the fairway and bring his approach to just over 10 feet, where he would sink another incredibly gutsy putt to extend things to a third playoff hole.

After losing two playoffs this season, Zalatoris would have felt the trophy slipping out of his hands when his tee shot on the par-three 11th hole found the rock wall on the fringe of the water. He was not in the water, but the shot was unplayable, meaning a par would give Straka the win – and then Straka landed in the water.

The Austrian's next shot sailed over the green into the bunker, while Zalatoris' second try at his approach was perfect, giving himself another seven-footer for the win, and he made no mistakes.

With the win, Zalatoris avoided becoming the player with the most prize money in a season without a victory, raising his season earnings to over $9million in the process with his $2.7m winner's cheque.

American duo Lucas Glover and Brian Harman finished tied for third at 12 under, while Spain's Jon Rahm, England's Matt Fitzpatrick and Australia's Adam Scott were part of the seven-man group tied for fifth at 11 under.

After his two-stroke penalty, Cameron Smith finished at nine under with rising star Joo-hyung 'Tom' Kim, with Viktor Hovland at eight under, and Wyndham Clark snuck into the next round of the playoffs as his seven under finish moved him up to exactly 70th in the FedEx Cup standings.

American J.J. Spaun is 18 holes away from a wire-to-wire victory at the FedEx St. Jude Championship after finishing Saturday one stroke clear of the chasing field, shooting a two-under 68 to head in at 13 under.

After rounds of 62 and 67 had Spaun leading at the conclusion of each of the first two rounds, he opened his round on Saturday with nine consecutive pars, but after bogeying the 10th, he responded with birdies on 11, 16 and 17.

Austria's Sepp Straka was all set to finish tied with Spaun at 13 under before he bogeyed the 18th, leaving him in outright second-place at 12 under.

A pair of serious challengers are part of the three-man group tied for third at 11 under, with Trey Mullinax being joined by potential PGA Tour Player of the Year Cameron Smith and consistent major contender Will Zalatoris.

Zalatoris, specifically, has been in sparkling form after struggling to a one-over opening round, shooting Friday's round of the day with a 63, and only Im Sung-jae posted a better Saturday score than his 65.

In classic Zalatoris fashion, his work with the putter was not pretty – dropping 0.38 shots on the greens according to Data Golf's strokes gained stats – but he thrived from tee-to-green, finishing with the most strokes gained from approach shots (2.90) while coming in third in the off-the-tee category (1.78).

American duo Tyler Duncan and Troy Merritt are tied for sixth at 10 under, while Saturday's top performer Im rode his terrific round to join the logjam at nine under, which features the red-hot Tony Finau and U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick.

Last week's winner Joo-hyung 'Tom' Kim is a further shot back at eight under along with South Korean compatriot Lee Kyoung-hoon, America's Collin Morikawa and Chile's Joaquin Niemann, with Spain's Jon Rahm and Australia's Adam Scott part of the small group at seven under.

After shooting a 62 on Thursday to be the early joint-leader, Kim Si-woo's week has taken a turn for the worst as he followed it with a 73 on Friday and a 72 on his third trip around TPC Southwind.

J.J. Spaun holds the outright lead at halfway at the FedEx St. Jude Championship while 2022 Open Championship winner Cameron Smith made his move and Rory McIlroy and Scottie Scheffler missed the cut.

Spaun had shared the lead with Kim Si-woo after the opening day at TPC Southwind and backed that up with a three-under-par round of 67 to lead at 11 under after 36 holes. The American maintained his lead with five birdies along with two bogeys in his round.

Kim slid down the leaderboard after a three-over-par round with Sepp Straka, who finished with three straight birdies, and Troy Merritt in joint second at 10 under behind Spaun, with Denny McCarthy one shot behind them.

Merritt, McCarthy and Smith all carded five-under-par rounds of 65, with the latter moving up the leaderboard with birdies and an eagle on the par-five 16th hole.

The Australian is eight-under-par after two rounds, equal with Brian Harman, Tony Finau and Ryan Palmer.

Kevin Kisner is a further shot back after seven birdies highlighted his round of six-under-par 64, but that was bettered by both Tyler Duncan and Will Zalatoris.

Duncan and Zalatoris carded rounds of 63, with the former going bogey free and draining seven birdies to move into joint ninth.

Zalatoris had shot a first-day 71 but improved with seven birdies across a bogey-free round too, but is six under overall.

McIlroy headlined the list of names to miss the cut, with three bogeys holding him back, including one on the 18th hole, as he shot 69 to fall short by one stroke.

World number one Scottie Scheffler also failed to make the cut, despite an improved second round, not helped by a double bogey on the par-four ninth hole.

South Korea's Kim Si-woo and American J.J. Spaun are the co-leaders at eight under after one round of the FedEx St. Jude Championship at TPC Southwind.

Being the first round of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, the field is made up of the top-125 from this season's FedEx Cup standings, minus LIV Golf signees Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford, who failed to have their exclusions overturned by a judge earlier this week.

Spaun shot a bogey-free 62 with eight birdies, while Kim posted seven birdies, an eagle and a solitary bogey on the par-three fourth hole.

Speaking on the broadcast after his round, Spaun said he hopes his performance during the playoffs will book his place at The Masters next year.

"It will be nice to punch another ticket there and be able to plan it out and get down Sunday, maybe even Saturday the week before, take my time and enjoy all the little things that come along with that great tradition," he said. "Hopefully keep playing well this week and the next couple weeks, and I'll be there."

In outright third place is Sahith Theegala at seven under, while one further shot back tied for fourth are Austria's Sepp Straka, South Korea's Lee Kyoung-hoon, American J.T. Poston and the red-hot Tony Finau, fresh off back-to-back PGA Tour wins for the first time in his career. Finau has shot no worse than 68 from his past 10 rounds.

The logjam in a tie for eighth at five under includes England's Tyrrell Hatton, Australia's former world number one Jason Day, and Rickie Fowler, who barely squeezed into the final field. Last week's 20-year-old first-time winner Joo-hyung 'Tom' Kim highlights the group at four under, along with Adam Scott.

Many of the serious contenders are at three under, including Cam Smith, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland and reigning FedEx Cup champion Patrick Cantlay, and they are one stroke ahead of major winners Matt Fitzpatrick and Shane Lowry at two under.

Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy shot even-par 70s, and the pair of Scottie Scheffler and Will Zalatoris have plenty of work to do after finishing at one over.

Scheffler was responsible for arguably the round's most viral moment as he caught a side-eye from playing partner Smith when he walked right in front of the Australian while he was lining up a putt, with many speculating it was an intentional slight due to reports Smith has signed on with LIV Golf for next season.

Rory McIlroy considered Tuesday "a good day" for members of the PGA Tour, as he felt the attempts of LIV Golf rebels to enter the FedEx Cup had made the dispute around the breakaway series "personal".

A judge ruled ahead of the FedEx St. Jude Championship that LIV Golf players were not eligible to compete in the play-offs.

Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford had filed a restraining order to allow them to play this week's tournament, while 11 LIV Golf stars put together an antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour.

McIlroy, who said he was following the proceedings live on Tuesday, was delighted the trio had not been granted access after abandoning the Tour for the lucrative new Saudi-backed league.

"From my vantage point, common sense prevailed, and I thought it was the right decision," McIlroy said.

"And now that that has happened, I think it just lets us focus on the important stuff, which is the golf, and we can all move forward and not have that sideshow going on for the next few weeks, which is nice."

The four-time major winner, who finished third as Cameron Smith – reported to be the next LIV Golf signing – won The Open last month, was asked if the struggle between players on either tour had become "personal".

"Yeah – and it was when that lawsuit was filed last week or whenever it was," McIlroy replied.

"The thing that I would say [is that] I certainly have a little more respect for the guys that haven't put their names to the suit. Yeah, it's become a little more personal because of that."

And while delighted with the outcome on Tuesday, McIlroy knows there will be plenty more battles ahead.

Explaining his outlook, the Northern Irishman said: "Guys are going to make their own decisions that they feel is best for them, and that's totally fine.

"I don't begrudge anyone for going over to play LIV or taking guaranteed money. If that's your prerogative and what you want to do, totally fine.

"But I think where the resentment comes from, from the membership of this tour, is the fact that they want to try to get their way back in here with no consequences.

"Anyone that's read that PGA Tour handbook or abided by the rules and regulations, that would feel very unfair to them.

"That's sort of how it played out, and I think everyone that has abided by the rules was... There's such a long way to go – it's like you've birdied the first hole, but you've still got 17 holes to go – but it was a good day for the Tour and for the majority of the membership yesterday."

McIlroy has been prominent in his opposition to LIV Golf, and he revealed on Wednesday he had received an offer from the Premier Golf League, but not from the latest threat to the PGA Tour.

The 33-year-old was therefore asked if he enjoyed his role as an unofficial spokesperson for the PGA Tour.

"Not really," McIlroy replied, but he does feel his game has somehow benefited from his being at the centre of a storm when off the course.

"I don't feel like it's my job to be up here and stick up for the Tour or be a spokesperson," he said.

"It's just sort of the role that I've found myself in, especially coming on the PGA Tour [policy] board this year. It was a great time to agree to do that...

"I've said this to a few people: I feel when I then get myself inside the ropes, it's like no one can get to me, and it's really nice.

"So, it's actually made the golf part of it way more enjoyable. And I sort of appreciate it a little bit more, because of all the other stuff that's going on.

"If anything, it's probably helped my golf, just because I can get out there and I can not think about it and compartmentalise everything and maybe enjoy competing a little bit more – or at least appreciate it a little bit more with everything else that's going on."

Cameron Smith has vowed he will come forward when he has any announcement to make on his future, although the world number two is reported to have already agreed to join the LIV Golf Invitational Series.

Smith is the Open champion and would represent another major coup for the breakaway golf league.

Fellow Australian Cameron Percy indicated Smith would be joining LIV Golf this week, telling RSN Radio that the 28-year-old and Marc Leishman were "gone".

Smith subsequently responded to these claims in a news conference ahead of the FedEx St. Jude Championship on Tuesday.

"My goal here is to win the FedEx Cup play-offs," he said. "That's all I'm here for.

"If there's something I need to say regarding the PGA Tour or LIV, it will come from Cameron Smith, not Cameron Percy.

"I'm a man of my word, and whenever you guys need to know anything, it will be said by me.

"Like I said, I'm here to play the FedEx Cup play-offs. That's been my focus the last week and a half, that's what I'm here to do. I'm here to win the FedEx Cup play-offs."

However, Wednesday brought an exclusive report from The Telegraph claiming Smith had signed a $100million-plus deal with LIV Golf.

The report says an initial offer of around $100m was made to Smith ahead of The Open, but he is set to be boosted by his new status as a major winner.

An announcement, The Telegraph said, would likely follow the FedEx Cup play-offs, with Smith second in the standings.

The PGA Tour has won their first legal battle against the controversial LIV Golf brand, with a judge ruling on Tuesday that LIV Golf players are not eligible to play in the FedEx Cup starting this week.

Specifically, Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford were the three golfers seeking the temporary restraining order to play at the FedEx St. Jude Championship – but a judge ruled that their cases did not prove they were victims of "irreparable harm" due to their highly paid contracts.

The LIV Golf lawyers argued that the FedEx Cup is about "more than money" – even going as far as calling it "the Super Bowl of golf", and comparing former FedEx Cup winners to all-time greats Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman.

They claimed the PGA Tour was attempting to use monopoly powers to stamp out fair competition, to which the PGA lawyers countered with the facts that five of their top-10 most famous players – based on their Player Impact Program – have already jumped ship, and that Gooch, specifically, signed a contract worth significantly more than the $18million awarded to the winner of the FedEx Cup.

LIV Golf were queried about how they could project a 20 per cent market share while also calling the PGA Tour a monopoly, and that being a monopoly is not illegal, only using monopoly powers against another organisation is.

The judge explained that the breakaway golfers would have ample opportunity to play on the alternate tour; that their upfront LIV Golf contracts took into account the possibility that they would not be eligible for the FedEx Cup and/or major championships; and that the inability to win even more money does not constitute "irreparable harm".

Some other interesting tidbits were revealed during proceedings, including a direct contradiction from a prevalent storyline about the LIV Golf contracts.

LIV Golf lawyers claimed that prize money won from tournaments would be "recouped against the LIV contracts" – with a clip emerging immediately afterwards showing an LIV Golf spokesperson specifically saying during a news conference featuring Pat Perez and Brooks Koepka that all prize money would be "in addition to the contracts".

Their lawyers also confirmed that all 48 spots had been filled for next LIV Golf season, and the judge indicated that the larger-scale antitrust trial would be tentatively scheduled for September.

World number one Scottie Scheffler has hit out at a lawsuit being brought against the PGA Tour by several of LIV Golf's leading names. 

With the PGA suspending players who joined the controversial Saudi Arabia-backed circuit, the likes of Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau are among 11 players to back a legal attempt to reverse those measures ahead of the FedEx Cup Playoffs beginning on Thursday.

While reports suggest only three LIV players – Talor Gooch, Matt Jones and Hudson Swafford – are seeking re-entry to the event, the PGA has accused them of trying "to have their cake and eat it" by attempting to feature at their events.

And Scheffler, who has been a prominent defender of the PGA Tour amid several high-profile players signing up for the LIV circuit, has little sympathy for those fighting suspension.

"I'm definitely curious to see what's going to happen," the 2022 Masters victor told a news conference on Tuesday.

"It's one of those deals where those guys kind of made their decision to go join another tour.

"They broke the rules and regulations of our tour and now they're trying to sue us, which is definitely a bit frustrating.

"I heard that was going to happen and I know some guys aren't surprised to see it, but I definitely am surprised to see some guys now suing us.

"If they win, come out here and play, I mean, that's something that's up to the courts. I can't control what's going to happen in a court case. 

"[I'm] definitely interested, but at the end of the day it has no effect on my preparation for the week."

Should you want proof that golf is a game for life, played in different venues and for all ages, digest what was going on in various corners of the world 15 summers ago.

In the Dallas area, an 11-year-old named Scott Scheffler was crushing the competition on the North Texas PGA Junior Tour. There were victories at Shady Valley, The Links at Water Chase, Lantana GC, and by eight strokes over Vince Whaley at Twin Creeks GC.

Down in Bayou country, another 11-year-old named Sam Burns was shooting 84 in the annual Shreveport (Louisiana) City Amateur. He finished top five.

In Scotland, an 18-year-old mop-haired kid from Northern Ireland, Rory McIlroy, was low amateur in the Open Championship at Carnoustie. Rounds of 68-76-73-72 served notice that this kid might be pretty good.

With rounds of 72-70, a 14-year-old from Kentucky named Justin Thomas finished second in his age group, third overall, at the Evian Masters Junior Cup in France. One perk for winning was that he got to play alongside Juli Inkster in a pro-am before the Evian Masters.

And on the other side of the world, in Hawaii, a 15-year-old Japanese player named Hideki Matsuyama dominated his match against Henry Park, 6 and 5, to help the visitors post a 24.5 to 19.5 win in the Hawaii/Japan Junior Cup.

Those were the stages, of course, played in the shadows. On the stage that mattered, a guy much older, the 31-year-old Tiger Woods, was collecting a fourth US PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Ho-hum as that might have been, given it was his 14th major, what surely resonated was Woods' achievement at the end of that summer. With an overwhelming performance in the inaugural FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour, Woods earned a cool $10million.

What stands out about that 2007 Tour Championship that nailed down the first FedEx Cup were the suffocating numbers. Woods won the season finale by eight strokes, it was his 61st career win and seventh of the season, and he finished the Tour Championship at 23-under 257.

"It has been a phenomenal week," Woods said, then very much at his understated best. He had, after all, also pocketed a cheque for $1.26million for winning the Tour Championship.

"I enjoyed being on a scoring streak, hitting good shot after good shot, and I felt very comfortable with my game. It felt good."

That was then and this is now, and what feels remarkable is how quickly time has passed and how surreal it is to know this: just 15 years after they were playing golf on mostly unheralded stages as kids, the 26-year-old Scheffler (he's Scottie now, unlike in 2007), Burns, 26; McIlroy, 33; Thomas, 29; and Matsuyama, 30, were numbers 1-2-3-4-5 in the FedEx Cup standings when the calendar flipped to July.

The flip side of Woods now being 46 is the fact the game is getting younger and, oh, how the current FedEx Cup standings reflect that. After Scheffler, Burns, McIlroy, Thomas, and Matsuyama, we have Patrick Cantlay, Cameron Smith, Xander Schauffele, Will Zalatoris, and Max Homa.

Average age of those 10 players: 28.5.

That is more than four years younger than the average age in 2007, the first FedEx Cup when seven of the top 10 were 31 or older. This time around, eight of the current top 10 are 30 or younger.

But if this youth parade has many marchers, the warmest spotlight must be shining on the leader, the same kid who 15 years ago was dominating the competition on the North Texas Junior PGA.

All Scheffler has done in this, his third full season on the PGA Tour, is win four times and roar into the penthouse of the Official World Golf Rankings.

Not bad, this number one designation. But some might argue that Burns is number 1A, because all he has done is win three times before, and if you go back to the middle of the 2020-21 season, Burns secured victories in four of his last 29 tournaments.

The screeching noise you heard is the arrival of the Scheffler-Burns express; they are two young men who are great friends and as if to punctuate their new-found grip on the PGA Tour, they had an exclamation point of a Sunday back in May.

Locked in a play-off at the Charles Schwab Challenge, Burns poured in a long-range birdie on the first extra hole to beat his Texas friend.

Even Scheffler flashed a wide smile that day, nodding his approval to Burns, knowing there will be many more opportunities to return the favour. Perhaps even as soon as the upcoming FedEx Cup play-offs. These are the dates that matter: August 11-14 at the FedEx St Jude Classic in Memphis; August 18-21 at the BMW Championship in Wilmington, Delaware; and August 25-28 at the Tour Championship in Atlanta, Georgia.

They are tournaments that showcase the best of the elite, and whereas you might have understandably expected them to put Scheffler in awe as a 24-year-old rookie in August of 2020, it didn't work out that way. In his second round in the play-offs, Scheffler shot 59 at TPC Boston.

He didn't win that week, but a tie for fourth set in motion a nice play-off run – tied 20th at the BMW, fifth at the Tour Championship. The three who finished immediately ahead of him in the FedEx Cup standings in 2020 – Schauffele, Thomas and Jon Rahm – are key contenders for the 2021-22 FedEx Cup as a dynamic era of young and talented performers continues into the 16th edition of this season-long race.

It is amazing, the furious speed with which these kids have progressed from junior golf to the spotlight of a FedEx Cup. Then again, perhaps there are those who saw this coming. Joel Edwards, for instance.

A veteran PGA Tour performer, Edwards was in the twilight of his career when he used to practise at Royal Oaks at Dallas where Scheffler was the brightest of a stable of talented junior players.

Precocious and supremely talented, Scheffler would challenge Edwards and another PGA Tour veteran, Harrison Frazar, to random contests. Frazar confirms he lost sleeves of golf balls to a fourth-grader; Edwards concedes that "he cost me a fortune; I used to carry a bunch of quarters because I knew I'd get my butt beat [in a bid to hit practice-range poles with wedge shots]."

And if there was one thing that stood out about Scheffler back then, even beyond his uncanny golf skills, it was his appearance.

"He always wore pants. He looked like a Tour player at 10," said Edwards.

And at 11, while mowing down the local competition, perhaps Scheffler knew this brand-new FedEx Cup was someday going to be in his future.

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