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Johnson and Rahm set for battle in playoff finale

(Reuters) - The PGA Tour wraps up a season unlike any other with this week’s Tour Championship in Atlanta where the winner from an elite 30-player field will be crowned FedExCup champion and take home an eye-popping $15 million.

FILE PHOTO: Golf - The 148th Open Championship - Royal Portrush Golf Club, Portrush, Northern Ireland - July 16, 2019 Dustin Johnson of the U.S. during practice REUTERS/Jason Cairnduff/File Photo

Due to a staggered scoring system that gives a head start to the top players in the points standings, Dustin Johnson will begin at 10 under par, followed by Spaniard Jon Rahm at eight under and former FedExCup champion Justin Thomas at seven under.

Yet despite the early edge to begin the third playoff event, East Lake has not been kind to favourites as the top seed has been winless over the last 10 Tour Championships.

“It’s not like I’ve got a two-shot lead going into the final round. I’ve still got four rounds to play,” said Johnson, who is seeking his first FedExCup title in his PGA Tour-best 12th consecutive Tour Championship appearance.

“I’m still going to have to go out and play some really good golf for four days.”

Johnson enters the final event of a season that resumed in June after a three-month COVID-19 hiatus in top form having won the first playoff event before falling to Rahm in a playoff at last week’s BMW Championship.

Rahm, who with his win vaulted seven spots up the standings, said he prefers being the pursuer rather than starting with a target on his back like Johnson.

“Oh, there’s a difference, yeah. You essentially have the pressure of the FedExCup on your shoulders four days in a row, even though you still need to play really good golf for four rounds,” said Rahm. “If you’re behind it almost helps just because you have -- you already know where the leader is at.”

Rory McIlroy, who earlier on Thursday announced that his first child was born on Monday, returns as defending champion and will start the Tour Championship seven shots off Johnson.

Webb Simpson, who has three top-10 finishes at East Lake, will start at six under while PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa will start a further shot adrift.

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis

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