Cantlay and Rahm set for FedExCup duel: Final round preview of the Tour Championship

The American leads the Spaniard by two strokes at East Lake with just 18 holes of the 2020/21 season to be played.

Patrick Cantlay didn't mince his words ahead of this week's Tour Championship, the finale of the 2020/21 FedExCup.

"I think, frankly, it's not a good format," he said of the starting strokes that had him two clear of the field before a blow had been struck. "The previous format was confusing, this is less confusing, but I don't think it's a good format."

He then doubled down: "I dislike the fact that we no longer have a TOUR Champion. I dislike that no one knows, when they look at the leaderboard, who shot the lowest round this week.

"And the fact that Xander (Schauffele) didn't get a tournament win for beating the field by two or three shots (last year) is absolutely criminal. I am not a mastermind on golf formats, but I guarantee you there must be an option for a better format."

A few days on he still leads the tournament on 20-under, two clear of Jon Rahm and five ahead of Justin Thomas.

He has, however, taken 200 shots to their respective 198 and 199.

Now he's in the heat of battle he's keeping things simple, no longer fretting about the format, and trying to ignore the enormous sums of money he'll claim with the win.

"The internal drive to win golf tournaments is really what drives me, the external factors are not as much of a factor for me," he said.

"I'm going to feel similar to how I feel most any Sunday when I'm coming down the stretch for a golf tournament because my drive to win is strong inside me.

"I don't play the game to make money. I play the game because I want to win golf tournaments, I love doing that, and I'm in a great spot to do that tomorrow."

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Of the chance to sign off the season with spectacular back-to-back victories he said: "I enjoy pressure golf because it's everything I've practised to do. Getting in that moment is exactly why I spent all those hours growing up, and all those hours my whole life, preparing. I love it."

Let's take a closer look at the three men who - bar a miracle from fourth placed Kevin Na (seven shots back of Cantlay) - will fight it out for the FedExCup trophy and the $15million dollar first prize.

Patrick Cantlay - lead on 20-under (67-66-67)

He said of his birdie at the 18th hole in his third round, which double his overnight advantage: "A nice putt to make, especially being out of position, and I'll take that momentum into tomorrow. I rolled the ball just as good as the last couple days and my speed was good. I'm in a good spot going into tomorrow."

He ranks fifth for Strokes Gained Off the Tee and Approach, eighth for Around the Green and 10th for Putting.

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He also averages 70.00 at East Lake, 70.33 in round four, and is 2-for-4 at converting 54 hole leads (0-for-1 with solo leads).

He's excited about the final round duel with Rahm. "We've played a lot of golf together the last two or three years and, considering he's the No. 1 in the world, I think that's a good thing for me," he said. "We've seen each other play really good golf and hopefully we both play well tomorrow."

Jon Rahm - solo second on 18-under (65-65-68)

"Not my best," he said of his Saturday. "Great off the tee, I must say. Man, hitting it really good off the tee. Just wasn't as sharp as I wanted to be with my irons.

It was one of those days where there was a lot of in-between numbers."

He's hoping to become the second consecutive reigning World No. 1 to claim the FedExCup and his only weakness this week is his Approach work (25th). Because he also ranks first for Around the Greens, second for Putting and sixth Off the Tee.

His East Lake average is 68.32, that falls to 69.75 in the final round, and he's 1-for-5 at converting the win from being second after 54 holes.

Of his playing partner Cantlay he added: "I like going head-to-head with anybody. You know, it's pretty cool that a whole year race technically is ending tomorrow.

"If we keep playing the way we have, unless somebody posts a really low score out there, it will be a good showdown on the back nine. Hopefully, I come in with my A-Game and all guns blazing."

Justin Thomas - solo third on 15-under (67-67-65)

"I gained some shots on the leaders today and that's what's most important," he said before adding some fond memories: "I think I was four back going into Sunday at THE PLAYERS, or maybe a little bit closer, I'm not sure. But I know I've won from four behind before."

He averages 68.00 at East Lake, 67.20 in the final round, and is 1-for-6 at chasing from third, but the key might be that the win at TPC Sawgrass is his freshest memory of that experience (for clarity's sake - he was three back then, not the four he mentions above).

Of the big prize money on offer with the win he insisted: "I just want to win the golf tournament. I mean, I really do. Obviously the money's great and I would rather have it than not have it, but to me, to say that I won the FedExCup and won the tournament is plenty for me."

Conclusion

Cantlay is rated the 4/5, Rahm is 6/4, and Thomas best price 12/1.

With a slightly stronger East Lake record Rahm has a great shot at catching the leader.

But Thomas has an even better East Lake average, he backs that up in the final round, and he also has those good vibes from THE PLAYERS, he might be worth a punt at the bigger price.

READ MORE: Europe enjoys a super Saturday before controversy adds Sunday spice

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