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A parade of personalities heads to Tour Championship

Steve Hummer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Golf

Welcome to the Tour Championship, which as it turns out, is also something of an actual tour. Come, explore the various peaks, canyons and plateaus of a golfer's temperament.

At the top of FedEx Cup points list, where all the interest and the bulk of the money lives, is an intriguing assortment of emotional approaches to this oft-maddening game. The extremes among the top five in points range from ultra-unflappable (Dustin Johnson) to fiery (young Jon Rahm). From stoic to volcanic. With all the stops in between (see Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas).

How these players react to a ball wandering into East Lake's Bermuda rough or the inevitable putt that behaves badly will be significant to the show this week, beginning Thursday. And good for that, for how boring it would be if they were all the same, like so many slices of melba toast.

In their varied ways, all must deal with golf's treacheries.

"Most players have learned that this game is so sensitive to changes in emotion," said sports psychologist Bob Rotella, a most widely quoted and published authority on the golfing mind. "Whether it causes you to change the rhythm of your swing or your stroke or you start hitting the ball a lot further or shorter or change your sequence. Anything like that. You better know what hurts your game and you better learn how to stay calm."

From the outside looking in, the process of coping can be a hoot to watch. And to hear.

Take Spieth, as he offers a soliloquy after each shot, most often condemning an inanimate dimpled object for not doing precisely as he commands. Even on those shots that would leave the weekend golfer giddy. All the world can eavesdrop on his thought bubble.

Why, wire him up, he could put guys like NBC's roving on-course reporter Roger Maltbie out of work. But that's OK by him.

"I think Jordan is fun to watch because of his personality. He's young. I still see a little bit of junior golfer in him, which I like. He's excitable. The passion is obviously there. It's a kick to hear his on-going commentary -- 'Don't bury! Don't this! Don't that!' "

To another member of the on-course broadcasting set, Spieth's good buddy Thomas is a fascination for the way he deals with the competitive pressures.

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