Tour Championship Preview with Picks

Tour Championship Preview with Picks

Last Week

The BMW Championship finished in spectacular fashion last week. The form player on tour Dustin Johnson looked to be in control of the event but slipped back on Sunday.

He needed to sink a 45ft putt on the 72nd hole to force a playoff with Jon Rahm and successfully did so. 

Rahm had earlier carded the low score of the week – a spectacular 66, to edge ahead of Johnson and Matsuyama late on Sunday. The play off took place over the 18th hole at Olympia Fields – which once again played host to an almost unbelievable conclusion. This time it was Rahm sinking a 66ft putt to secure the win. With the win he propelled himself to second in the overall FedEx Cup rankings.

The outcome of the BMW sees Johnson and Rahm heading the overall FedEx Cup standings, and it is hard to see past one of these two powerhouses winning the overall title this week in Georgia.

The Tour heads to Georgia this week, for the season finale – The Tour Championship. The event starts on Friday this week, to take into account the Labor Day celebrations. 

The PGA introduced the current scoring system last year – where the final 30 man field will start this Friday with a handicap system in place. For those that are not familiar with the set-up, the field will start as follows:

  • Dustin Johnson (-10)
  • Jon Rahm (-8)
  • Justin Thomas (-7)
  • Webb Simpson( -6)
  • Collin Morikawa (-5)
  • Daniel Berger, Harris English, Bryson Dechambeau, Sung-Jae Im, Hideki Matsuyama (All -4)
  • Brendon Todd, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed, Xander Schauffele, Seb Munoz (All -3)
  • Lanto Griffin, Scottie Scheffler, J Niemann, Tyrrell Hatton, Tony Finau (All -2)
  • Kevin Kisner, Ryan Palmer, Kevin Na, Abraham Ancer, Marc Leishman (All -1)
  • Cameron Smith, Viktor Hovland, Mackenzie Hughes, Cameron Champ, Billy Horschel (All Level)

For the purposes of this preview, we will largely focus on the overall FedEx Cup winner.

This will be the player who has the lowest score after 72 holes, and after the handicap score above has been applied. Some sportsbooks may display prices for the lowest 72 hole score, so please check carefully before staking. 

The Course

East Lake Golf Club (East Atlanta), Georgia, is a Donald Ross-designed traditional par 70 layout.

Measuring 7,346 yards, it has water hazards present on just 3 holes, but has extremely narrow fairways and hazardous green complexes.

Accuracy off the tee is an absolute must for any player looking to make birdie here, as is an accurate approach shot – with the ball usually left below pin height to avoid a very fast downhill putt. 

With fairways measuring just 28 yards wide (250 yards from the tee), players need to ensure they keep their ball in play and avoid the dense Zoysiagrass rough that flanks each hole. Bermudagrass Greens often run at 12+ on the stimpmeter here – and are multi layered.

Getting out of position on the green can easily lead to a three-putt. A winning score of around -12 is usually enough to get the win at East Lake, showing that whilst it may not be as tough an assignment as the BMW last week, it is not an easy course by any means.  

East Lake has played host to this season-ending event since 2004, but there have been some significant changes made to the layout in recent years.

Most notably, each nine was switched in 2016 – this led to the 9th hole becoming the 18th, and vice-versa. The players are now faced with a 590-yard par 5 18th; before the switch the 18th played as a short par 3.

The Field

The field has been narrowed down to a final 30 for this season finale, and it is an exceptionally competitive lineup. Previous winners at East Lake include Rory McIlroy (x2), Xander Schauffele, and Billy Horshel.

USPGA Champion Collin Morikawa is making his East Lake debut, along with Viktor Hovland and Mackenzie Hughes.

Rory McIlroy will start the event but has made it public that he is expecting his first child any day, and will leave mid-round if his partner goes into labor.

This casts a big enough question mark to ignore him this week, despite his excellent course form. He has a 7 shot swing to overcome too, so event if he does complete 72 holes, he is unlikely to come out on top. 

Selections

The new scoring system was designed to create excitement for fans, but it has arguably done the opposite.

We are faced with the two form players already starting with a significant head start, and it is hard to see beyond one of the top two in the market this week. 

With $15m up for grabs, you can be sure that players will want to win, but the handicap system plays against the field, and plays into the hands of DJ and Rahm.

No one has yet come into the Tour finale leading the FedEx Cup standings and secured victory overall – so history is against Dustin Johnson this week. He is clearly one of the form players on Tour, but his game is not as well suited to East Lake as Rahm’s. 

Jon Rahm, coming into this off the back of the huge win at the BMW last week, has the form to secure the overall FedEx Cup title.

He has shown that he has the ability to win when required – he is the reigning European ‘Race to Dubai’ Champion – and won that title after winning back to back events on the European Tour. 

With a victory here he would also move back into the overall number one spot in the OWGR – so he has multiple incentives to succeed this week at East Lake.

The Spaniard also has the recent form to back up our selection. Over the last two months, Rahm ranks first for making Greens in Regulation, first for Strokes Gained off the Tee and third for Driving Accuracy.

If Rahm is able to keep these statistics up then he is going to be very difficult to beat. It is as if his game is made for this layout, and he should be strongly fancied to secure what would be the biggest win of his career to date. 

Conclusion

Whilst the PGA has not yet convinced golf fans that the new scoring system is a success, it will play into Jon Rahm’s hands this week. He starts on -8 and has the perfect game for the test of East Lake.

In 4 of the last 10 renewals, the round one leader has gone on to secure the win at East Lake. So an interesting prop bet may be also backing Jon Rahm to lead the field after 18 holes. 

Away from the overall Tour Championship win market, then there may be some value in siding with Brendon Todd to secure the lowest 72 hole score of the week.

He is straight as an arrow off the tee and has won twice on the Tour this year. His scrambling statistics also enhance his chances of going low here this week – ranked 6th for Strokes Gained around the green, Todd is a tidy player who consistently manages to save pars after missing the green with his approach shot.


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