After Monday’s dramatic finish at Caves Valley, where Patrick Cantlay won a war of attrition with Bryson DeChambeau to come into the final PGA Tour event of the season as the FedEx Cup leader, we head to East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia, where the TOUR Championship will take place.
The play-offs have whittled down to 30 players, all of whom will be eying up glory, which not only yields the prestigious title of FedEx Cup Champion but brings in no shortage of riches in the form of $15,000,000.
As has been the case for the last two seasons, something known as starting strokes will be used at the TOUR Championship, which means that players will be staggered in terms of starting score based on FedEx Cup rankings. Leader Patrick Cantlay will start with a two-shot lead over the field. Below is the full breakdown of players and starting scores.
- -10 = Patrick Cantlay
- -8 = Tony Finau
- -7 = Bryson DeChambeau
- -6 = Jon Rahm
- -5 = Cameron Smith
- -4 = Justin Thomas, Harris English, Abraham Ancer, Jordan Spieth, Sam Burns
- -3 = Collin Morikawa, Sungjae Im, Viktor Hovland, Louis Oosthuizen, Dustin Johnson
- -2 = Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na, Brooks Koepka
- -1 = Corey Conners, Hideki Matsuyama, Stewart Cink, Joaquin Niemann, Scottie Scheffler
Level par = Daniel Berger, Erik van Rooyen, Sergio Garcia, Billy Horschel, Patrick Reed
The final event of the season doesn’t only provide players with a final chance to get over the line, it also provides bettors with one last chance to sniff out a sportsbook win. Having looked at the 30-man showdown from a fantasy draft point of view, it’s now time to try and pinpoint a few players that represent sportsbook value.
What does it take to win at East Lake?
The host course of this season-closing event since 2005, East Lake Golf Club is known for its tough greens. They’re undulating and have plenty of areas that players will want to avoid, which means that approach play will be key. To be in the prime position ahead of approach, accuracy from the tee is required. Unlike lots of others on tour, where accuracy from the tee box helps but isn’t an absolute must, East Lake is a course that demands accuracy from the tee. As alluded to in the fantasy preview, the fairways aren’t the toughest to hit, but with lots of surrounding tree areas, plus savage Bermuda rough, the importance of hitting them cannot be stressed enough. Expect the winner to hit plenty of fairways, as well as no shortage of greens in regulation. Those strong on approach should do well too.
We know that taking to these greens with the putter is critical too. Interestingly, each of the last three winners here has finished the week in the top two for putts per green in regulation, while four of the last five winners have finished the week inside the top six for greens in regulation.
The starting strokes system means that many players are up against it from the off this week, which limits the pool of viable tournament winner bets. Jon Rahm and Patrick Cantlay are closely matched at the head of the market, around the +350 mark, while Bryson isn’t far behind at +550. Given that recent NORTHERN TRUST winner is the closest man to Cantlay in terms of starting strokes, he’s worth a look at appealing odds of +750. Outside of that, the task is huge and the available odds support that.
Top Five Finish
Cameron Smith – 2 Units @ +300
Having played some dream-like golf in Jersey City a fortnight ago, setting the course record on Saturday, the mullet-wearing Aussie was massively unfortunate to come up short at the Northern Trust when his driver failed him on the first playoff hole, but he remains in a handy fifth place in the FedEx Cup rankings as things stand.
The man from down under, who has a higher birdie average than 28 of the other 29 players in this field, wasn’t at his best last week in Baltimore, but his game should be suited to the test presented by East Lake. Ranking fourth in the field for strokes gained: putting, he’s sharp with the putter, which on these greens is a must, while only two players rank better than him in terms of strokes gained: tee-to-green across the last eight events. Such a stat should not be ignored, nor should the fact that the 28-year-old ranks as the number one player in the field when it comes to SG: around-the-green over the same period. Throw in that he’s fourth for strokes gained: approach across the last eight events too and Smith really does start to look like a player who can finish right up there.
Scramblers also do well here, with each of the last four winners finishing the week seventh or higher in that category, so the fact that the Brisbane native is the sixth-best scrambler in here on the PGA Tour this season bodes well too.
All in all, we’re talking about a player who’ll start the week in a favorable position and who looks to have everything required to thrive on this track, so odds of +300 on a top-five finish may just be on the generous side.
Top Ten Finish
Kevin Na – 1 Unit @ +550
Kevin Na will start the week two shots outside of the top ten, but don’t be fooled into thinking he’s out of the reckoning for a well-placed finish. Like Smith, Na ticks lots of boxes this week. For a start, he’s gained more strokes pre-round on average than everybody else in the field apart from Jon Rahm across the last eight events, while he ranks in the top ten for both strokes gained: putting and strokes gained: tee-to-green.
Accuracy off the tee may be the undoing of the 37-year-old but he’s got the scrambling ability and the touch around the greens to save shots where others might not. No player has picked up more strokes around the green than Kevin Na on the PGA Tour this season, while he’s in the top five in this field for scrambling.
Starting at -2 means that Na’s chances of getting his hands on the TOUR Championship are very slim, but there’s lots to like about his chances of breaking into the top ten, and at odds of +550, it’s worth betting that the man with two top ten’s in his last three events does just that.