The Tour Championship
Viktor Hovland shot a course-record 61 (including a 28 on the back nine) Sunday to win the BMW Championship by two strokes at -17 over Matt Fitzpatrick and Scottie Scheffler and cashed a 17-1 ticket for this column.
The 61 was Hovland’s career low and the lowest final-round score in the history of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. He made 12 threes in what was close to a flawless round: 12 of 14 fairways (he led the field for the week at 43-for-56), 16 of 18 greens hit, first in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, second in Strokes Gained: Putting.
Scheffler, who started Sunday tied at the top with Fitzpatrick, three ahead of Hovland and Rory McIlroy, birdied two of the first three holes, three of the first six and led for most of the day. The last five holes, however, featured a dramatic reversal. Scheffler played them in 1 over par, while Hovland, playing up ahead, blitzed them in 4 under.
Rounding out the top 10 were Rory McIlroy (-12, 4th), Brian Harman and Max Homa (-11, T-5), Sungjae Im (-10, 7th), Russell Henley and Xander Schauffele (-9, T-8), and Tom Kim, Harris English, Andrew Putnam, Corey Conners and Denny McCarthy (-7, T-10).
This week, the PGA Tour heads to East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta for the final event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs at the Tour Championship.
Despite failing to close at Olympia Fields, Scheffler (3-2 with starting strokes; 11-2 in the low 72-hole market) will begin with the lead at -10 at the Tour Championship courtesy of being the current FedEx Cup points leader. Hovland (11-2; 10-1 low 72-hole market) will start at -8 while McIlroy (7-2; 11-2 low 72-hole market), a three-time FedEx Cup winner and a three-time winner of the Tour Championship, will start at -7.
Jon Rahm (+850; 10-1 low 72-hole market) will start at -6 and Lucas Glover (55-1; 50-1 low 72-hole market), a winner two weeks ago at the FedEx St. Jude Championship in Memphis, will start at -5.
Patrick Cantlay (18-1; 11-1 low 72-hole market), the 2021 FedEx Cup winner, will start six strokes back at -4 along with Homa (35-1; 18-1 low 72-hole market), Harman (60-1; 40-1 low 72-hole market), Wyndham Clark (55-1; 35-1 72-hole market) and Fitzpatrick (55-1; 28-1 72-hole market).
Several shops will also offer a low 72-hole market along with the aforementioned market that includes the FedEx Cup starting strokes.
The Tour Championship began in November 1987 as an event for the top 30 PGA Tour leading money winners and became the final event of the FedEx Cup Playoffs in 2007. With only 30 players, there is no 36-hole cut. The FedEx Cup winner receives $18 million out of the $75 million bonus money pool plus a five-year PGA Tour exemption. Although the staggered scoring mentioned above will determine the FedEx Cup winner, the scores (actual under-par score) without the seeding adjustment will determine the OWGR points allocation.
The Tour Championship started with the staggered starting strokes format back in 2019.
The FedEx Cup points Leader starts at -10. Second begins at -8, third at -7, fourth at -6, 5th at -5. Then 6-10 in the standings begin at -4, 11-15 at -3, 16-20 at -2, 21-25 at -1, and 26-30 at even par.
Here is the staggered starting scoring for this week's Tour Championship:
Max Homa, Patrick Cantlay, Brian Harman, Wyndham Clark, Matt Fitzpatrick
Tommy Fleetwood, Russell Henley, Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler, Xander Schauffele
Tom Kim, Sungjae Im, Tony Finau, Corey Conners, Si Woo Kim
Taylor Moore, Nick Taylor, Adam Schenk, Collin Morikawa, Jason Day
Sam Burns, Emiliano Grillo, Tyrrell Hatton, Jordan Spieth, Sepp Straka
East Lake Golf Club has been the permanent home of the Tour Championship since 2004. Located about five miles east of downtown Atlanta, East Lake, the oldest course in the city, was designed by Donald Ross in 1913 and has undergone several renovations, most recently by Rees Jones in 2008 and 2015. After the Ross rebuild, the course basically remained untouched until some changes were made before the 1963 Ryder Cup. Not long after the United States team destroyed Europe in that event, the neighborhood surrounding East Lake began to deteriorate and the course fell into disarray and was mostly forgotten. Fast forward to 1993 when the property was purchased by the East Lake Foundation and began restoring the course as a tribute to Bobby Jones.
The tree-lined parklands plays as a par-70 of 7,346 yards. Typically a par-72 layout for the members, the first and 14th holes are converted from par-5s to long par-4s, which adds to the toughness of the course. The Jones renovations reversed the nines so that the ninth (par-5) is now the closing 18th hole. In 2008, the greens were changed from Bentgrass to faster (12 stimpmeter) MiniVerde Bermuda. The narrowest (24.5-yard average) fairways on the PGA Tour are Meyer Zoysiagrass and the rough is a 2.5-inch thick Tifway Bermudagrass (which can be trickier because it wraps around the ball), but missing the fairways would not be ideal considering the fast greens, which are 5,619 square feet on average. East Lake also possesses many uneven lies and has high elevation (1,050 feet, fourth highest on tour). The front and back nines start off playing uphill at the lake. With the exception of four holes, the routing is east to west with holes typically playing either into the wind or downwind.
The course itself starts off straightforward with the first four holes being rather nondescript. Once past that early section, the course provides an interesting mix of difficult and easy holes. The par-5s are reachable in two shots and, along with the par-3s, provide plenty of risk/reward opportunities. The last six holes provide quite the challenging closing stretch. The highlights include the island par-3 15th hole. The 18th is a long par-5 that usually has the tees moved up on Sunday to entice players to be aggressive on their approach.
Players know they must position approach shots below the pin because the downhill putts are very quick. Like most of the other designs, East Lake features vintage Ross greens with back-to-front pitches and tightly mowed runoffs into collection areas. This is not a track that you can necessarily overpower with a bomb-and-gouge strategy.
East Lake has an average round of -0.94 under par since 2018. The track is made up of of 12 par-4s (9 at 440+), four par-3s (3 at 210+), and two par-5s (easiest on tour at -0.54).
The closest course correlations are Augusta National, TPC Southwind, Quail Hollow, TPC Potomac, Innisbrook and Memorial Park.
In addition, here are some other Donald Ross layouts and Rees Jones redesigns that have been featured in recent years on the PGA Tour:
Aronimink: 2010/11 AT&T National + 2019 BMW Championship
Detroit Golf Club: Rocket Mortgage Classic
East Course at Oak Hill: 2013 PGA Championship
Pinehurst No. 2: 2014 US Open
Plainfield: 2011 and 2015 Barclays
Sedgefield Country Club: Wyndham Championship
Aronimink GC: 2010, 2011 A&T National and 2018 BMW Championship
Baltusrol: 2016 PGA Championship
Bellerive CC: 2018 PGA Championship
Bethpage Black: 2009 U.S Open, 2019 PGA Championship and 2012, 2016 The Barclays
Blue Course, Congressional CC: 2011 U.S. Open and 2012-2014 & 2016 National
Blue Course, Royal Montreal GC: 2014 RBC Canadian Open
Dubsdread, Cog Hill GCC: 2009, 2010, 2011 BMW Championship
GC of Houston: Houston Open
Hazeltine: 2009 PGA Championship
Highlands Course, Atlanta Athletic Club: 2011 PGA Championship
Medinah No. 3: 2019 BMW Championship
Torrey Pines South Course: Farmers Insurance Open and 2008 and 2021 U.S. Open
Tour Championship winners
2022: Rory McIlroy -21 (-17/263); 12-1
2021: Patrick Cantlay -21 (-11/269); 4-1
2020: Dustin Johnson -21 (-11/269); 2-1
2019: Rory McIlroy -18 (-13/267); 9-1
2018: Tiger Woods (-11/269); 14-1
2017: Xander Schauffele (-12/268); 100-1
2016: Rory McIlroy (-12/268); 13-2*
2015: Jordan Spieth (-9/271); 9-1
2014: Billy Horschel (-11/269); 25-1
2013: Henrik Stenson (-13/267); 16-1
2012: Brandt Snedeker (-10/270); 40-1
2011: Bill Haas (-8/272); 45-1**
2010: Jim Furyk (-8/272); 20-1
2009: Phil Mickelson (-9/271)
2008: Camilo Villegas (-7/273)**
2007: Tiger Woods (-23/257)
Playoff win over Kevin Chappell & Ryan Moore - *
Playoff win over Hunter Mahan - **
Playoff win over Sergio Garcia - ***
72-Hole Low Scorers
2022: Rory McIlroy; 8-1 (-17/263)
2021: Kevin Na; 70-1 and Jon Rahm; 7-1 (-14/266)
2020: Xander Schauffele; 12-1 (-12/268)
2019: Rory McIlroy; 8-1 (-13/267)
Trends and Angles
Since the starting strokes format began in 2019:
— The worst the leader with starting strokes of -10 has finished was T-3 (2019).
— The second-place starter at -8 has finished inside the top 5 only once in four years.
— No player from a starting position of -1 or even has ever finished inside the top 5.
— Every year, at least one player starting at -2 has ended up inside the top 5.
— The top 3 has included at least one player who started between -2 to -4 each year.
The driver was used off the tee 83.5% last year at East Lake, so distance helps but so does accuracy on what are the narrowest fairways on tour. Total Driving takes into account Driving Distance plus Driving Accuracy.
Total Driving (2022-2023 PGA Tour season)
- Patrick Cantlay 53 (37 + 16) — No. 1 on tour
- Scottie Scheffler 75 (29 + 46) — No. 5
- Viktor Hovland 77 (43 + 34) — No. 6
- Jason Day 122 (67 + 55) — No. 16
- Jon Rahm 122 (12 + 110) — No. 16
- Cameron Young 125 (3 + 122) — No. 19
- Si Woo Kim 129 (122 + 7) — No. 20
- Sepp Straka 129 (106 + 23) — No. 20
- Tom Kim 132 (123 + 9) — No. 24
- Tony Finau 136 (64 + 72) — No. 25
- Tyrrell Hatton 137 (47 + 90) — No. 27
- Tommy Fleetwood 138 (80 + 58) — No. 28
- Rickie Fowler 138 (41 + 97) — No. 28
- Sungjae Im 142 (109 + 33) — No. 32
- Max Homa 143 (70 + 73) — No. 33
Notes: Driving Distance Rank + Driving Accuracy Rank; The tour average Distance + Accuracy ranking for this category is 186.
Fairways Gained gives us an indication of which players hit fairways compared with the field average, and it is especially useful to examine courses with penal rough like East Lake.
Fairways Gained (Last 36 rounds)
- Si Woo Kim 61
- Lucas Glover 52.9
- Russell Henley 52.5
- Collin Morikawa 47.1
- Sepp Straka 38.7
- Patrick Cantlay 36.5
- Tom Kim 30.5
- Tommy Fleetwood 27.7
- Viktor Hovland 27
- Brian Harman 18.6
- Corey Conners 18.3
- Max Homa 15.5
- Nick Taylor 14.9
- Emiliano Grillo 13.9
- Scottie Scheffler 8
Good Drives Gained measure a player's ability to hit the green in regulation from both the fairway and the rough.
Good Drives Gained (Last 36 rounds)
- Scottie Scheffler 41.2
- Collin Morikawa 40.5
- Lucas Glover 36.8
- Rory McIlroy 33.3
- Viktor Hovland 33.2
- Russell Henley 32.7
- Tommy Fleetwood 30.2
- Si Woo Kim 29.8
- Patrick Cantlay 26.6
- Jon Rahm 25.4
- Corey Conners 24.4
- Emiliano Grillo 23.1
- Keegan Bradley 21.7
- Tom Kim 21.1
- Jordan Spieth 18.8
The overall GIR sits at around 63% which is the ninth lowest out of all of the measured courses. Players will have to find ways to hit greens even out of the rough.
Greens In Regulation Gained (Last 36 rounds)
- Scottie Scheffler 70
- Rory McIlroy 52
- Collin Morikawa 47.9
- Lucas Glover 46.6
- Jon Rahm 40.3
- Viktor Hovland 37
- Corey Conners 31.6
- Russell Henley 29.1
- Tommy Fleetwood 28.9
- Xander Schauffele 28.5
- Adam Schenk 27.7
- Rickie Fowler 27.3
- Keegan Bradley 26.1
- Wyndham Clark 25.7
- Patrick Cantlay 23.9
Over 30% of approach shots at East Lake last year came from 200 yards or more.
Proximity Gained 200+ Yards (Last 36 rounds)
- Jon Rahm 25.7
- Scottie Scheffler 23.7
- Rory McIlroy 21.7
- Tom Kim 16.9
- Lucas Glover 15.7
- Keegan Bradley 13
- Tony Finau 12.8
- Si Woo Kim 12.7
- Adam Schenk 12.6
- Viktor Hovland 11.8
- Wyndham Clark 11.4
- Sungjae Im 11.2
- Nick Taylor 10.2
- Brian Harman 9.1
- Matt Fitzpatrick 8.3
While there will be plenty of long iron shots, there were also be many wedge shots.
Proximity Gained 125-150 Yards (Last 36 rounds)
- Scottie Scheffler 9.9
- Jordan Spieth 9
- Jon Rahm 8.3
- Tom Kim 7.8
- Russell Henley 7
- Collin Morikawa 7
- Max Homa 6.5
- Corey Conners 6.4
- Lucas Glover 6.3
- Nick Taylor 6.1
- Rickie Fowler 5.9
- Keegan Bradley 5
- Sepp Straka 4.1
- Matt Fitzpatrick 3.7
- Tyrrell Hatton 3.7
Note: Proximity measures are Average Feet Gained Towards the Hole per shot from the designated distance.
There are 12 par-4s on this layout at East Lake.
Strokes Gained Par-4s (Last 36 rounds)
- Rory McIlroy 69
- Scottie Scheffler 58.9
- Viktor Hovland 56.9
- Tyrrell Hatton 53.8
- Patrick Cantlay 49.4
- Xander Schauffele 47.6
- Tommy Fleetwood 46.8
- Russell Henley 46.2
- Corey Conners 39.7
- Wyndham Clark 37.1
- Brian Harman 36.9
- Jon Rahm 33.6
- Lucas Glover 32.1
- Max Homa 29.8
- Sungjae Im 26.1
Players will have multiple challenges when missing the green at East Lake. The Bermuda rough around the greens is especially lush and very difficult to get a consistent strike with a wedge. There are also numerous greens with shaved runoff areas of Zoysia grass, which is a really sticky surface. It is easy to make bogeys out of these tricky lies around the greens.
Bogey Avoidance (Last 36 rounds)
- Tommy Fleetwood 36.8
- Scottie Scheffler 34.4
- Rory McIlroy 31.4
- Brian Harman 29.7
- Patrick Cantlay 27.6
- Max Homa 25.8
- Tyrrell Hatton 25.6
- Lucas Glover 24.7
- Sam Burns 21.5
- Viktor Hovland 21.4
- Jason Day 20.8
- Corey Conners 20.6
- Xander Schauffele 20.3
- Russell Henley 20.1
- Wyndham Clark 19.7
Strokes Gained Around The Green (Last 36 rounds)
- Rickie Fowler 19.2
- Scottie Scheffler 18.5
- Tommy Fleetwood 11.6
- Jason Day 11.5
- Rory McIlroy 10.9
- Tony Finau 10.8
- Matt Fitzpatrick 10.7
- Russell Henley 9.3
- Wyndham Clark 9
- Si Woo Kim 8
- Tyrrell Hatton 7
- Jordan Spieth 5.8
- Patrick Cantlay 5.1
- Viktor Hovland 4.5
- Brian Harman 4.5
Back-to-front sloping greens are a hallmark of Donald Ross designs. This leaves many downhill putts when players are above the hole. However, East Lake ranked as the easiest course to putt on tour last year.
Strokes Gained Putting — Bermuda Greens (Last 36 rounds)
- Taylor Moore 32.9
- Adam Schenk 25.7
- Sam Burns 21.1
- Tyrrell Hatton 19.9
- Jon Rahm 19.1
- Wyndham Clark 17.8
- Tommy Fleetwood 16
- Jason Day 15.6
- Jordan Spieth 14.9
- Matt Fitzpatrick 14.2
- Max Homa 13.9
- Xander Schauffele 12.1
- Sungjae Im 11.2
- Rickie Fowler 10.9
Two weeks ago, on our VSiN podcast “Long Shots,” I mentioned going into the playoffs that Scottie Scheffler was the bet to make to win the FedEx Cup at 4-1 or better. If only I would have had the foresight to bet it, though. Scheffler looks the likely winner of the overall playoffs, but it is difficult to bet him at 3-2 or less. There looks to be slightly more value in the low 72-hole score market in what is one of the more difficult golf betting events of the season.
Xander Schauffele (12-1, BetMGM — Low 72-hole market)
Schauffele starts at -3 and seven strokes back to win the Tour Championship and essentially the FedEx Cup. However, he has as good of a course form line as anyone here.
He won this event on debut in 2017. His worst finish here was 7th in 2018.
The last four years here included a runner-up to McIlroy in 2019, being the low 72-hole scorer in 2020, third in 2021 and fourth last year.
The X man has 24 career rounds at East Lake and has never shot an over-par round.
Schauffele finished T-8 at the BMW Championship but ranked third in the field for Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee behind only Hovland and Scheffler, so his driving game is in great form and that is mandatory this week with the narrowest fairways on tour.
Sungjae Im (35-1, DraftKings — Low 72-hole market)
Im finished T-2 here last year and was the second-lowest 72-hole scorer behind eventual winner McIlroy.
He has not won on the PGA Tour since late 2021 (earned a win on the Korean Tour earlier this year), but he posted two consecutive top-10s (sixth at the FedEx St. Jude; seventh at the BMW) over the last two weeks and could be peaking at the end of the season.
His game off the tee certainly looks to be peaking as he was second-best in the field (12 of 14 fairways) in Sunday's final round.
Im also has an excellent record on another Ross design at Sedgefield and is currently based in Atlanta, so this could be a good home game for him.
Russell Henley (35-1, DraftKings — Low 72-hole market)
Henley has gone 8-6-2 over the last three weeks and has nine top-20s in his last 12 starts.
He has also gained an average of 2.3 strokes per round on the field over those 12 starts.
Henley has not been to East Lake since 2017 when he finished third behind Schauffele and Justin Thomas.
Any matchups or placement market bets will be up at VSiN.com/picks on Wednesday