FedEx Cup playoffs: Best bets for Tour Championship

August 23, 2022 04:53 PM
USATSI_18888024

Patrick Cantlay won the penultimate event of the FedEx Cup playoffs for the second year in a row at the BMW Championship. He took the lead for good with a birdie on the 71st hole after his drive bounced over a fairway bunker. Cantlay, priced at 16-1, won by one over Scott Stallings, who played his way from 47th in the FedEx Cup standings all the way to 12th and made the season-ending Tour Championship for the first time. 

Meanwhile, Cantlay (4-1 with starting strokes, 8-1 low 72-hole market), last year's FedEx Cup winner, vaults up to second in the standings and will start the Tour Championship two strokes behind leader Scottie Scheffler (5-2 with starting strokes, 10-1 low 72-hole market). Xander Schauffele (15-2 with starting strokes, 8-1 low 72-hole market) won this event in 2017 and Rory McIlroy (11-1 with starting strokes, 8-1 low 72-hole market) won it in 2016 and 2019. Will Zalatoris, No. 3 in the standings, won the first playoff event two weeks ago but withdrew last week during Saturday's third round with a back injury and had to withdraw from the playoff finale Tuesday morning with two herniated discs in his back. He will also miss the Presidents Cup next month. Jon Rahm (16-1 with starting strokes, 10-1 low 72-hole market) did not win the FedEx Cup last year but shared the low 72-hole score with Kevin Na. 

The Event ​

The Tour Championship began in 1987 as an event for the Top 30 players on the PGA Tour money list. It 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 pool plus a five-year PGA Tour exemption. Although the staggered start will determine the FedEx Cup winner, the non-adjusted scores will count toward world ranking points.

The Tour Championship started with the staggered start format in 2019. The FedEx Cup points leader starts the tournament at 10-under par, second on the list starts at 8-under, third at 7-under, fourth at 6-under and fifth at 5-under. Nos. 6-10 begin at 4-under, 11-15 at 3-under, 16-20 at 2-under, 21-25 at 1-under and 26-30 at even par. 

Here are the starting scores for this week's Tour Championship:

10-under par: Scottie Scheffler

8-under: Patrick Cantlay

7-under: Will Zalatoris (WD)

6-under: Xander Schauffele

5-under: Sam Burns

4-under: Cameron Smith, Rory McIlroy, Tony Finau, Sepp Straka, Sungjae Im

3-under: Jon Rahm, Scott Stallings, Justin Thomas, Cameron Young, Matt Fitzpatrick

2-under: Max Homa, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth, Joaquin Niemann, Viktor Hovland

1-under: Collin Morikawa, Billy Horschel, Tom Hoge, Corey Conners, Brian Harman

Even: K.H. Lee, J.T. Poston, Sahith Theegala, Adam Scott, Aaron Wise

The Course

East Lake Golf Club has been the permanent home for the Tour Championship since 2004. Located about 5 miles east of downtown Atlanta, East Lake, the oldest course in the city, was designed by Donald Ross in 1913 and has received several renovations, most recently by Rees Jones in 2008 and 2015.

The tree-lined parklands course plays as a Par 70 of 7,346 yards. A Par 72 for the members, Nos. 1 and 14 are converted from Par 5s to long Par 4s, which adds to the difficulty of the course. The Jones renovations reversed the nines so No. 9 (Par 5) is now the 18th hole. In 2008, the greens were changed from Bentgrass to a faster MiniVerde Bermuda (12 stimpmeter). The narrow fairways (24.4 yards on average) are Meyer Zoysiagrass and the rough (2.5 inches) is Tifway Bermudagrass, but missing the fairways is not ideal considering the fast greens, which are 6,090 square feet on average. 

The course starts off straightforward with the first four holes being nondescript. After 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 a challenging closing stretch, highlighted by the island Par 3 15th hole and the long Par 5 18th, which 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 pins because downhill putts are very quick. East Lake features vintage Ross greens with back-to-front pitches and tightly mowed runoffs into collection areas. This is not a track you can necessarily overpower with a bomb-and-gouge type of strategy. 

If looking for some course correlations, here are some other Ross layouts and Jones redesigns that have been featured in recent years on the PGA Tour:

Donald Ross

— Aronimink (2010-11 AT&T National, 2019 BMW Championship)

— Detroit Golf Club (Rocket Mortgage Classic)

— Oak Hill (2013 PGA Championship)

— Pinehurst No. 2 (2014 US Open)

— Plainfield (2011 and 2015 Barclays)

— Sedgefield Country Club (Wyndham Championship)

Rees Jones

— Aronimink (2010-2011 AT&T National, 2018 BMW Championship)

— Baltusrol (2016 PGA Championship)

— Bellerive (2018 PGA Championship)

— Bethpage Black (2009 U.S Open, 2019 PGA Championship, 2012 and 2016 Barclays)

— Congressional (2011 U.S. Open, 2012-2014 and 2016 AT&T National)

— Royal Montreal (2014 RBC Canadian Open)

— Cog Hill (2009-2011 BMW Championship)

— Golf Club of Houston (Houston Open)

— Hazeltine (2009 PGA Championship)

— Atlanta Athletic Club (2011 PGA Championship)

— Medinah No. 3 (2019 BMW Championship)

— Torrey Pines South Course (Farmers Insurance Open, 2008 and 2021 U.S. Open)

Other course correlations include TPC Southwind, Quail Hollow and Sheshan International.

Recent History

FedEx Cup champions

2021: Patrick Cantlay

2020: Dustin Johnson

2019: Rory McIlroy*

2018: Justin Rose

2017: Justin Thomas

2016: Rory McIlroy*

2015: Jordan Spieth*

2014: Billy Horschel*

2013: Henrik Stenson*

2012: Brandt Snedeker*

2011: Bill Haas*

2010: Jim Furyk*

2009: Tiger Woods

2008: Vijay Singh

2007: Tiger Woods*

Also won the Tour Championship

Tour Championship winners

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 and Ryan Moore*

Playoff win over Hunter Mahan**

Playoff win over Sergio Garcia***

72-hole low scorers

2021: Kevin Na and Jon Rahm (-14/266); Na 70-1, Rahm 7-1

2020: Xander Schauffele (-12/268); 12-1

2019: Rory McIlroy (-13/267); 8-1

Statistical Analysis​

Total Driving (2021-2022 PGA Tour Season) 

East Lake packs plenty of length for a Par 70, but the Driving Accuracy rate is only 62%, which is the eighth lowest on the PGA Tour. Total Driving gives us a clear picture of how players are hitting the ball off the tee by combining Driving Distance rank plus Driving Accuracy rank.

1. Jon Rahm 58 (3 + 55)

2. Sungjae Im 97 (68 + 29)

3. Corey Conners 98 (77 + 21)

4. Xander Schauffele 107 (27 + 80)

5. Viktor Hovland 112 (37 + 75)

6. Collin Morikawa 113 (80 + 33)

7. Scottie Scheffler 122 (19 + 103)

8. Cameron Young 123 (4 + 119) 

9. Matt Fitzpatrick 127 (72 + 55)

10. Patrick Cantlay 133 (40 + 93)

11. Rory McIlroy 135 (2 + 133)

12. K.H. Lee 137 (79 + 58) 

Strokes Gained: Ball Striking (Last 36 Rounds)

Strokes Gained: Ball Striking measures Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee plus Strokes Gained: Approach.

1. Rory McIlroy 59.9

2. Tony Finau 52.4

3. Corey Conners 51.2

4. Scottie Scheffler 47

5. Jon Rahm 46

6. Cameron Young 42.7

7. Aaron Wise 41.5

8. Justin Thomas 39.5

9. Sungjae Im 39.1

10. Scott Stallings 38.9

11. Collin Morikawa 38.8

12. Joaquin Niemann 38.4

13. Viktor Hovland 38.3

14. Xander Schauffele 37.1

Strokes Gained: Approach (Last 36 Rounds)

Strokes Gained: Approach should also be considered this week. The overall GIR rate sits at around 63%, which is the ninth lowest out of all measured courses on tour. It is also difficult to gain strokes on approach because greens have well-defined target areas. Many of the green complexes are elevated and undulating, making it paramount to position the ball below the pin.

1. Scott Stallings 32.9

2. Rory McIlroy 31.9

3. Scottie Scheffler 31.5

4. Cameron Smith 27.8

5. Xander Schauffele 26.7

6. Corey Conners 25.2

7. Sam Burns 25.2

8. Collin Morikawa 24.7

9. Aaron Wise 24.2

10. Tony Finau 23.7

11. Hideki Matsuyama 22

12. Viktor Hovland 21.7

13. Justin Thomas 21.1

Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green

Five of the last seven low scorers here were fourth or better in the field for Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green.

1. Rory McIlroy 72.1

2. Tony Finau 66.6

3. Cameron Young 63.5

4. Scottie Scheffler 59.1

5. Justin Thomas 53.4

6. Jordan Spieth 50

7. Sungjae Im 49.1

8. Corey Conners 46.2

9. Jon Rahm 43.6

10. Xander Schauffele 43.4

11. Joaquin Niemann 42.7

12. Scott Stallings 40.8

13. Aaron Wise 40.7

Proximity Gained: 200+ Yards (Last 36 Rounds)

Several approach shots will come from 200 yards or more.

1. Xander Schauffele 32.4

2. Aaron Wise 21.9

3. Adam Scott 18.3

4. Sahith Theegala 16.5

5. Viktor Hovland 16

6. Collin Morikawa 15.7

7. Hideki Matsuyama 14.3

8. Justin Thomas 13.5

9. Rory McIlroy 13.2

10. Max Homa 12.6

11. Tom Hoge 10

Feet gained per shot

Strokes Gained: Par 4s (Last 36 Rounds)

Twelve of the 18 holes at East Lake are Par 4s.

1. Tony Finau 67.8

2. Rory McIlroy 67.2

3. Matt Fitzpatrick 49.4

4. Cameron Young 42.6

5. Xander Schauffele 41.9

6. Jon Rahm 41

7. Cameron Smith 39.6

8. Jordan Spieth 39.2

9. Corey Conners 34.6

10. Sam Burns 33.5

11. Scottie Scheffler 33.1

12. Aaron Wise 33.1

Scrambling Gained (Last 36 Rounds)

If you miss the greens at East Lake, the Bermuda rough around the greens is especially lush and makes it 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 sticky surface. Kevin Na and Jon Rahm had the lowest 72-hole scores here in 2021 and ranked first and second in the field for Scrambling. Xander Schauffele was second in the field for Scrambling when he set the low 72-hole mark here in 2020.

1. Matt Fitzpatrick 20.7

2. J.T. Poston 15.4

3. Tony Finau 14.4

4. Billy Horschel 13.5

5. Max Homa 13.4

6. Patrick Cantlay 11.3

7. Sahith Theegala 10.6

8. Cameron Smith 8.4

9. Cameron Young 7.6

10. Rory McIlroy 7.3

11. K.H. Lee 7.1

Selections​ (All Picks for Low 72-Hole Market)

Jon Rahm (9-1 DraftKings)

Rahm disappointed last week at the BMW with a T8 finish after he was 1-over par after two rounds. However, he shot 132 (10-under) on the weekend and that was two shots better than the entire field. He was the low 72-hole scorer (along with Kevin Na) at East Lake last year. Rahm ranks No. 1 on the PGA Tour for Total Driving. 

Xander Schauffele (11-1 BetMGM)

Schauffele finished T3 last week at the BMW. He shot the low 72-hole score two years ago at East Lake and won the Tour Championship in 2017. To sum it up, Schauffele has twice posted the best 72-hole aggregate score and in his other three appearances has finished second, third and seventh in this market. He is a horse for the course. 

Tony Finau (18-1 BetMGM)

Finau has finished seventh (2017), 15th (2018), seventh (2019) and 14th (2020) in 72-hole scoring across five starts at East Lake. He is currently playing the best golf of his career, with a win in Detroit (Rocket Mortgage Classic) and Minneapolis (3M Open) and a fifth-place finish in Memphis (FedEx St Jude Championship) in his three starts before last week's disappointing 28th. He shot 77 in Round 1 last week only to shoot the third-best score over the last 54 holes behind Jon Rahm and winner Patrick Cantlay. 

Sungjae Im (22-1 BetMGM)

Im started his good form a few weeks ago with consecutive second-place finishes in the 3M Open and Wyndham Championship. He then made a good start to the playoffs in the St. Jude Championship, finishing 12th, and was 15th last week in the BMW Championship. He ranks second in this field for Total Driving. His game off the tee is also complemented with a superb short game, ranking fourth for Scrambling and eighth for SG: Around-the-Greens. In addition, he ranks fourth on the PGA Tour in Par 4 Scoring, 10th in GIR and 19th in Proximity: 200+ Yards.

Omega European Masters​​

Last week’s D + D Real Czech Masters was disappointing for this column as our 70-1 bet on Gavin Green led for most of the weekend and with five holes left to play Sunday. However, Green found the water on 14 before the Malaysian missed a five-foot bogey putt to fall back into a share of the lead, and he was behind after Max Kieffer made a brilliant birdie at the 17th hole. Kieffer won his first DP World Tour title at a price of 60-1 after having made 249 starts without a victory. 

This week, the DP World Tour makes its annual pilgrimage to the Swiss Alps and the beautiful Crans-Sur-Sierre Golf Club for the Omega European Masters. Ryan Fox (18-1) has a victory and three runners-up in 2022 and returns to the DP World Tour as this week’s favorite after a month off. Adrian Meronk (20-1) won his maiden DP World Tour title eight weeks ago at the Irish Open. Rasmus Hojgaard (28-1) is the defending champion. Robert MacIntyre and Adri Arnaus (each 30-1) follow in the market. Victor Perez (33-1) won his first event in two and half years at the Dutch Open in May, but his drought was nothing compared to Richie Ramsay (35-1), a former winner of this event in 2012 who went over seven years until winning the Cazoo Classic in July. Danny Willett (35-1) won this event in 2015. 

The Event

The Omega European Masters was founded as the Swiss Open in 1923. The event has been a fixture on the European Tour since the tour's inception in 1972 but ended its streak in 2020 when the tournament was canceled due to COVID-19. 

The tournament has an extensive resume of notable winners including major champions such as Seve Ballesteros (1977, 1978, 1989), Bob Charles (1962, 1974), Nick Faldo (1983), Nick Price (1980), Craig Stadler (1985), Jose Maria Olazabal (1986), Ernie Els (2003), Sergio Garcia (2005) and Willett (2015), in addition to other top European Tour players such as Matt Fitzpatrick, Alex Noren, Thomas Bjorn, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Colin Montgomerie.

The Course

Crans-Sur-Sierre Golf Club in Crans Montana, Switzerland (about a two-hour drive east of Geneva), has hosted this tournament since 1939. The course is a Par 70 of 6,848 yards and is played at altitude in the Swiss Alps. It is a tree-lined, undulating test with tiny and slower Bentgrass/Poa greens (10.6 stimpmeter) that are guarded by bunkers and runoff areas. 

Four of the Par 4s measure less than 400 yards and two stretch over 500 yards. There are five Par 3s between 175 and 235 yards, however with the undulation changes and altitude the holes don’t play as long. The front nine contains three of the sub-400-yard Par 4s in a stretch from Nos. 5 to 7. Back-to-back reachable Par 5s at the 14th and 15th also present opportunities.

Recent Winners

2021: Rasmus Hojgaard (-13/267); 45-1

2020: No Tournament due to COVID-19

2019: Sebastian Söderberg (-14/266); 275-1*

2018: Matthew Fitzpatrick (-17/263); 12-1**

2017: Matthew Fitzpatrick (-14/266); 30-1***

2016: Alexander Noren (-17/263); 18-1****

2015: Danny Willett (-17/263); 16-1

2014: David Lipsky (-18/262); 125-1*****

2013: Thomas Bjorn (-20/264); 40-1******

2012: Richie Ramsay (-16/267); 80-1

2011: Thomas Bjorn (20/264); 55-1

2010: M.A. Jimenez (-21/263); 18-1

Playoff win over Lorenzo Gagli, Rory McIlroy, Andres Romero and Kalle Samooja*

Playoff win over Lucas Bjerregaard**

Playoff win over Scott Hend***

Playoff win over Scott Hend****

Playoff win over Graeme Storm*****

Playoff win over Craig Lee******

Trends

8 of the last 11 winners arrived with a top-7 finish in their previous event.

— 11 of the last 11 winners had at least one top-10 finish in their 10 previous starts.

Selections​

Romain Langasque (35-1 DraftKings)

Langasque hasn't played since the Hero Open four weeks ago, where he finished 14th. He has nine top-20s and five top-10s on the DP World Tour this season. Langasque’s form has been good all around, ranking eighth on tour for Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, ninth for Strokes Gained: Approach and fifth for Scrambling.

Antoine Rozner (45-1 DraftKings)

Rozner finished 13th last week in Prague but led the field for both Strokes Gained: Approach and Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. Unfortunately, he ranked last on the greens. Modest improvements should get him into contention with his ball striking having been solid over the last two months. 

Matt Wallace (45-1 Caesars Sportsbook)

Wallace was unlucky No. 126 and missed the FedEx Cup playoffs by one spot. His last two starts on the DP World Tour at the European and Dutch Opens led to 18th and fifth-place finishes. Wallace is only three weeks removed from a top-10 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic against a better field than this one. He’ll likely relish the drop in class here.

Marcus Kinhult (50-1 BetMGM)

Kinhult’s recent form took a jump in a big way three starts ago at the Cazoo Classic, where he finished third. After a narrowly missed cut in Northern Ireland, he finished 23rd last week in Prague. Scandinavian players have won six of the last 12 events here and Kinhult has finishes of 10th and 12th at this event. 

Guido Migliozzi (60-1 DraftKings)

Migliozzi finished seventh here last year. The Italian has shown some recent signs of life with finishes of 10th (Dutch Open), 14th (U.S. Open) and 18th (ISPS Handa World Invitational in Northern Ireland) over his last seven starts.

Lucas Bjerregaard (100-1 BetMGM)

The Dane has two top-10 finishes in this event, including a runner-up in 2018. His third-place finish in Wales three weeks ago was his best finish in a tough 2022, as he has missed 13 of 18 cuts.

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