Last weekend Jon Rahm won the BMW Championship at 10-1 by holing a 66-foot putt on the first playoff hole to defeat Dustin Johnson, who had just made a 43-footer on the 72nd hole to advance to the playoff. This playoff marked the first time the world No. 1 (Johnson) and world No. 2 (Rahm) had met in a playoff since the 1995 World Series of Golf, when Greg Norman beat Nick Price. It was also the first time since 1998 that a world No. 1 had lost in a playoff since Tiger Woods fell to Billy Mayfair at the 1998 Nissan Open.
Olympia Fields proved a challenge and perhaps even a precursor for the U.S. Open as only five players in the 69-player field finished under par. Rahm was at 6-over 146 after 36 holes and trailed by seven shots but shot 10 under over the weekend to earn his 12th worldwide victory — and he’s still only 25. Johnson retained the No. 1 ranking and has finished second at the BMW, first at the Northern Trust and second at the PGA Championship in his last three events.
These two are the obvious favorites for this week’s FedEx Cup finale, the Tour Championship. There are two betting markets, depending on your sportsbook. Last year the PGA Tour switched the format with a staggered scoring scale to ensure that the Tour Championship winner also wins the FedEx Cup. By virtue of being No. 1 in FedEx Cup points, Johnson will begin the event at 10 under. Rahm will start at 8 under. No. 3 Justin Thomas starts at 7 under. Here is how all 30 participants will begin:
-10: Dustin Johnson
- 8: Jon Rahm
-7: Justin Thomas
-6: Webb Simpson
-5: Collin Morikawa
-4: Daniel Berger, Harris English, Bryson DeChambeau, Sungjae Im, Hideki Matsuyama
-3: Brendon Todd, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed, Xander Schauffele, Sebastian Munoz
-2: Lanto Griffin, Scottie Scheffler, Joaquin Niemann, Tyrrell Hatton, Tony Finau
-1: Kevin Kisner, Abraham Ancer, Ryan Palmer, Kevin Na, Marc Leishman
Even: Cameron Smith, Viktor Hovland, Mackenzie Hughes, Cameron Champ, Billy Horschel
Most shops are offering the market that includes these starting scores, which is why you see Johnson as a 2-1 overall favorite and Rahm right behind at 5-2. Some stores including but not limited to DraftKings and FanDuel are also offering 72-hole odds for the players who post the best score without considering the FedEx Cup starting scores. In this market, Johnson and Rahm share co-favoritism at 11-2. Thomas, only three strokes back, is 5-1 to win the FedEx Cup and 15-2 in the 72-hole market. Webb Simpson took last week off and dropped only one spot in the standings, and he goes off at 10-1 for the FedEx Cup and 11-1 in 72-hole market. PGA champion Collin Morikawa is 20-1 in the FedEx Cup market and 18-1 to have the lowest score in the tournament.
We don’t have much to go on, considering this format just started in 2019. It worked out last year, as Rory McIlroy had the lowest tournament score at 13 under but also started fifth in FedEx Cup points and began the event at 5 under for an aggregate score of 18 under. McIlroy, who is about to become a first-time father and could withdraw if he gets the call, is 25-1 to win the FedEx Cup due to being seven strokes back, but the two-time event winner is just 10-1 to post the low 72-hole score.
The Tour Championship began in November 1987 as an event for the top 30 PGA Tour money winners and became the final event of the FedEx Cup playoffs in 2007. With only 30 players, no 36-hole cut is used. The FedEx Cup winner receives $15 million from the $60 million bonus-money pool plus a five-year PGA Tour exemption. Unlike most events, the tournament will start Friday and conclude on Labor Day. Although the staggered scoring will determine the FedEx Cup winner, the actual under-par score without the seeding adjustment will determine the OWGR points allocation.
East Lake Golf Club has been the permanent home for the Tour Championship since 2004. About 5 miles east of downtown Atlanta, East Lake was designed by Donald Ross in 1913 and has received several renovations, most recently by Rees Jones in 2008 and 2015. The course plays as a par-70 of 7,346 yards. The Jones renovations reversed the nines, so the par-5 ninth is now the 18th hole. The renovations toughened the course, and no player has shot better than -13/267 in any Tour Championship since. In 2008, the greens were changed from Bentgrass to faster MiniVerde Bermuda (12.5 Stimpmeter). The fairways are Meyer Zoysiagrass, and the rough is a 2.5-inch-high Tifway Bermudagrass. But missing the fairways would not be ideal considering the fast greens, which are 6,300 square feet on average. 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 you can necessarily overpower with a bomb-and-gouge strategy. GIR, Driving Accuracy, SG: Tee-To-Green, SG: Off-The-Tee, SG: Around The Green are important statistics. If looking for some course correlations, here are some other Donald Ross layouts that have been featured in recent years on the PGA Tour:
Sedgefield CC: Wyndham Championship, 2008-present (Reed, Simpson)
Detroit GC: Rocket Mortgage Classic, 2019-present (DeChambeau)
Pinehurst No. 2: 2014 U.S. Open
East Course at Oak Hill: 2013 PGA
Plainfield CC: 2011 (Johnson) and 2015 Barclays
Aronimink CC: 2010 and ’11 AT&T National; 2018 BMW
FedEx Cup champions
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 Tour Championship
Tour Championship winners
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
Tour Championship stats
Here is a list of the top 10 players in this week’s field in the pertinent statistical categories:
Greens In Regulation
1. Webb Simpson 71.64%
2. Harris English 71.14%
3. Xander Schauffele 70.96%
4. Jon Rahm 70.37%
5. Joaquin Niemann 69.98%
6. Justin Thomas 69.35%
7. Tyrrell Hatton 69.30%
8. Dustin Johnson 69.26%
9. Collin Morikawa 69.15%
10. Tony Finau 69.12%
The Tour Championship winner over the last 10 years had an average ranking of sixth. Three winners led the field (2010, Furyk; 2013, Stenson; 2014, Horschel).
1. Brendon Todd 71.53%
2. Webb Simpson 67.41%
3. Kevin Kisner 66.11%
4. Collin Morikawa 65.60%
5. Daniel Berger 64.79%
6. Abraham Ancer 64.55%
7. Jon Rahm 64.34%
8. Sungjae Im 64.33%
9. Billy Horschel 63.96%
10. Viktor Hovland 63.18%
The Tour Championship winner over the last 10 years had an average ranking of seventh.
Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green
1. Justin Thomas 1.716
2. Hideki Matsuyama 1.528
3. Rory McIlroy 1.369
4. Collin Morikawa 1.354
5. Jon Rahm 1.348
6. Xander Schauffele 1.288
7. Tony Finau 1.186
8. Daniel Berger 1.120
9. Dustin Johnson 1.111
10. Webb Simpson 1.110
The Tour Championship winner has averaged a ranking of third for SG: Tee-To-Green in the last four years. McIlroy was first last year.
Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee
1. Bryson DeChambeau 1.101
2. Cameron Champ 0.990
3. Jon Rahm 0.782
4. Rory McIlroy 0.714
5. Xander Schauffele 0.655
6. Scottie Scheffler 0.639
7. Dustin Johnson 0.625
8. Daniel Berger 0.459
9. Sungjae Im 0.457
10. Viktor Hovland 0.454
In three of the last four years, the Tour Championship winner has led the field in SG: Off-The-Tee. (2016, McIlroy; 2017, Schauffele; 2019, McIlroy).
Strokes Gained: Approach
1. Justin Thomas 1.005
2. Collin Morikawa 0.901
3. Hideki Matsuyama 0.716
4. Joaquin Niemann 0.711
5. Webb Simpson 0.699
6. Tyrrell Hatton 0.689
7. Viktor Hovland 0.604
8. Rory McIlroy 0.574
9. Dustin Johnson 0.544
10. Tony Finau 0.541
In three of the last four years, the Tour Championship winner has averaged 11th in the field.
Strokes Gained: Around The Green
1. Hideki Matsuyama 0.495
2. Mackenzie Hughes 0.482
3. Justin Thomas 0.316
4. Patrick Reed 0.305
5. Webb Simpson 0.299
6. Jon Rahm 0.279
7. Harris English 0.251
8. Tyrrell Hatton 0.249
9. Tony Finau 0.247
10. Xander Schauffele 0.236
In three of the last four years, the Tour Championship winner has averaged fifth in the field.
FedEx Cup Market
Webb Simpson 11-1
I’ll try to beat the two short-priced favorites this week. Simpson punted on playing last week at the BMW Championship, avoiding the Bentgrass/Poa Annua. He returns to his preferred Bermudagrass, and all seven of his wins have come on shorter courses that cater to ball strikers. The gamble on skipping a week could potentially pay off since he dropped only one spot in the FedEx Cup points.
This is also a big week for Simpson as he now has some competition to win PGA Tour Player of the Year, with Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa winning twice this summer. Although he often gets overlooked, including by yours truly, Simpson is a proven winner in big-time events, including the 2012 U.S. Open and 2018 Players Championship.
Simpson ranks first on the tour in Birdie Average and Scoring Average. Furthermore, he rates sixth for Strokes Gained: Approach and Greens In Regulation. He has three top-5 finishes in six appearances here, and he’s arguably playing the best golf of his career this season.
Collin Morikawa 20-1
Morikawa was a disappointing 20th at the BMW Championship. He got off to a brutal start at 9 over through two rounds. The PGA champion was -2.57 Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green (ranks fourth on the PGA Tour) and hit only 42% of greens. The weekend unleashed a more characteristic ball-striking performance from Morikawa. He shot 4 under and posted a + 3.80 Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green mark while hitting 72% of the greens.
He ranks second on tour for Strokes Gained: Approach and is fourth in this week’s field for Driving Accuracy. This is Morikawa’s first look at East Lake, but Xander Schauffele won here in his debut in 2017. He will start at -5, which is where Rory McIlroy started in his victory last year.
Tony Finau 16-1
Another week, another top-10 for Finau. Same song, different verse. Finau shot 65 Sunday at Olympia Fields to finish fifth and ended up third for Strokes Gained: Putting.
This week at East Lake, where Finau has two seventh-place finishes in three starts, he gets a crack at another challenging par-70 layout and has done well of late on these courses, with a fourth at Harding Park for the PGA and a fifth in the BMW.
Finau also has four top-10s in his last six starts, so he continues to peak as we head toward the U.S. Open.
Daniel Berger 18-1
Berger has finishes of 12th, 15th and 15th in three appearances here, but now he’s playing the best golf of his career. In the first event out of the restart, Berger won at Colonial. This season he also has a runner-up at the WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational, thirds at the Northern Trust and RBC Heritage and top-5 finishes at the Honda Classic and AT&T Pebble Beach. However, because the field was cut off before the return to play, Berger is not in this year’s Masters despite being the No. 13 player in the world. That provides him extra motivation to perhaps change the Augusta National Golf Club officials’ minds and send him an invite.
Two of Berger’s three career PGA Tour wins have come in Memphis at TPC Southwind, which has the same Zoysiagrass soft fairways as East Lake. Berger ranks top 10 in this week’s field for Driving Accuracy, Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee and Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green.
Billy Horschel 35-1
Horschel doesn’t always make the Tour Championship, but when he does he has done very well with a victory in 2014, a runner-up in 2018 and a seventh in 2013. He almost didn’t make this week’s top 30 but squeaked into the last spot when Corey Conners three-putted from 4 feet on the 18th Sunday. Having come in the back door of the Tour Championship, he is playing with house money and no pressure.
Three weeks ago Horschel finished second in the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield CC, another Donald Ross design. This is the time of year when Horschel usually plays his best golf. Last year he had three top-10s from late July to late September, and in 2018 he had four top-3-or-better finishes.
Teenager Rasmus Hojgaard won his second European Tour event in just 15 starts last weekend at the ISPS Handa UK Championship. Hojgaard, 19, now ranks No. 63 in the OWGR and is one of a quintet of favorites this week in Spain at 14-1. Joining the Dane in the favorite’s role are perennial bridesmaid Thomas Detry; Bernd Wiesberger, who is the highest-ranked player in the field at 30th; Martin Kaymer, and Andy Sullivan. The Andalucia Masters would ordinarily involve Sergio Garcia as a participant and tournament host on behalf of his foundation, but with the schedule change, Garcia is not at Valderrama this week.
The Andalucia Masters began in 2010 as a replacement for the Volvo Masters and was held at the same Valderrama Golf Club. The tournament was canceled in 2012 due to an economic crisis in Spain, and the local government withdrew its support. It returned in 2017, hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation and sponsored by Estrella Damm, a beer brewed in Barcelona. The 2020 event was slated for the first weekend in May but was moved to the first weekend in September due to the schedule changes.
Valderrama, one of the world’s great courses, is on the southeast coast of Spain in San Roque within the resort of Sotogrande. It was designed in 1975 by Robert Trent Jones Sr. Valderrama was the first course in continental Europe to host the Ryder Cup in 1997. It is one of the more challenging courses at any level of professional golf despite measuring just 7,000 yards (par 71). The fairways are Bermuda and the greens are faster than normal Bentgrass (12.5 Stimpmeter). The fairways are narrower than normal, and the greens are tiny. The rough is not all that challenging, but 2,000 cork trees will force players to chop out into the fairway after errant tee shots. In addition, the wind is expected to blow 15-20 mph.
2019: Christiaan Bezuidenhout (-10/274), 80-1
2018: Sergio Garcia (-12/201), 9-2*
2017: Sergio Garcia (-12/272), 5-1
2016: Andrew Johnston (+ 1/281), 100-1**
* - weather-shortened event to 54 holes
** - 2016 Open de Espana event
Joost Luiten 20-1
He arrives in shaky form. He missed the cut at the Hero Open, then traveled stateside to the PGA, where he made the cut (T51), and then back to the UK for the Celtic Classic and another missed cut.
Nevertheless, he has had two weeks off and returns to a place where he’s a horse for the course. The Netherlands native had consecutive second-place finishes in 2016-17 at Valderrama.
Jorge Campillo 25-1
The Spaniard comes in off back-to-back top-10 finishes at Celtic Manor and the Belfry. With Rahm and Garcia not in the event, he’s the leader on the odds board for the Spanish contingent.
Campillo finally broke through in earning his maiden European Tour win at the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco last year and followed that with another win at the Qatar Masters in March. His first start off the long layoff was at the PGA, where he missed the cut and then missed a cut in his return to European soil, but the back-to-back top-10s show the obvious rust has worn off.
Wade Ormsby 40-1
The Aussie already has a win in 2020 at the Hong Kong Open on the Asian Tour in early January. He was also starting to come into form with back-to-back top-10s in New Zealand and Malaysia before play stopped.
Last week, in his first tournament back, he placed a respectable T25 at the Belfry. Ormsby has also done well here before with a fifth in 2017.
Romain Langasque 50-1
The Frenchman missed the cut last week at the Belfry, but he won his first European Tour title at Celtic Manor the week before.
Langasque won on this Valderrama course, taking the 2016 Spanish International Amateur Championship.
Thorbjorn Olesen 50-1
Olesen’s European Tour suspension was lifted July 2, but he is still awaiting court proceedings from an incident on a flight back to London after last year’s WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
Nevertheless, he has made three of four cuts in his return after almost a year off from tournament play. He was sixth in last week’s field for GIR and first in GIR at the English Championship four weeks ago. Seeing countryman Hojgaard win last week might also motivate him, as Olesen has carried the banner of Denmark for many years.
Calum Hill 60-1
The Scot graduated from the European Tour last year and has been competitive on the big tour with consecutive top-10 finishes at Celtic Manor and the Belfry.
Last week Hill was fourth in the field in Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green.