The Tour Championship at East Lake marks the third and final event in the PGA playoff schedule. The top 30 players from last week’s BMW Championship will now fight it out in Atlanta for the FedEx Cup along with the accompanying $15,000,000 first place bonus.
This is the first time that the tour will implement a ‘starting stroke’ based on the player’s position in the rankings. That means that Justin Thomas, who leads the rankings, will start on a score of –10, whereas Rory McIlroy, for example, will start five strokes behind him on –5. The player with the lowest score after 72 holes of play will be crowned FedEx Cup Champion.
Below are the standings before the Tournament tees off:
|Rahm, Kuchar, Schauffele, Simpson, Ancer||-4|
|Woodland, Finau, Scott, Johnson, Matsuyama||-3|
|Casey, Rose, Snedeker, Fowler, Kisner||-2|
|Leishman, Fleetwood, Conners, Im, Reavie||-1|
|DeChambeau, Oosthuizen, Howell, Glover, Kokrak||Even|
There is betting available with Toals without the starting strokes being taken into account. However it should be advised that players are not playing for a best score over the course of the weekend alone, and therefore their in-play decisions will follow the logic of their ‘starting stroke’ positions. There will also be no playoff played in the event of a tied winning score in this market.
With all that in mind, we take a look at the upcoming weekend.
Eastlake golf course is situated just outside Atlanta, Georgia. It first opened it’s gates in 1904 and is currently a par 70, 7,346 yard course. In it’s lifetime it has hosted the Ryder Cup on one occasion and it has also been the permanent home of the Tour Championship since 2004. McIlroy won here in 2016, as did Schauffele in 2017. Accuracy rather than distance off the tee is the received wisdom, and hitting greens in regulation has often been the key to victory.
After his victory in the BMW Championship last weekend, Justin Thomas starts his quest for the FedEx Cup with a two stoke lead over the field. Four rounds is a long time to be the target for those behind him, but he appears to have the mentality to deal with that position. His record at East Lake is excellent, with his second placed finish in 2017 being enough to clinch the FedEx Cup that Year. His other two appearances here have resulted in 6th and 7th placed finishes respectively.
The lowers winning score at Eastlake in the last decade has been -13. So, having a starting stroke of -10, and having a two stoke lead on his nearest competitor is massive here and Thomas at 21/10 looks poised to take full advantage of his beneficial position.
Closest to Thomas on the leaderboard is Patrick Cantlay (9/2). He is a young player with bags of ability and a bright future ahead. One concerning statistic would be that he has entered the final round of a tournament in either first or second place on five occasions, and he has yet to convert one of those positions into a victory. He perhaps prefers to be the chaser rather than the chased.
One who will certainly relish the chase is Rory McIlroy (8/1). He has shown to be a poor front runner in the last couple of seasons. However with a target to aim at, and with the pressure on others ahead of him, this could be the conditions for him to excel.
With Birdies hard to come by at Eastlake, its difficult to see someone come from a long way back to challenge. One who could get hot and give it a go is Ricky Fowler at 50/1. He’s usually a very positive thinking player, and is unlikely to be put off by the size of the task facing him. With the year Brooks Koepka (9/2) has had, he could be forgiven for expecting to be in a better starting position than the one he finds himself in. Not always focused outside of the major championships, but with the money on offer here, expect him to go after what he may feel is rightfully his.
Selection – Justin Thomas 21/10