The Tour Championship Preview and Picks to Win
Date: September 21-24, 2017
Course: East Lake GC- Atlanta, GA
TV: The Golf Channel/NBC
By Evergreen, Golf Handicapper, Predictem.com
The longest season in professional sports is finally coming to an end. The season had ended for the majority of PGA players as of at least last week and there are just thirty remaining to take on East Lake at The Tour Championship. The FedExCup is on the line and some level of immortality is at stake for the one that winds up with the Cup and the 10 million dollar top prize. If there isn’t enough money to be won through a career that could easily last twenty years or more, the FedExCup prize fund is paid as an annuity and serves as a retirement fund for when these guys hang up the clubs competitively. The top-5 of Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Marc Leishman and Jon Rahm will all win the Cup simply by winning the Tour Championship. All can win the Cup without a win but will need help from the others with lesser finishes. The rest of the top-10 have a reasonable shot of winning the Cup provided they can win and the top-5 do not find their way to a top-5 finish. That group includes Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Paul Casey. Everyone else can win but it is a quickly sliding scale with No. 30 Jason Dufner needing a win and a 29th place finish by Jordan Spieth. A tie for the Cup is possible and a playoff would ensue right after play. I can’t imagine the pressure of an eight footer to win a million dollars much less ten.
East Lake is again the site of the Tour Championship as it has been since 2004. The 7,385 yard, par-70 layout has seen its share of big names win the Tour finale and this year should be no different. The Atlanta area course will reverse the back nine for the championship so that the 18th becomes a par-5 instead of a par-3. That dynamic should lend itself to many more exciting possibilities as we come down the stretch with a potential two shot swing looming over the leader. Zach Johnson owns the course record here with a stellar 60 in the 2007 Tour Championship and this course can be scored on by just about any style of play. Players have obviously earned their spot here and are likely playing well so look for a lot of good golf as we close the page on 2017. Fan favorites like Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy are all watching from home this week. That is not the best scenario for the TV producers but golf fans get to see Tony Finau, Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele do their young gun thing one more time. There are only 29 players to beat this week and those are good odds overall but remember that those 29 are the best players in the world right now. In that regard, the PGA Tour has succeeded in capturing the essence of a playoff atmosphere.
Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and identify the best golf bets. We make some picks to win and breakdown a couple of head-to-head matches that you can find at just about every offshore sportsbook. Here are our picks to win the 2017 Tour Championship.
Hideki Matsuyama (20 to 1 odds to win)
He has won three times this season including two WGC events against the toughest fields in golf. I don’t think this guy is scared of any player or any shot and enters the week 7th on the points list so a win here likely means a FedEx title. He is also up to 3rd in the world so no one will be surprised if he beats another talented, albeit it short, field. Matsuyama is hitting nearly 70% of his greens in regulation, good for 12th on Tour and couples that with a solid driver to make for one of the best tee-to-green games out there. He is a nice putter, especially on the birdie looks but has a nice clutch stroke to check in as a top-25 scrambler. There is a little gambler in Hideki but I think that is a great thing when you really have nothing to lose. There is no cut, there is no worry about exemptions for next year, he has all of that taken care of for a while. There is nothing left to do this week except winning it all.
Sergio Garcia (28 to 1)
I have been one of the bettors that moved away from Sergio after his Major win at the Masters. I thought there would be a natural coasting period for the remainder of the year and maybe there was for a while but Garcia looked good the last two weeks. He had to make some clutch shots down the stretch after missing the first playoff event and he did so in order to sneak into this field. He sits at 25th in the FedEx points rank so a Cup is likely out of the question even if he wins but the motivation should remain to get that Tour Championship trophy as a consolation. Garcia is 12th in total driving, 15th in greens hit and that makes him the 13th best tee-to-green player on Tour. He has improved his putting some but remains the “weakest” statistical putter in this field. He will do everything to get himself in position to win and he will win if things get going on the greens.
Pat Perez (75 to 1)
There are no real longshots in this field because everyone has earned their spot but it will be surprising to see a journeyman take down a top-heavy field. I think Perez has a shot because of his underrated birdie ability and he is likely the last man on the FedEx list that has that realistic chance of winning the Cup. Pat sits at 11th so he needs a win and help to get that big prize but he isn’t too far out of things and there aren’t any crazy scenarios attached to his chances. His 2017 playoffs have produced T34, T6 and T12 finishes and that is a good sign for one of the streakiest players on Tour. During an early stretch, Perez finished 7th at the Shriners, 1st at the Mayakoba and then went on to two more top-4 finishes over the next three weeks. The bad parts of streaky have been there as well with all three of his missed cuts coming in a four start stretch but he is going good now and can perhaps parlay that all the way to a win. He is short on standout stats but like most grinders, he can do a bit of everything and has seen a bit of everything over the years. He can hang in a shootout and has also done well in low scoring affairs. I think he has the right mentality to avoid the distractions that come with playing next to the big dogs and will not shrink if it comes to a head-to-head showdown with anyone.
Picks to win based on predicted score after all four rounds. Check with your favorite online betting site for single round matches and a variety of prop bets.
Rickie Fowler v. Justin Thomas (pick to win: Fowler)
The spring break besties will be squaring off as one of the feature matches at any online sportsbook this weekend. Both have done well in the playoffs with Thomas owning a 2-1 record head-to-head and has The Dell win to boost his potential Cup chances. I’m taking Fowler based on his T2 from last week that was essentially a clinic outside of a flat stretch where he couldn’t get anything to fall on the greens. Rickie is by far the more accurate driver and is a better up and down player should he miss the green. Thomas has impressed in his wins but has more bust finishes this season as well. I like the steadier Fowler, especially when he is statistically superior in the accuracy department. It took an exceptional week by Leishman to keep Rickie the runner-up last week and I expect another super strong week from Fowler.
Brooks Koepka v. Matt Kuchar (pick to win: Kuchar)
A lot like the match above, I am going with the steadier player over the flashier one. Koepka will try to overpower this course as his strengths dictate, but I think Kuchar is the smarter pick based on his steadier nature. There is no real way for a Kuchar or Furyk or Zach Johnson kind of player to put the pedal down, it just isn’t their style. Those guys just try to keep giving themselves every chance possible and hope the putts fall. That can be limiting in terms of winning but it makes them really tough to beat in a head-to-head as they will not beat themselves. Kuchar is 2-1 over Koepka through three playoff weeks and I think he moves that to 3-1 behind more fairways, more greens and nearly the exact same scoring marks despite fewer birdies per round. That means Koepka makes more mistakes and that will bite him at East Lake. Note: You can bet your picks for FREE by taking advantage of a massive 100% bonus offer (offer ends 9/24) up to $250 at Bovada Sportsbook. Free loot is good loot!
Good luck and good golf.