The TOUR Championship Preview and Predictions to Win
Dates: September 11-14, 2014
Course: East Lake Golf Club Atlanta, GA
TV: The Golf Channel/NBC
by Evergreen, PGA Golf Handicapper, Predictem.com
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Lost in the shuffle of the kickoff to the NFL season, the PGA Tour season comes to a close this weekend with the TOUR Championship. East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta hosts the top-29 on the FedExCup Points list and by the end of play Sunday, someone will be $10 million dollars richer. Playoff golf might not be tops on everyones watch list this weekend but there is quite a collection of talent on display as only the best of the best from this year are teeing it up. Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia highlight the field but a strong group including Jim Furyk, Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson are also in tow and everyone has a chance to win the big prize if they can win this event.
The TOUR Championship isnt all that historic by Tour standards with the first event taking place in 1987 and the host course has changed more than a few times over the years. East Lake hosted here and there through the nineties but became the permanent host in 2004 and the 7,154 yard, par-70 layout makes for a fine finisher. There are virtually no flat spots from tee to green so players will routinely be managing tricky lies and shotmaking becomes a big factor when negotiating the heavy doglegs. Tiger Woods set the course record in 207 with a 23-under par winning total but no one has been better than 13-under since with four winning total in the single digits under par during that span. Putting appears easier than it is and we could see much of the same frustration as we did last week when first putt mistakes quickly turned into three and four putt greens.
The online betting sites have rolled out the odds for the season finale, so lets take a look at the best bets for the week. Im giving you three picks to win and a breakdown of a couple of head to head matches.
Sergio Garcia (12 to 1 odds to win)
Everyone in the field has earned their way here so its tough to pin down the true favorites but Sergio has a good look based on his T4 from the BMW and his T9 from East Lake last year. Garcia has improved his overall game to the enter the week 2ndin the all-around category and adds top-15 ranks in greens hit, birdie average, scrambling and ballstriking. Sergio spent most of the summer with the best scoring average and he would have likely stayed there if not for the hot streak by McIlroy. The putter is still strong for Garcia and it remains odd that he hasnt found his way to multiple wins considering how well he has played. The Ryder Cup is just around the corner so maybe Garcia uses the Tour Championship as a springboard to Gleneagles.
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Bill Haas (28 to 1)
The 2011 Tour Champion clearly knows how to get it done at East Lake and has been on a nice run with T15, T9 and T16 finishes in the playoffs. Haas is the 19thranked ballstriker on Tour and adds a solid putter to produce a top-25 scoring average. Bill isnt the most dynamic player out there but he hits a ton of greens and keeps it out of trouble very well. If the scoring pace is fast, he might struggle to keep up but it looks like we have another year with a winning total around 10-under and that suits Haas just fine.
Ryan Palmer (40 to 1)
Again, everyone here has either won an event or simply played so consistently throughout that there are no real longshots. That makes for some really good value bets and Palmer is certainly one of them. He will be making his first Tour Championship start since 2010 but does so coming off T16 and T4 finishes the last two weeks. Ryan can hit it out there with most of the longest on Tour and uses that distance to help him to the 35thbest GIR%. The putter has been good enough for a top-20 scoring average with a top-10 in birdies. One weakness comes with a below average scrambling game so he will have to hit his greens to contend but he has been good in that department over the last two weeks.
Head to Head Matches
Picks to win based on total score after all four rounds. Check with your favorite online sportsbook for single round matches and prop bets.
Rickie Fowler (-115) v. Jim Furyk (-115) (my pick to win: Furyk)
Its quite possible that youve won a good bit of money betting Rickie over the summer but its time to pump the brakes on him as Furyk looks to be one of the toughest outs in this field. The old vet has done nothing to suggest he isnt at the very top of his game and the only reason I didnt take him as a pick to win is East Lake might be a bit too long for his liking. Still, no one should be surprised if Furyk wins this week. Fowler has been as hot as they come outside McIlroy but he is still too mistake-prone to be a good pick in this match. Furyk turns the 4thbest scoring average out the 109thmost birdies so he isnt helping anyone beat him. Im projecting Furyk for a top 8-10 finish with Fowler on the next page at 12 to 16 or so.
Jordan Spieth (-115) v. Bubba Watson (-115) (my prediction to win: Watson)
This is certainly an odd couple pairing, at least in terms of style as Watson and Spieth share almost no common strengths. Watson is the best bomb and gouge player on Tour and Spieth is one of the best guts, heart and clutch among the young star set. Bubba can shrink East Lake and is certainly capable of working the ball around or over any trouble and that is ultimately why I like him. Spieth has used his putter so proficiently this year, making up for some ballstriking deficiencies, but I dont think he can cover them up this week. Watson isnt that precise either but his raw power gives him the edge here. Look for Watson to push the top-12 and Spieth to be back about 5-7 spots.
Good luck and good golf!