The TOUR Championship
Date: Sept. 22nd-25th, 2011
Course: East Lake GC Atlanta, GA
TV: The Golf Channel/NBC
by Evergreen, Golf Handicapper
Time to tee it up for the final time this week as the PGA concludes its 2011 regular season and the FedEx Cup Playoffs at the TOUR Championship. Historic East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta welcomes the top-30 on the points list to compete not only for an individual championship but for the ten million dollar top prize as well, awarded to the overall Playoff winner. Catch all the early action on The Golf Channel with NBC picking up the weekend broadcasts.
All thirty participants have a shot at winning the playoffs but only the top-5 are guaranteed an overall playoff win with a victory at East Lake. Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Luke Donald and Matt Kuchar can all win the top prize regardless of where anyone else finishes. These five can still take the ten million without a win but they will need help with others finishing beneath them just like every one else in the field.
East Lake is famously the home of Bobby Jones, making this course about as tradition rich as you will find. The 7,154 yard, par-70 layout will serve as TOUR Championship host for the 11th time and the course will be made to play as was intended when it was constructed: firm and fast. The course played as the 18th toughest of the 52 courses in the 2010 rotation and features very tough par-4s, two of which are par-5s for the members. Expect the winning total in the high single digits under-par but players have gone low here with Zach Johnson setting the course record of 60 in 2007. The finishing three holes will provide drama on Sunday as sixteen and seventeen are two of the most difficult par-4s on the course and the 235 yard par-3 finishing hole will test any leader that needs just a par to win.
Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and highlight the players that we think can win it all. We give you a short, middle and long odds pick to win and breakdown a couple of head to head matches that you can find at any golf sportsbook. Here are our picks to win the 2011 TOUR Championship.
Short Favorite: Webb Simpson (12 to 1 odds to win)
Webb has been excellent through the playoffs with a T10 and a 5th place finish to go along with his win at the Deutsche. Hell be competing in his first TOUR Championship but there is no reason to think that a player that has two wins in the last month wont contend here. Simpson is 17th in total driving and adds a 10th best greens hit mark to enter the week 8th in ballstriking. Hes in the top-5 in birdie average, scoring average and par-breakers so it shouldnt be surprising that his stat sheet is the best overall on Tour.
Middle of the Road: Steve Stricker (20 to 1 odds to win)
You dont see injury reports much on the PGA, but Stricker did withdraw from the BMW due to a neck issue that has caused some loss of strength in his left arm. Doctors recommended rest and after cortisone shot, Steve will tee it up at East Lake. Stricker has been dealing with the apparent bulging disc for nearly a year and that didnt stop him from having another multiple win campaign and he should be expected to contend this week. Stricker did not miss a cut this year and ranks number 1 in strokes gained with the putter, birdie average, par breakers and scrambling. The putter will be the most important with greens running at 12+ and that alone should keep him on the first page.
Longshot: Bo Van Pelt (40 to 1 odds to win)
BVP earned himself a trip to Atlanta on the strength of a solo 7th at the Deutsche and has had a little success at East Lake with a pair of 69s and a top-25 in 2010. Van Pelt is among the best on Tour tee to green with a 9th best total driving stat and the 24th ranked GIR% so getting in position shouldnt be the problem. The putter has been below average otherwise you would see better results overall, but Bo is a no-mistakes player that managed the 24th best scoring average despite a birdie average outside the top-50 and that should play well at a tough course.
Head to Head Matches *picks to win based on entire event. Check with your favorite online bookie for single round matches and a variety of prop bets. Listed matches courtesy of the board at Bodog.
Phil Mickelson (-115) v. K.J. Choi (-115) (our pick to win: Choi)
Mickelson ranks in the top-20 in birdies per 18 and Choi is outside the top-100 in that category but the scoring averages come out nearly identical. Lefty is just making too many mistakes and missing too many putts right now to have a clear advantage over any player with the game that Choi has. Phil could put it all together and wow the crowds with a vintage-Mickelson weekend, but it looks more like Choi will simply grind out a no-nonsense win.
Justin Rose (-120) v. Matt Kuchar (-110) (our pick to win: Kuchar)
With the course playing so firm and the greens likely to putt as fast as anyone would like, its smarter to take the better putter. Kuchar comes in 21st in putting average with Rose at 84th and that leads to edges in birdie and scoring average for Matt as well. This one is probably dead even tee to green but Kuchar outclasses Rose with the flatstick.