The final stop on the PGA Tour this season takes us to Atlanta for the Tour Championship. The top 30 players have booked their ticket to East Lake, some with designs solely on taking home the title in Atlanta, while others will have plans on also bringing home the $10 million FedEx Cup jackpot. Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Rose, Tony Finau, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas all control their destiny by way of sitting within the top five of the FedEx Cup standings. The rest of the field will need a win and some help should they hope to take home the ultimate prize this week.
Last year, Xander Schauffele took the title at East Lake, posting a total of 12-under par to defeat Justin Thomas by one stroke. Thomas took home the $10 million prize and the FedEx Cup.
A very familiar course, East Lake is a long par-70, measuring over 7,300 yards. Accuracy both off the tee and with your approach shots will be vital on a golf course that can be very punishing should you get out of position. With a lot of challenging holes, scrambling is another area which will be essential to focus on for this weeks test. Ultimately, all parts of your game will need to be sharp for this rigorous examination; however, I do believe that having your tee-to-green game in tip top-shape will be especially important.
Last year's FedEx Cup winner Justin Thomas can go back-to-back on a golf course that has proved a very happy hunting ground for the young American. Thomas has played East Lake the last two years, and on both occasions, he impressed. In his first appearance, he finished T6, while last year he was runner-up to Xander Schauffele. Thomas has been a little quiet over the past couple of weeks; however, coming in rested, the 25-year-old looks primed for a charge at the title again this week.
Thomas has gained strokes over the field for his approach play for his last eight events. While his short game has been excellent as of late, gaining an average of 3.86 strokes over the field in this department over his previous three events. Since the beginning of 2017, Thomas has won seven times from 43 starts on the PGA Tour, an average of a victory in almost every six events he enters. Despite this, Thomas is undervalued too often in the market, and at 12/1 in a field of just 30 and on a golf course that he plays well, he looks tremendous value to take the title here in Atlanta.
I was very interested to see how the books would price up Tiger Woods this week, and at 14/1 he looks a couple of points too big to me. Woods went off around 20/1 at the BMW Championship two weeks ago. The field was more than twice the size of this weeks, and Woods contended. So, in a field of 30, on the back of a good performance and on a golf course where he has multiple victories, I can't pass on the 14/1 available.
It's not exactly new information that Woods has struggled with the driver all year, but the 14-time major champion has looked more comfortable in recent weeks with the big stick than at any other stage in 2018. Over his previous 12 rounds, Woods ranks sixth in fairways gained, which is ominous for the rest of the field considering that he is number one this season for strokes gained approaching the green. Granted, the fairways at East Lake aren't quite as generous as they were at the BMW Championship, but his confidence over his tee shots is currently as good as it has been for some time and that could make all the difference for Woods. With two victories at the Tour Championship, and five wins at the Hero World Challenge, Woods excels in reduced fields, and 14/1 for him to claim win No. 80 on the PGA Tour is too big a price.
With just 30 men in the field this week, both my outright plays will be straight win bets.
Bubba Watson has an excellent record at East Lake and very nearly made my outright card this week. However, the 11/4 available for the American in the top-10 market may be the better bet. Watson has finished in the top 10 in three of his last four trips to the Tour Championship, and the left-hander has shown good form over his previous two events. Watson backed up his T7 finish at the Dell Technologies Championship with a T16 at the BMW Championship, and at 11/4 to finish in the top third of the field this week, Watson looks the best value in this particular market this week.
72-Hole Match Bet
Billy Horschel showed in 2014 just how much of a momentum player he is, winning the BMW Championship and Tour Championship back-to-back. The American's play currently may not be at that level, but it isn't too far off it either. Horschel has claimed consecutive top-five finishes at his last two playoff events, and over his previous 12 rounds, he ranks first in both strokes gained approaching the green and strokes gained tee to green, while over the same period he sits second in strokes gained total. With two top-10 finishes at East Lake in his last two appearances, Horschel can get the better of the defending champion, Xander Schauffele this week, who has struggled to back up good performances on the PGA Tour this season.
2018 Tour Championship recommended bets
- Outright Winner: Justin Thomas 12/1 (Betfair), Tiger Woods 14/1 (General)
- Top 10: Bubba Watson 11/4 (SkyBet, BoyleSports)
- 72 Hole Match Bet: Billy Horschel over Xander Schauffele 4/5 (SkyBet)