The PGA’s final event of the season is here as the top 30 players in the FedEx Cup standings descend on East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, GA., for the TOUR Championship.
Dustin Johnson is the defending champion after posting a 21-under last year, three shots clear of runner-ups Xander Schauffele and Justin Thomas.
The four-day event has no cut and players begin the tournament under the Tour Championship’s Starting Strokes format. Players will tee off Thursday from 10-under to even par depending on where they finished in the FedEx Cup standings at the conclusion of the BMW Championship last week.
Jon Rahm (EVEN) vs. Patrick Cantlay (-120)
Rahm begins four shots back of the Cantlay but the Las Vegas odds give the Spaniard the best chance to take down the leader though he has been vocal about his criticism for the current finale format.
“I know my words are going to be possibly let’s say, muddled to the extreme, but I’m not the biggest supporter of the full format itself,” Rahm told Golfweek. “What I do like is the fact that you understand what’s going on and what’s going to happen and who is in the lead and what you have to do to win, but I don’t agree with every part of the format this week.”
Cantlay is the only three-time winner on Tour this season and Rahm has been arguably the most consistent golfer over the last three months with five straight top-10 finishes, including his first major victory at the U.S. Open. Adjustments to the flat stick led to Cantlay’s victory at the BMW Championship, and if the 29-year old can bring that momentum to East Lake he could run away with the title.
It is never easy to refocus quickly after a victory and defeat the World #1 head-to-head, but giving a world-class player like Cantlay four strokes after his performance this season is worth the fading of Rahm.
Pick: Patrick Cantlay (-120)
Bryson DeChambeau (-145) vs. Tony Finau (+125)
Earlier this season, we sided with Brooks Koepka over DeChambeau at the Travelers Championship, and it paid off. Tony Finau locked up his second PGA Tour victory at the Northern Trust and begins the TOUR Championship one shot ahead of DeChambeau. We will gladly fade DeChambeau again and grad Finau at plus money.
The six-hole playoff drama against Cantlay had to exhaust DeChambeau, and the vision of those lipped putts is still fresh in his mind. Finau, meanwhile, is playing with house money after breaking the streak of tournaments without his second victory.
East Lake is not an overly long course, so distance off the tee is not a major player here. Even so, Finau has the length to match DeChambeau. Accuracy off the tee is paramount with thick rough lining the fairways, and DeChambeau ranks 182nd in driving accuracy.
While Bryson will bring the entertainment to East Lake, it’s Finau who will find his name further up the leaderboard come Sunday.
Pick: Tony Finau (+125)
Justin Thomas (-145) vs. Rory McIlroy (+125)
A pair of heavyweights in this matchup, J.T. heads into the tournament at 4-under while McIlroy begins at 2-under. Both players appear to be entering in good form after solid final rounds last week.
Thomas has been quiet this season since winning The PLAYERS Championship. The 28-year old had his best finish since the victory at the Northern Trust (T4) and fired off a final round 66 (-6) on Sunday to backdoor a T22 finish at the BMW.
McIlroy enters East Lake after a solo fourth at the BMW, his best PGA finish since his victory at the Wells Fargo. The numbers favor McIlroy here, who ranks fourth in birdie average and almost 50 spots higher than J.T. in Strokes Gained: Putting.
Pick: Rory McIlroy (+125)
Cameron Smith (-130) vs. Abraham Ancer (+110)
Smith has been firing on all cylinders lately, posting a T5 at the FedEx St. Jude and solo 2nd at the Northern Trust, losing to Finau in a playoff. The Aussie ranks ninth in SG: Putting and second in birdie average, a lethal combo at East Lake.
Ancer brought home his first PGA Tour victory at the FedEx St. Jude last month and, after a lackluster showing at the Northern Trust, bounced back with a T9 at the BMW. The 30-year old ranks sixth in driving accuracy, and that precision will be beneficial on this track.
Smith (-5) begins the tournament with a one-shot lead over Ancer (-4), and the course sets up well for both of these ball-strikers. We give the edge to Smith based solely on recent form and his performance statistically in the areas you need to do well to attack this course.
Pick: Cameron Smith (-130)
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