The Tour Championship is unlike any other PGA Tour golf tournament. It has only 30 players and is a staggered start, so it takes some explaining.
Betting on the final leg of the FedEx Cup is also tricky, and it pays to know the situation before parting with your hard-earned money.
We look at the starting positions for all 30 golfers, what it means for the four-day tournament and how the sportsbook market has reacted.
Explaining Tour Championship Format
East Lake in Atlanta is the host site for the Tour Championship, which undertakes an unusual format.
The staggered start is based on how many FedEx Cup points accrued throughout the season. Topping the count is last week’s BMW Championship winner, Patrick Cantlay, who starts at the top of the field at -10.
Cantlay has a two-stroke lead over Tony Finau and three-shot edge over Bryson DeChambeau. The score you start with depends on your rankings, so the likes of Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson, despite being top golfers, start seven and six shots off the pace, respectively.
It rewards consistent players and it takes the hassle out of calculating who wins the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup. Prior to the staggered start, mathematical experts used to calculate the likely winner of the year-long competition, but now it’s much easier.
Below are the starting positions of all 30 players teeing it up on Thursday.
|10 under||Patrick Cantlay|
|8 under||Tony Finau|
|7 under||Bryson DeChambeau|
|6 under||Jon Rahm|
|5 under||Cameron Smith|
|4 under||Justin Thomas, Harris English, Abraham Ancer, Jordan Spieth, Sam Burns|
|3 under||Collin Morikawa, Sungjae Im, Viktor Hovland, Louis Oosthuizen, Dustin Johnson|
|2 under||Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na, Brooks Koepka|
|1 under||Corey Connors, Hideki Matsuyama, Stewart Cink, Joaquin Niemann, Scottie Scheffler|
|Even par||Daniel Berger, Erik van Rooyen, Sergio Garcia, Billy Horschel, Patrick Reed|
How the Betting Works
Betting the Tour Championship is tricky because some bettors might not know about the tournament structure.
Despite his win last week, Cantlay wouldn’t usually be a +350 favorite to win. However, he has a significant advantage on the rest of the field, so he has been best backed with the golf odds this week.
Bettors should keep in mind that it doesn’t matter if Rory McIlroy shoots the lowest score over four rounds, if he doesn’t top the leaderboard, you won’t cash your bet.
The field is set.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 30, 2021
Cantlay could be beaten by every player in the field, but his two-shot advantage could be enough to see him win the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup.
A negative about this format is that it eliminates quite a few players from having a chance to win. It’s unrealistic to think that players starting at even par or one under could win the tournament. That takes away value from betting on those players and saturates the market, but we’re happy with the odds available.
The starting scores and odds are in line with our thoughts. The top four players in the rankings own the top four spots in betting, with only Jon Rahm rated higher than his current position.
What Does History Tell Us?
History suggests the player leading the FedEx Cup will win the Tour Championship.
The staggered start was introduced in 2019, much to the criticism of McIlroy, who would later eat his words when winning the FedEx Cup and the $15 million that came with it.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 25, 2019
“You can shoot the best score of the week and not win the golf tournament,” McIlroy told Reuters. “If that happens to someone it’s going to be hard for them to wrap their head around.”
McIlroy failed to understand the staggered start is a reward for playing consistently throughout the season. It doesn’t make sense for one player to win the Tour Championship and another to win the FedEx Cup, as it detracts attention away from each other.
McIlroy and 2020 winner Dustin Johnson started their tournaments at -10, which bodes well for Cantlay. Our Tour Championship predictions have DeChambeau winning, but Cantlay gets the head start and will be tough to beat at East Lake.