The BMW Championship provided once again another great Sunday finish with Dustin Johnson making a 45-foot putt on the final hole to force a playoff with Jon Rahm. Not to be outdone, Rahm ultimately made a 66-foot putt on the first playoff hole to win the event. These two golfers will head into the Tour Championship as the top 2 ranked in the standings. The scoring for this weekend will have a unique twist to it with the PGA Tour staggering the beginning scores for the second straight year. This will lead to an interesting event from an outright betting perspective. There will be two different ways to approach this and we will go into detail on each later on.
The unique and bizarre 2020 PGA Tour season will come to close this weekend at the annual event held at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. With this being a holiday weekend, the event will take place from Friday – Monday.
- Field: 30 golfers / no cut
- Course: East Lake Golf Club
- Greens: Bermuda
- Length: 7,346
- Par: 70
- Defending Champion: Rory McIlroy
At the conclusion of the PGA Tour year, the season long race for the FedEx Cup sees the final 30 golfers left in the standings all competing against each other over the course of a four day event in Atlanta with one golfer walking away with the Cup and the $15 million bonus that comes along with it. Many of the top golfers on the planet are still standing as we head to East Lake. Actually, the top three golfers in the world golf rankings are the top three in the standings heading in: Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, and Justin Thomas.
As mentioned prior, in 2019 the PGA Tour implemented a new scoring system for this event to ensure that the winner of the Tour Championship does in fact claim the final season long prize. But to give an advantage to the golfers at the top of the standings entering the week, the scoring will be staggered based on where the golfers currently rank after the BMW Championship.
Dustin Johnson will have a two shot lead over the second ranked golfer and this staggers all the way down to the 26-30 ranked golfers beginning the event with a 10-shot deficit. At the end of the final round, the golfer with the lowest score overall will win the season long competition that is the FedEx Cup.
Last year, Rory McIlroy began the event five strokes behind and stormed back to actually win by four shots. This nine-shot swing proves that any of the golfers who have made it to East Lake still have a chance at claiming the title.
This final tournament will take place just outside of Atlanta at East Lake Golf Club. East Lake has been the home of the Tour Championship since 2004. It is a Donald Ross designed course that offers quite a few obstacles including over 70 bunkers and 6 different water hazards. Most of the bunkers are greenside and typically protect the front of the greens adding to the difficulty in approach shots. The course plays as a par 70 but is still over 7,300 yards in length which makes it beneficial to drive the ball a long way but finding fairways will be more important than length based on previous results. Typically the greens, made of bermuda, are some of the fastest on tour. The rough length is average and scoring to par is typically an average degree of difficulty compared to other courses on tour.
The par-3s will offer some of the biggest challenges for the golfers. Three of the seven hardest holes relative to par will be on par-3s that stretch longer than 200 yards. The par-5s are both reachable in two and rank as the two easiest holes on the course, including the 18th hole which typically leads to a birdie or eagle finish. There are narrow, tree-lined fairways that are harder than average to hit. The rough may be average in length but it is still crucial to find the fairways in order to score. Less than half of approach shots from the rough were able to find the green throughout last year’s event.
Ultimately, we will be looking for all around solid golfers who are in good form coming into this event. We will look at course history more so than normal as well. Accurate driving, above average approach game, and consistent scrambling will be the major factors to look for prior to placing wagers this week.
- Strokes Gained: Approach
- Strokes Gained Tee to Green
- Par 4s: 450 – 500 yards
- Approach over 200 yards
Outright betting options
There will be two different ways to attack the betting board from an outrights perspective this week. Because of the staggered scoring to start the event, we will have the option to bet on the winner of the FedEx Cup but also to bet on the best 72-hole score over the four days. For example, Dustin Johnson is starting the event at -10 and if he ends the final round at the top of the leaderboard with a total score of -15 he would win the tournament and the FedEx Cup. Webb Simpson is starting at -6 at the beginning of the first round. If he finishes the tournament at -12 he won’t be the FedEx Cup champion but he would shoot a better 72-hole score than DJ did. We will take a look at both options when trying to find value to bet leading up to the first round.
Favorites to win Tour Championship
Dustin Johnson +200
Dustin Johnson will begin the first round with a two stroke advantage on the next closest golfer. He is in arguably the best form of anyone on tour and when he is dialed in it appears as if no one can stop him from winning. Apart from Jon Rahm sinking a twisting 66-foot putt to beat him in a Chicago, Johnson would have completed back-to-back playoff victories. However, due to the amount of variables in play when it comes to winning a golf tournament, I can’t rational betting him at odds of only 2/1 but I would not be shocked to see him win the Cup at the conclusion Monday evening.
Jon Rahm +300
Jon Rahm will start the week two shots behind DJ and one shot ahead of third place golfer Justin Thomas. Coming off a victory at the BMW Championship, he is clearly in good form. His past three starts have seen results of 13th, 6th, and 1st. The past three weeks’ strong finishes have been backed by some stellar putting. He has gained 3.9 and 4.5 strokes putting in his past two events. Bermuda does happen to be historically his worst surface though so if he was due for some regression it could take shape this week at East Lake. If Dustin Johnson doesn’t claim the Cup, I think it will come from someone else further down the board. I won’t be betting Rahm at 3/1.
Value outrights to win Tour Championship
It is hard for me to see anyone outside of the top five golfers walking away with the FedEx Cup. There is some value deeper in the field to shoot the best 72-hole score but as far as actually winning the event, we won’t be dipping lower than the top 5.
Justin Thomas +600
Thomas will start round one in third place on the leaderboard which will be three shots behind DJ. Three shots over four days is almost irrelevant when it comes to a PGA Tour event. We just saw Jon Rahm pull off a comeback bigger than that in the final round to win last week. When looking at course history, Thomas owns East Lake. His past four trips here have resulted in finishes of 6th, 2nd, 7th, and 3rd. The notable stats tell the story for his success at this course.
Out of the 30 golfers in the field, he is 1st in approach, 1st in tee-to-green, and 5th in scrambling. That is a recipe for success around all Donal Ross designed courses and it is no accident why he has consistently finished near the top of the leaderboard in this final event. He has made six straight cuts which includes his victory at the WGC – Memphis. He fits the course well, is in good form coming in, and has all stats needed to make a run at the title. I’m taking the 6/1 odds on JT to win the FedEx Cup.
Webb Simpson +1000
Webb decided to take last week off instead of grinding it out at the challenging course that was Olympia Fields. He already knew his fate was determined for how he would stand entering the first round of the Tour Championship. He finds himself in 4th place starting a mere four shots off the lead. In the past, the recipe for success when looking at courses Webb will perform well at is par of 70 and Bermuda greens. Check and check. East Lake has notably been compared to Sedgefield CC which is where the Wyndham is annually held. As mentioned in the outrights betting preview for that event, course history doesn’t come any clearer than Webb Simpson at Sedgefield CC. He backed up that preview with a 3rd place finish that week.
Webb has finished 12th or better in three of his last four starts. He is 3rd in the field in Bermuda putting, 7th in the field in scrambling, and 6th in approach. The week off could have been just with Webb needed to get prepared for a course that fits him perfectly. We saw Rory make up a five shot deficit last year and there is no reason why Webb won’t be able to catch up to the leaders who are only starting four shots in front of him. 10/1 is great value on Webb Simpson to win the FedEx Cup.
Best 72-hole score value
It is very possible that a golfer at the top of the leaderboard will also shoot the best 72-hole score. I won’t be looking for anyone near the top because if you would be looking for them to score well, betting them to just win the FedEx Cup is the smarter play. Instead, we will be targeting golfers further down the initial leaderboard. They will feel more comfortable to attack flags aggressively and a few of them should climb the leaderboard in a hurry.
Daniel Berger +1600
When putting together all notable stats over the past three months, Berger is my highest ranked golfer in the field. The stretch of finishes he has put together since February is astounding. In his past ten events played, he has finished inside the top 10 a staggering seven times. This run has included a 1st, a 2nd, two 3rds, a 4th, and a 5th. He is seemingly right near the top every week. A solid all-around game has been carrying this stretch of finishes. He has gained strokes tee-to-green in all but one event since the start of 2020.
Compared to the other 29 golfers in the field, he is top 10 in approach, tee-to-green, scrambling, putting, par4 450 – 500 yard scoring, and hitting fairways. He is dialed in over the past few months and I see no reason for that to change this week. Starting six shots behind DJ may be too much to overtake but I love the value in him to shoot the best 72-hole score overall at 16/1.
Tony Finau +1800
If you follow the PGA Tour closely, you would know by now that Finau has a difficult time closing out golf tournaments. Whenever he is in contention coming into the final round, he always seems to falter and come up just short. Well, good for bettors that this week he doesn’t have to win the whole golf tournament in order to pay off the bet.
He is far too talented of a golfer to not win more on tour. Over the past three months, he is in the top 10 in this field in approach, tee-to-green, and scrambling. He leads the field in par-4s from 450-500 yards. The problem tends to be finding fairways which would offer a challenge around this course but a 7th place finish last year after starting in 11th speaks volumes to his ability to move up a leaderboard. Four top 10 finishes in his last six starts has his form looking solid as well. I don’t see Finau winning the FedEx Cup but I could definitely make a case for him to shoot the best four-day score and at 18/1 I am hopping on that value.
Other names in the 72-hole low score market that stood out:
- Collin Morikawa +1600
- Tyrel Hatton +2800
- Billy Horschel +3300
Whether or not you like the format of the PGA Tour playoffs, there is sure to be some drama coming down the stretch on Monday with a nice $15 million check up for grabs as well as the prestige that comes with winning the tour’s ultimate prize.