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The Tour Championship Preview
Our golf scribe takes a look at the betting for the 2016 Tour Championship which gets underway this coming Thursday.
So it all comes down to Atlanta. The prospect of a ten million dollar bonus lingers provocatively for some, while others may be utilizing this weekend to sharpen their game for next week’s biennial grudge fest: The Ryder Cup. Dustin Johnson’s victory at Crooked Stick sent a message to any prospective voter in the Player of the Year stakes. Jason Day’s fairly incongruous dip in form, coupled with inconsistency from both Spieth and McIllroy, has left Dustin perhaps the most fixed entity in that moniker - “the Big Four”.
East Lake - at a yardage of 7,385 from the back tees, should suit Dustin down to the bone. The likes of McIllroy and defending champion Spieth will relish the long layout. East Lake has been the annual host of the Tour Championship since 2004 and has seen its fair share of drama. Interestingly enough, the winner at East Lake has ended up the eventual Fed Ex Cup Champion for the last six years. One has to go back to the indomitable Tiger Woods’ 2nd place finish in 2009 to see this trend bucked.
Phil Mickelson was the unfortunate man who won that year but failed to lift the ultimate trophy. Mickelson is appearing in his 18th Tour Championship, breaking a tie held with compatriot Jim Furyk. This should be a fantastic exclamation point to an exhilarating PGA season. The impending Ryder Cup only adds a certain joie de vivre to proceedings. Of additional interest, this is the course where legendary figure Bobby Jones apparently learned this great game. It seems to make a rather fitting denouement to the season.
Tour Championship | Thursday 22 September - Sunday 25 September | East Lake Golf Course
2015: Jordan Spieth (-9) | 2014: Billy Horschel (-11) | 2013: Henrik Stenson (-13) | 2012: Brandt Snedeker (-10) | 2011: Bill Haas (-8)* won in playoff
Dustin Johnson (19/4), Rory McIlroy (6/1), Jason Day (10/1), Jordan Spieth (10/1), Adam Scott (10/1)
Russell Knox (45/1 Win & 9/1 Place)
The steady Scot must still be wondering what he actually had to do to crack the nod for Darren Clarke and Hazeltine. 8th in the Fed Ex Cup race, Knox has been an exemplary of consistency this season. 45-1 seems remarkably long considering his year thus far. Having won the Travellers and HSBC, Knox also managed a tie for 2nd at the Heritage. He finished in a tie for 15th at the Deutsche Bank and in a tie for 17th at the BMW. Aside from an aberration at the Barclays, Knox has largely retained the consistency throughout the Fed Ex Cup Playoffs that he has exuded the entire season. Yet the likes of Daniel Berger and Matsuyama have a shorter price. Knox also ranks 8th in driving accuracy on the tour whilst being 6th in greens in regulation. I expect a strong showing from perhaps the man least likely to watch the Ryder Cup this year- Bubba Watson aside.
Emiliano Grillo (45/1 Win & 9/1 Place)
You have got to love the exuberant Argentine. He has combined consistent golf with the South American swagger that epitomized Colombian Camilo Villegas. The crowds have grown to adore the man and I think that- along with Knox - he must be the most underrated candidate in this galaxy of superstars. You just have to look at the consistency in his last ten events. He finished with top 15 finishes in the Open and the PGA Championship - indicating his ability to compete in the most demanding fields. His tie for 2nd at the Barclays was further evidence that Grillo is gearing up for a huge breakthrough (as if being ranked 9th in the Fed Ex Cup standings isn’t significant enough).
J.B Holmes (30/1 Win & 6/1 Place)
One has to applaud Davies Love for this bold captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup. Holmes’ prodigious feats of driving have always captured the imagination of the public. But it does tend to give his game a somewhat mercurial quality. He missed three cuts prior to the Fed Ex Cup playoffs. But he has managed to rectify his short game and bring a weird semblance of consistency to his game. His tie for 4th at the BMW was really the culmination of steady improvement. Love will also have noted that Holmes doesn’t suffer from stage fright. He finished 3rd at the Open and in a tie for 4th at the Augusta. His huge driving will put him in good stead at East Lake, and coming off a tie for 4th adds to my belief that at 30-1 to win, the big American seems great value.
The Man to Beat
Dustin Johnson (19/4 Win & 19/20 Place)
DJ- as he is affectionately known - has managed to shake off the spectre of personal demons and perennial disappointment to virtually seal Player of the Year honours. Dustin has been in imperious form, winning his maiden Major title this year and being just about there always. Period. It’s unsurprising that he’s first in the average driving distance, but his evolution as a putter sees him in 30th place in the short blade stakes. That is surely the chief reason for his resurgence. He won the BMW following a slow Fed Ex Cup playoff. A tie for 8th at the Deutsche Bank and a tie for 18th at the Barclays would have been met with disappointment by DJ. I think that Dustin will be the man to usurp Jordan Spieth and pick up a staggering ten million dollar bonus in the process.