PGA Tour: Tour Championship Preview

Golfer lines up iron shot

Damien Kayat takes a look at this week's Tour Championship which takes place at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. 

Tour Championship | 20 September - 23 September | East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta

Originally known as the Nabisco Championship, Tom Watson won the inaugural event way back in 1987. The tournament was initially envisaged as a way to celebrate the success of the top 30 players on the money list for the previous year. But after the exertions of the previous year, players started to avoid what was perceived as just a frivolous addition to the roster. That’s when the PGA Tour brain’s trust came up with the FedEx Cup Playoffs, almost revolutionizing the PGA Tour from that moment. The first playoffs were staged in 2007 and it has absolutely exploded in popularity since then. Who can forget Rory McIlroy rising from obscurity to claim the title in Georgia two years ago? With 12 of the upcoming 18 Ryder Cup players in attendance, this looks set to be a fitting showpiece for what has been an exhilarating PGA Tour campaign.

East Lake dates all the way back to 1904, though it has undergone a series of renovations over the years. That started as early as 1913, with Donald Ross renovating various aspects of the course. It was also altered by George Cobb just prior to the 1963 edition of the Ryder Cup. It was further altered by Rees Jones in 1994. For some years this course was considered something of a soft touch. Zach Johnson shot the course record in 2007 with a phenomenal 60. Tiger shot a remarkable winning total that year of 23 under par. But the change to Bermuda for the bunkers has drastically altered the difficulty of the course. While it once seemed that this was a course that favoured accuracy, four of the last five winners have had better stats for driving distance than driving distance. A sign of the times I guess.

Newly minted World Number One Justin Rose will nonetheless feel somewhat disappointed for not sealing the deal at Aronimink a fortnight ago. He will lead an impressive six European Ryder Cuppers in action this week, which includes Open Champion Molinari and former FedEx Cup Champion Rory McIlroy. Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson have all won on three occasions this year. Bryson DeChambeau has had a brilliant Playoffs thus far while Tiger Woods has produced a remarkable second half to the season that has seen him catapult to this final of the golfing season.

Past Winners
2017: Xander Schauffele (-12)
2016: Rory McIilroy (-12)
2015: Jordan Spieth (-9)
2014: Billy Horschel (-11)
2013: Henrik Stenson (-13)

To Win Outright
Justin Rose 8/1 | Rory McIlroy 8/1 | Dustin Johnson 9/1 | Tiger Woods 10/1 | Justin Thomas 11/1

Value Bets

Tony Finau- To Win 20/1, To Place 4/1
The final selection for Jim Furyk’s Ryder Cup side, big hitting Tony Finau seems an obvious selection for this week’s event, especially considering the changing dynamics of the competition in recent years. Finau made an impressive debut at East Lake last season, ultimately finishing in a tie for seventh. While he was unable to claim his second PGA Tour title this year, he did manage three runner-up finishes. He was also the only man to finish in the top 10 of the opening three Majors. He also has two top 10’s in this season’s playoffs and will feel hugely motivated by that Captain’s pick.

Bubba Watson- To Win 40/1, To Place 8/1
You have to say that 40/1 seems wonderfully inviting from a man who has won three titles already this season. East Lake may not be his favourite course but he does boast two top fives around here- in 2012 and 2015. He also managed to finish in a tie for 10th last year, before he found a new lease of life in his game. Additionally, history tells us that there is decent symmetry between this event and Dell Technologies playoff event. Four of the last six winners here finished inside the top six at Boston. Watson finished in a tie for seventh in Boston with closing rounds reading 65-65- and 66. The polarising lefty should represent brilliant value at 40/1.

The Man to Beat- Tiger Woods- To Win 10/1, To Place 2/1
I have resisted the urge to back Tiger most weeks but things just look primed for him to inch that bit closer to breaking Sam Snead’s career win record of 82. It has been slightly concerning that Woods has failed to display that world-famous killer instinct when in prime position to win. He should benefit from a truncated field in that bid for a PGA Tour victory. His putting in the second round let him down during his last start at the BMW, though he ultimately only finished three shots off a playoff place. His driving accuracy seems to have improved dramatically, with Woods hitting 13 of 14 fairways in his final round at Aronimink. He is a previous winner here and four-time runner-up.

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Written by Damien Kayat for

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