The FedExCup Playoffs are down to the final 30 as the PGA Tour hits East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Ga. for the 2019 Tour Championship. The small field consists of the top 30 players from the season-long FEC standings, with Justin Thomas soaring to the top with his win at last week’s BMW Championship moving him up from 15th. Here, we look at our top Tour Championship betting picks with an eye on the best values and sleepers.
Thomas will begin this week at 10-under par and with a two-stroke advantage over second-place Patrick Cantlay. Spots three through five, occupied by Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed and Rory McIlroy, respectively, each lose one stroke on Cantlay and each other. Places 6-10 begin the weekend at minus-4; 11-15 starts at minus-3; 16-20 at minus-2, 21-25 at 1-under and the final five competitors begin at even par.
Each player in the field has a chance to win the Tour Championship, and at the same time, the FedExCup. Doing so will see the victor awarded a $15-million first-place prize, which on its own would rank a golfer 122nd on the career earnings list; ahead of the likes of Greg Norman, Angel Cabrera and Paul Azinger. Cantlay would more than double his career on-course earnings and move into 43rd on the all-time list with the win.
The course: East Lake Golf Club
East Lake Golf Club has hosted the Tour Championship annually since 2004. It previously hosted the event in 2002, 2000 and 1998, as well. It has also been the host of many prestigious US college and Amateur events, as well as the 1963 Ryder Cup. The par-70 course measures 7,346 yards and features Bentgrass greens. It was designed by Tom Bendelow in 1908 and overhauled by Donald Ross shortly after. Rees Jones led further alterations in 1994.
Tiger Woods (who failed to qualify for this year’s field after winning the event a year ago) set the 72-hole record at 23-under par in 2007. Zach Johnson holds the 18-hole record of 10-under, set the same year. Since Tiger’s ’07 victory (his second Tour Championship win), no player has finished better than minus-13 (Henrik Stenson, 2013).
While the course is much shorter than Medinah Country Club, where Thomas ran away from the field while finishing 25-under par, it’s aimed to limit the advantage held by the Tour’s longer hitters. Six water hazards are spread throughout the course and it’s covered in bunkers. Competitors are severely punished for wayward tee shots and limiting bogeys (or worse) is of the utmost importance with few true scoring opportunities.
The Calamity Jane trophy is awarded annually to the winner. The sterling silver commemorative putter is an exact replica of that of hometown hero Bobby Jones.
Key stats to consider for the Tour Championship
My model at Fantasy National this week is looking at the key stats of Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, SG: Ball Striking, Opportunities Gained, Bogey Avoidance, Proximity: 150-175 Yards, Par 4 Efficiency: 400-450 Yards and Par 5 Efficiency: 500-550 Yards. The model is set to the most recent 24 rounds played for each player in the field. We’re looking at performance on courses with Bentgrass greens.
The stat model is based on the statistical performances of the last five leaderboards while considering the course layout. Remember, this year’s tournament begins with staggered scoring. Those at the top of the FEC standings have much lower odds.
Tour Championship betting picks: sleepers and value bets
Hideki Matsuyama +3500 (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Matsuyama will start Thursday at 3-under par, meaning he needs to make up a seven-stroke advantage held by Thomas. He shot two rounds of what briefly stood as a Medinah course record of 63 last week, showing his ability to go low and make-up ground; making up five strokes on Thomas last Sunday. He has two top-five finishes at East Lake in the last three years.
The five-time PGA Tour winner was last victorious at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in 2017. His two career wins in WGC events show his winning pedigree in stacked fields. His 3-0 record in playoffs supports him if he’s able to force Thomas (or someone else) to extra holes.
Matsuyama ranks second in the stat model and doesn’t rank lower than 12th in any of the key stats. He leads the field in Par 4 Efficiency.
Matt Kuchar +5000 (FanDuel Sportsbook)
Kuchar is the top value at FanDuel based on the FEC standings. He has two victories and eight top-10s on the year to rank seventh in the overall standings. He’ll begin play Thursday at 4-under and seventh on the leaderboard. Still, Kuch ranks 14th by FanDuel’s odds (13th at DraftKings Sportsbook).
The 41-year-old is a nine-time winner on the PGA Tour, including the Mayakoba Golf Classic and Sony Open in Hawaii this year. He ranks just 26th by the stat model, but he has twice finished T10 at East Lake. He ranks seventh in this week’s field in average Strokes Gained: Total per round at the Tour Championship over the last five years but missed out on last season’s finale.
Lucas Glover +30000 (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Glover is worth only a small-unit wager for those desperately seeking a longshot to back. He’ll begin the event the full 10 strokes behind Thomas with 25 players ahead of him on the opening leaderboard. He hasn’t played at East Lake over the last five years, but he ranks fourth by the stat model, excelling on Pars 4s and in Opportunities Gained. His seven top 10s this season have him ranked T8 in the field and are more than Thomas, albeit in six more events played.
The 39-year-old entered last week’s event ranked 41st in the FEC standings and rose further than anyone other than Thomas and Matsuyama in order to qualify for this week.
Tour Championship betting picks: Our winner
Patrick Cantlay +480 (FanDuel Sportsbook)
Thanks to the new scoring format, it’s impossible to find true value at the top of the opening-round leaderboard. Cantlay has nearly double the odds of Thomas; however, with just a two-stroke deficit to make up. The 2019 Memorial Tournament champion also picked up top 10s at the year’s first two Majors. He finished just T20 in 2017 and T21 last year, but the 27-year-old leads the stat model with a top-five rank in each key stat. He leads the field in all of SG: Tee-to-Green, SG: Ball Striking, Opportunities Gained and Proximity.
Cantlay was the only golfer to shoot four rounds of 68 or better last week. Relative to Thomas and Brooks Koepka (+500) the +480 is good value.