Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:57 AM
Best Bets - Tour Championship
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PGA Tour Betting Preview
The Tour Championship
East Lake Golf Club – Par 70 – 7, 346 yards
The first full PGA Tour season with the condensed schedule with a Major every month starting in the spring has finally reached a conclusion with the Tour Championship this week. The Top 30 guys in the Fed-Ex Cup standings are starting with a staggered scoreboard based on their positioning in the standings, and while that method has eliminated the potential for confusion in the mainstream world for potentially having two separate winners this week (one of this week's event, one of the overall Fed-Ex Cup), it's transplanted that confusion over the the betting markets instead.
This week we've now got two sets of odds charts, one with the starting strokes incorporated, and another without. Given that the starting strokes leaderboard has the leader – Justin Thomas – starting at -10, and a sixth of the 30-man field starting at Even par, this new system does reward those who have stepped up and played well all year, and rightfully so, but it will be interesting to see if anyone does end up making a run coming from the bottom half of this field. This staggered starting system may be too rewarding to the top guys, as it does really feel like only those starting at -5 or better really have a shot, and it makes for some interesting handicapping that will be split up later.
As far as the course goes, East Lake has been the Tour Championship venue for some time now, and it's a long track that requires accuracy with every shot. There is also plenty of water lurking around so some big crooked numbers are possible, and it's going to be something that's needed from a few of the guys at the top if the rest of the field ultimately wants to be involved. In past years, the winning scores here (from scratch) were all in the -10 to -13 range, which again emphasizes just how big starting at -10 may be for Justin Thomas.
But saving a few pars with long putts, getting up-and-down from the surrounds, and making the most of one's birdie opportunities is what's going to have whomever ends up pushing Thomas in that position. And with the two different betting options, I'll be breaking it down in a similar fashion.
Let's get right to it:
Golfers to Watch (Starting with Fed-Ex Cup strokes):
Brooks Koepka (+500) – Koepka starts in third at -7 for this tournament as that's where he slipped to in the standings after the BMW Championship, and while that may seem rough given the tournament hasn't started yet, all it takes is a birdie/bogey type swing between himself and Thomas early on Thursday and then all of a sudden Koepka is a shot back with 65+ holes to go.
For someone like Brooks who's been involved in all the big tournaments (wins or top 5 finishes) it seems the past two+ years, claiming a Fed-Ex Cup would be another big time trophy for his mantel. The bonus check for winning this thing this year has been bumped up to $15 million from $10 million in past years, and Brooks is all about those big prizes in the sport.
He's one of the fortunate ones to really have a shot at doing so this week, but his positioning here is all because of another strong year he had from start to finish. With less than 10 guys realistically having a shot to win in this new format, getting Koepka at +500 odds in what is essentially a nine-man field who's three shots back with four days to go in that scenario is something that's tough to pass up.
Golfers to Watch (Starting without Fed-Ex Cup strokes):
Hideki Matsuyama (+1800) – Matsuyama is a guy that's on the fringe in terms of winning it with the starting strokes at +3300, but his seven-shot deficit probably ends up being a bit too much to overcome in the end. If there is a guy who can go low on any given day it is Matsuyama though, and if you are of the mindset that someone from the chase pack will catch and surpass all the leaders, Matsuyama's name definitely should be considered.
But in the situation where all 30 guys are starting at Even par, Matsuyama is still worth a wager at +1800, as he's got some great current form right now considering half of his rounds at the BMW were scores of 63, and he's a guy that's known to win in these short, elite fields before with his WGC success. He's also got a pair of Top 5 finishes at East Lake in the past three years alone, and for a guy with as much talent as Matsuyama has and has yet to break through on the Major circuit, claiming the Tour Championship (in some version of it), would help him continue that climb into his prime.
Bryson DeChambeau (+4000) – With the hot topic in today's game being all about pace of play and DeChambeau being the face many point to for slow play now, it could be fitting in a maniacal sort of way for DeChambeau to have the best four-round score of anyone this week, as he goes out to prove that he needs all the time he takes between shots to perform at his best.
But it was last year that DeChambeau remembers the most in all likelihood this week as he came into this week last year in great position having won the first two events of the playoffs. But a stumbling 19th place finish here at East Lake took him out of contention there, and it was a great learning lesson for him. Now 12 months later, DeChambeau has little shot at overcoming the starting stroke deficit he begins with, but all else being even, I do expect him to be among the leaders this week.
From a game theory standpoint, the guys who are way down the staggered leaderboard have no real choice but to go pin seeking from the outset. The prize money is good for everyone in the field (30th makes close to $400K), so what's the harm in going for broke early, hoping you catch fire and climb back into contention. DeChambeau's got just the long game to excel in that type of proposition, and knowing he'll be aggressive from the start is never a bad thing when you got 40-1.
And for a Tour that's literally a week away from the end of the season and then discussing how better to implement slow play penalties, to have the “slow play” era end with a Bryson DeChambeau win (in a way) would be poetic justice to this “era” of golf.
The Tour Championship Odds
Justin Thomas 9/4
Patrick Cantlay 9/2
Brooks Koepka 9/2
Rory McIlroy 8/1
Patrick Reed 16/1
Jon Rahm 16/1
Webb Simpson 25/1
Dustin Johnson 25/1
Xander Schauffele 25/1
Hideki Matsuyama 40/1
Adam Scott 40/1
Tony Finau 40/1
Matt Kuchar 40/1
Justin Rose 40/1
Rickie Fowler 60/1
Gary Woodland 80/1
Paul Casey 80/1
Abraham Ancer 80/1
Tommy Fleetwood 100/1
Kevin Kisner 125/1
Brandt Snedeker 125/1
Marc Leishman 200/1
Louis Oosthuizen 200/1
Bryson Dechambeau 200/1
Sungjae Im 250/1
Chez Reavie 250/1
Lucas Glover 300/1
Charles Howell III 300/1
Jason Kokrak 300/1
Corey Conners 300/1