The FedEx Cup and PGA Tour season wraps up at East Lake with the Tour Championship. Here's who we're picking.
The PGA Tour heads to Atlanta for the grand finale of the 2018-19 season, the Tour Championship. The annual culmination of the FedEx Cup Playoffs once again descends on East Lake Golf Club, though this year it does so with a little twist to surely affect your picks and plays.
The top 30 in the standings arrive in Atlanta, and they’ll do so with “Starting Strokes” according to their place in the standings. Justin Thomas, who enters as the leader in the season-long points race, will begin the tournament at 10 under par after overtaking the top spot in the standings following his win at the BMW.
The next closest competitor is second-place Patrick Cantlay at 8 under par, then Brooks Koepka at 7 under, and so on down the list we go, until we reach the players ranked 26-30 in the standings which begin the week at Even Par.
Because of the new system, odds and fantasy prices are heavily skewed as JT enters as the heavy favorite.
Track record at East Lake, along with ball striking, will be important this week. That, and the ability to go low—especially for guys playing catch-up, trying to land the $15 million prize that comes along with a FedEx Cup title.
Nuts and bolts
Course: East Lake Golf Club (7,385 yards, par 70)
Defending champion: Tiger Woods
Weather forecast: Temperatures in the high 80s, chance of storms Thurs-Sun
Justin Thomas (3/1, $14,200)
Fresh off dominating the field at the BMW Championship for his 10th career win, JT heads to Atlanta on fire and will behin with a two-stroke lead at 10 under. Justin has been uber consistent in his three starts at East Lake, with three top 10’s including a second-place finish in 2017. He’s also fared no worse than T12 over his last four starts and has shot in the 60s in 10 of his last 12 rounds, including a 10 under par 61 in Chicago last week.
Rory McIlroy (9/1, $11,400)
He’ll start the week five back at 5 under, but Rory is the one with the most firepower capable of chasing down JT at the top. In five career starts at East Lake, McIlroy has totaled 7 rounds of 67 or better. That ability to go low in Atlanta has powered him to a win (2016), a runner-up (2014) and two other top-10 finishes at East Lake. Rory leads the tour in strokes gained tee to green and strokes gained overall, and he also ranks 13th in strokes gained approaching the green, which could help on a ball strikers’ track like East Lake.
Webb Simpson (22/1, $10,300)
Webb will start six strokes off the lead, and after back to back T2’s he’s cooled a bit, but his consistency this season has been ridiculous. Webb hasn’t had a finish outside of the top 30 since before to the Masters, a streak that runs 11 consecutive events. He ranks third on tour in scoring average and sixth in strokes gained total. He also thrives in Atlanta, having racked up three top fives in six career appearances at East Lake, including a T4 in 2018.
Xander Schauffele (30/1, $10,500)
After a MC at the Northern Trust, Schauffele seems to be rounding back into form following a top 20 finish at the BMW. His putting was brutal in New Jersey (-1.22 SG) but he made strides last week in Chicago with the flatstick. He also seems to love playing at East Lake. Xander backed up a win at the 2017 Tour Championship with a T7 a year ago. At six strokes behind Justin Thomas, Schauffele is within striking distance. Track record and talent combined with juicy payout odds make him the perfect value play.
Kevin Kisner (130/1, $8,000)
Sleeper is a relative term this week with the starting strokes being worked in. I’ve drawn the line at eight strokes as far as the deficit a player can overcome to win this week. That leaves just a few players with odds large enough to warrant the sleeper tag. He’ll start at 2 under, and Kisner fits the bill and is a player that can heat up and go low in an attempt at playing catch up. He finished third at the Tour Championship in 2017, putting together rounds of 68, 68 and 64 before a final-round 70. He also enters the week playing very well, following a T12 at the Northern Trust and a T9 at the BMW.
Any player starting at even par.
This list includes Bryson Dechambeau (275/1), Louis Oosthuizen (225/1), Charles Howell III (275/1), Lucas Glover (400/1), Jason Kokrak (275/1). Simply put, coming back from a 10-stroke deficit with so many world class players ahead of you is just too much to ask.