The FedEx Cup Playoffs come to a conclusion and Dave Tindall, fresh from delivering a 22/1 winner at last week's BMW Championship, returns with three each-way selections for the finale at East Lake...
"What really elevates his chances here is an East Lake record that reads 6-2-7-9-3 from his debut in 2016."
Main Bet: Justin Thomas each-way @ 19.018/1
Going into last year's Tour Championship, the top three in the FedEx Cup standings were also No.s 1, 2 and 3 in the world rankings and in that exact order too.
Nice symmetry but not exactly ideal for the new format which gave them a head start over the field. Due to their positions, the tournament started with Dustin Johnson at -10, Jon Rahm at -8 and Justin Thomas at -7. The likes of Mackenzie Hughes and Cameron Champ (both 26th-30th) in the standings therefore had to give DJ a 10-shot start!
While Johnson didn't shoot the lowest score of the week, his 11-under total took him to -21 overall and that was enough to seal the jackpot.
Thomas nudged up to second and Rahm finished fourth, the two split by Xander Schauffele who shot the lowest 72-hole score that week (-15) to snatch third.
There were two betting markets. Johnson was just 15/8 to hold his position and win the main one which he did successfully. Schauffele took the lowest 72-hole market although punters found it fiddly to keep track of who stood where.
We have the same staggered leaderboard format in place this week although, this time, the top three - Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau and Bryson DeChambeau - are ranked 4th, 9th and 7th respectively in the world rankings so this looks a more interesting race.
The starting positions for 2021 are here:
-10 Patrick Cantlay
-8 Tony Finau
-7 Bryson DeChambeau
-6 Jon Rahm
-5 Cameron Smith
-4 Justin Thomas, Harris English, Abraham Ancer, Jordan Spieth, Sam Burns
-3 Collin Morikawa, Sungjae Im, Viktor Hovland, Louis Oosthuizen, Dustin Johnson
-2 Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na, Brooks Koepka
-1 Corey Conners, Hideki Matsuyama, Stewart Cink, Joaquin Niemann, Scottie Scheffler
Evs Daniel Berger, Erik van Rooyen, Sergio Garcia, Billy Horschel, Patrick Reed
By definition of their placings, the top four are all in excellent form but what of their East Lake form? Remember, it's just a 30-man field so T15 is a modest finish.
Cantlay - 28-21-20
Finau - 14-7-15-7
DeChambeau - 25-7-19
Rahm - 6-13-11-7
Interestingly, they don't have a top five between them. In short, there is scope for someone to jump out of the pack.
The switch from Bentgrass to Bermuda also goes against the top two. Cantlay and Finau flourished on the former in The Northern Trust and BMW but the latter is in play at East Lake.
While Schauffele rode a hot putter last year, the next three home were only 26th, 12th and 22nd (out of 30) for SG: Putting. By contrast, that same trio - Scottie Scheffler, DJ and Thomas - were 1st, 3rd and 2nd for SG: Tee To Green.
In other words, the strongest trend for success at the Tour Championship is Tee to Green prowess and, within that, SG: Off The Tee is a good indicator.
I suspect that Rahm will cement his current position as World No.1 by winning this year's FedEx Cup and he's 7/2 joint favourite with Cantlay.
However, this is an each-way preview so that's not a price of interest.
If there is one player who can race through the field I suspect it may be Justin Thomas.
He'll start six shots back - which is stretching it a little and I wouldn't want to look any further back than that - but he's capable of the sort of inspiration and low scoring that could fuel a weekend charge.
We saw that at The Players Championship when he flirted with the cut before firing 64-68 to come through and win.
It's been a funny season for him but a fourth place at the Northern Trust was promising and he closed with a 66 at the BMW.
Thomas was 7th for SG: Tee To Green last week and 14th and 5th in that category in his previous two starts. His Off The Tee rankings (19th and 12th the last two) are also encouraging.
But what really elevates his chances here is an East Lake record that reads 6-2-7-9-3 from his debut in 2016.
"I just love it because it's right in front of you and it's fair," he said of the course ahead of last year's event. "If you hit the fairway you can make birdies, but if you don't hit the fairway you're busy trying to make par. I just absolutely love golf courses like that."
He's 18/1 to burst past the leaders and win the FedEx Cup and with four each-way places I think it's worth a go that he has a run at this and finishes in the leading quartet and maybe even at the very top of them.
It may be a bit of a faff following it and there's also the added complication of players not really not knowing where they stand in such a market which could affect their strategy.
But, given the limited opportunities in the win market, I will play a couple in the 72-hole lowest score option.
One player who could be getting hot at the right time is Sungjae Im.
The Korean shot 67-65-66-67 to take third place at last week's BMW Championship and that continued a run of improved performances following 46th at the St. Jude, 24th in the Wyndham and 16th at The Northern Trust.
He's driving the ball extremely well - 11th, 10th and 9th for SG: Off The Tee in his last three starts - while his Tee To Green numbers are even better in that run: 5th, 7th, 6th.
This is his third start at East Lake and so far he's finished 15th on debut in 2019 and 12th last year.
Twelve months ago he opened 68-64 to take the halfway lead here and, although he slipped back on the weekend, hopefully that was a clear market for what he could achieve here.
"I'm aware of the $15 million on the line, but I try not to think about it when I play," he said after 36 holes. "I know if I play my best the next two days, the opportunity will come. It all seems like a dream. Just thinking about it now makes me pretty happy."
He started that week six shots back; this time he's seven in arrears.
That's probably too far off the pace but the lack of expectation may help Im and perhaps free him up on the weekend to throw in a score that probably won't win the FedEx Cup but could ensure he takes low 72-hole score honours.
I'll give him a whirl in that secondary market at 30/1 which has each-way terms of 1/4 1-2-3-4-5.
In the same market and at the same price of 30/1 I'll also have a punt on Viktor Hovland.
Looking at the three elements of form, course form and relevant stats form, there's encouragement to be found in all.
Last week, the Norwegian finished 17th in the BMW Championship after closing 69-68-66 while the previous week he'd opened 68-67-65 at The Northern Trust to sit in the top six with 18 holes to play before a poor finish.
He was third for SG: Off The Tee at Caves Valley last week (5th on the season-long standings) so that should make him a good fit for East Lake.
There's also been an uptick in his overall Tee To Green play in recent weeks. He said last week: "I felt like I made a lot of progress with certain shots that I was trying to hit. Hit a lot of really nice iron shots to pins on the right side, where I had to hit cuts, and then I hit a couple of good shots into left pins, so it was good."
His putter hasn't come to the party but he may enjoy these Bermuda surfaces more having shown a liking for grainier greens in the past.
Hovland made his East Lake debut last year and produced solid rounds of 69-69-68-70 to finish in the top half of the field.
That 14th place looks a good foundation from which to build and his odds looks a little inflated.
A lot of the top-line players take it turns to be flavour of the month and Hovland seems to have lost that mantle in recent times so hopefully we can cash in on what looks a decent price.
2019/2020 P/L: +£13.83
2018/2019 P/L: -£338.25
2017/2018 P/L: +£362.84
2016/2017 P/L: +£1179.89