Tour Championship: Bubba value for East Lake

American Bubba Watson
Bubba can end his excellent season with a bang
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The PGA Tour's FedEx Cup play-offs come to a climax at East Lake this week and Dave Tindall has three each-way picks for the big-money season finale...

"It might not be one of Bubba's favourite courses but 40/1 for a player with three wins this season, a T7 just two starts ago and two top fives at East Lake is well worth it."

Back Bubba Watson each-way @ 40/1

Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 5 places

Main Bet: Back Bubba Watson each-way @ 40/1

With this column's usual format of three each-way selections, I've got a 1 in 10 chance of picking the winner this week without any thought at all. In fact, make that 3 in 29. Let's be honest, Patton Kizzire (no top 25s since early March) isn't winning this is he.

While Kizzire is the 200/1 rag, everyone else is pencilled in between Justin Rose's 15/2 and Kevin Na's 75/1.

Looking at the last five winners, the winning score is pretty reliable while the previous lean towards accuracy over distance has changed. Four of the last five winners have ranked better for DD than DA. Perhaps Green In Regulation is the best guide though, with four of the five in the top six.

2017 Xander Schauffele -12 (DD: 5, DA: 9, GIR: 6, Scr: 7, PA: 14, AA: 2)
2016 Rory McIlroy -12 (DD: 3, DA: 11, GIR: 2, Scr: 13, PA: 3, AA: 1)
2015 Jordan Spieth -9 (DD: 16, DA: 7, GIR: 9, Scr: 1, PA: 9, AA: 3)
2014 Billy Horschel -11 (DD: 12, DA: 21, GIR: 1, Scr: 8, PA: 13, AA: 9)
2013 Henrik Stenson -13 (DD: 27, DA: 3, GIR: 1, Scr: 10, PA: 2, AA: 2)

The other obvious line of investigation is to look at how past winners had fared in the first three play-off events (listed left-to-right as BMW, Dell Technologies and Barclays).

2017 Xander Schauffele 20-53-17
2016 Rory McIlroy 42-1-31
2015 Jordan Spieth 13-MC-MC
2014 Billy Horschel 1-2-MC
2013 Henrik Stenson 33-1-43
2012 Brant Snedeker 37-6-2

I've thrown in Snedeker to highlight the fact that the best pointer, for reasons not entirely obvious, has been the Dell Technologies. Four of the six East Lake winners had posted a top six there and two had actually won at TPC Boston. It's hardly East Lake's twin but the evidence is there.

A reminder of this year's Dell Technologies top 10:
1 Bryson DeChambeau, 2 Justin Rose, 3 Cameron Smith, T4 Tony Finau, Hideki Matsuyama, C.T. Pan, T7 Abraham Ancer, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Emiliano Grillo, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson.

Of that bunch, Rose has a great chance but looks short at 15/2 while Pan, Ancer, Cabrera Bello and Grillo haven't qualified.

DJ has some decent form at East Lake but that doesn't include a single top four in eight starts there so 8/1 doesn't jump out.

Bubba Watson's record is very similar to Johnson's with a pair of top fives in 2012 and 2015 and T10 last year so his 40/1 is certainly worth a very close look.

Many thought he was a steal at 66s in the BMW and rightly so. Watson, after his T7 at TPC Boston, rather dug himself a hole with an opening 71 but 65-65-66 to close was smart work and he hit 77.8% of greens.

It might not be one of Bubba's favourite courses but 40/1 for a player with three wins this season, a T7 just two starts ago and two top fives at East Lake is well worth it.


Next Best: Back Francesco Molinari each-way @ 25/1

I looked at Tony Finau at 18s using the TPC Boston angle again but I don't want to get bogged down in that link. Sure, Finau has played great in these play-offs (8-4-2) but he's still only got one PGA Tour win to his name.

At seven points higher I prefer to back the Open champion.

Like Finau, Francesco Molinari is making his course debut but East Lake looks like the type of track where the Italian's strong iron play will help him thrive.

The Carnoustie hero isn't exactly resting on his laurels since lifting the Claret Jug and, after the inevitable whirlwind of media activity, he's settled down to finish T6 in the US PGA and, most recently, T8 in the BMW Championship at Aronimink.

Molinari shot middle rounds of 63-64 at the BMW, finished second for GIR and third in Scrambling.

Like Bubba, he's a three-time winner in 2018 and that includes a first victory on American soil when landing the Quicken Loans National in July.

Whether he can keep this brilliant run going over the next few seasons remains to be seen but, with confidence sky-high, I'm happy to back him at 25s in a field of 30.


Final Bet: Back Webb Simpson each-way @ 28/1

I was going to make Tiger Woods my final bet in the final tournament of the 2018 schedule but I may be drifting into sentimentality by taking 11/1.

Instead, I'm going to continue my theme of backing winners.

It's no great surprise to see that every East Lake champion starting from Snedeker in 2012 had already won that season. After all, this is the cream of the crop and winning helped them crack the top 30.

Webb Simpson got his hands on a trophy earlier this year when landing a biggie - the Players Championship at Sawgrass. He did so by a four-shot margin.

The 2010 US Open winner showed further appetite for the big events by finishing in the top 20 at all four majors and more recently we've seen him finish runner-up at August's Wyndham Championship after a closing 62 and take T6 at the BMW Championship last time out after a pair of closing 65s.

He was also the halfway leader at TPC Boston before a real collapse but I wouldn't focus too much on that.

At East Lake, he has a fifth in 2012 and a fourth in 2013 following a final-round 63.

He's played it just twice since and although T13 last year looks middle of the pack it's worth noting that he was the 36-hole leader.

Getting 28/1 in a field of 30 seems decent enough for a player with all his obvious credentials this week.

As for the Ryder Cup-bound players (including all my three picks) being distracted, I'm not really buying into that.

And neither do I put any emphasis on the top five controlling their own destiny angle. It's technically true but seems to invite extra pressure if anything.

The top five are currently: Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Rose, Tony Finau, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas.

Watson, Molinari and Simpson can capture the giant $10m prize with a win but will need some help. They'll be happy to have a fairly pressure-free run at the title and see where the chips fall.

Tour Championship 2018 Field & Each-Way Tips

Staked: £1290
Returned: £1669.84
P/L: +£379.84

(After the BMW Championship)

2016/2017:
P/L: +£1179.89

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