The Punter

Tour Championship: Scheffler on pole again at East Lake but 69/1 Glover is the bet

Golfer Scottie Scheffler
Scottie Scheffler - heading to East lake with the lead again

We're off to East Lake for the FedEx Cup decider and the final event of the 2022/23 PGA Tour season so read our man's detailed preview ahead of Thursday's start here...

  • World number one aiming for redemption

  • Sedgefield form a big plus

  • Can Rory be the first to defend?


Tournament History

Tom Watson won the first edition of the Tour Championship, back in 1987, when it was known as the Nabisco Championship. Originally played in November, it was designed as a showcase event to round off the PGA Tour season with only the top-30 on the money list in attendance and the event saw its fair share of drama.

The four editions that followed Watson's inaugural victory all went to a playoff and some stellar names are on the trophy but at the turn of the century, getting the very best in the world to turn up was proving difficult, if not impossible.

Nobody could really blame the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson for not turning up. The majors were all done and dusted, and they felt it was wind down time but something had to be done as it was starting to look a bit farcical.

Having an event to showcase the year's stars when the stars weren't willing to line-up was a problem that needed solving and so the FedEx Cup Playoff Series was born.

First staged in 2007, the FedEx Cup Playoff Series consisted of four events initially and after the introduction of a rest week, it ran over five weeks but it was all change four years ago when the Dell Technologies Championship was done away with and so too was the week off.

The top-70 in the standings played in FedEx St Jude Championship two weeks ago and the top-50 battled it out for a place in the top-30, and a place in the field here, at the BMW Championship last week. What previously took five weeks and four events, now takes three weeks and three events.

After the first two FedEx Cup Series' turned into damp squibs, with Tiger Woods in 2007 and VJ Singh in 2008 entering the Tour Championship with unassailable leads, the format was tweaked for the first time to make it more competitive.

The scores were reset before the Tour Championship and if any of the top-five in the standings won the Tour Championship, they'd also win the FedEx Cup. It was a little more complicated for those ranked 6-30 but they could still win the FedEx Cup if others above them performed poorly.

The changes made had the desired effect and from 2009, seven of the first eight Tour Championship winners also won the FedEx Cup but in 2017 and 2018, Xander Schauffele and Tiger Woods, like the 2009 winner, Phil Mickelson, didn't and that's something that the sponsors weren't happy about, so we now have the unfamiliar set up detailed below.

Tour Championship Format

Since 2019 the Tour Championship has become a handicapped event with the leader in the standings after the first two events beginning this week's decider leading by two on -10. The scores are staggered below that, as detailed below.

Scottie Scheffler, the number one ranked player in the FedEx Cup Standings, will begin the event on -10. Second in the standings, Viktor Hovland, begins on -8, the third, Rory McIlroy, -7, the fourth, Jon Rahm, -6 and the fifth, Lucas Glover, -5.

After that, those ranked sixth to 10th will begin the Tour Championship on -4, 11th to 15th will start on -3, 16th to 20th -2, 21st to 25th will begin on -1 and the remaining five will start on level-par. Here's the full field with their handicap starts.

I must confess, I'm not a fan of the new format but it looks like it's here to stay.

Rory McIlroy has come from behind to win two of the four Tour Championship since the format change and on both occasions he's shot the lowest gross score too but Xander Schauffele shot the lowest 72-hole total for the week in 2020 but didn't win the tournament and Jon Rahm and Kevin Na shot the lowest gross total in 2021 but Patrick Cantlay, who had started the event with the handicap lead, won the Tour Championship.

It is what it is, but it still doesn't sit comfortably with me that someone can compete over four days and outscore his opponents but not win the trophy.

First 16 FedEx Cup Winners

  • 2007 - Tiger Woods
  • 2008 - Vijay Singh
  • 2009 - Tiger Woods
  • 2010 - Jim Furyk
  • 2011 - Bill Haas
  • 2012 - Brandt Snedeker
  • 2013 - Henrik Stenson
  • 2014 - Billy Horschel
  • 2015 - Jordan Spieth
  • 2016 - Rory McIlroy
  • 2017 - Justin Thomas
  • 2018 -Justin Rose
  • 2019 - Rory McIlroy
  • 2020 - Dustin Johnson
  • 2021 - Patrick Cantlay
  • 2022 - Rory McIlroy

Venue

East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta, Georgia

Course Details

Par 70, 7,346 yards
Stroke index in 2022- 67.91

Dating back to 1904, East Lake has been remodeled by some renowned architects over the years. In 1913 Donald Ross completely reworked the course and then George Cobb tinkered with the place before the 1963 Ryder Cup.

The club was neglected after that though, when the majority of its members switched to nearby Atlanta Athletic Club, but it was restored once again in 1994 by Rees Jones and it's thrived ever since.

In 2007, Zach Johnson shot the course record of 60 and Tiger Woods amassed an incredible 23 under-par total in the same year, but it's been much tougher since, thanks to a change to the greens.

With a move in the calendar, the committee chose to change the greens to Bermuda and the scoring has been much tougher.

EAST LAKE 2021 2.jpg

The two nines were switched before the 2016 renewal meaning the tournament finished on a par five instead of a par three and that definitely helped to make a more dramatic finale.

The par five 18th has an official yardage of 590 yards but it's often set up shorter to encourage players to go for the green in two.

Just like the only other par five - the sixth - it averaged only 4.31 last year, and they were the two easiest holes on the course.

TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 17:00 UK time on Thursday

Last Eight Winners with H'cap Start and Prices

  • 2022 - Rory McIlroy (-4) -21 10.09/1
  • 2021 - Patrick Cantlay (-10) -21 5.14/1
  • 2020 - Dustin Johnson -21 (-10) 3.211/5
  • 2019 - Rory McIlroy -18 (-5) 9.89/1
  • 2018 - Tiger Woods -11 13.5
  • 2017 - Xander Schauffele -12 120.0119/1
  • 2016 - Rory McIlroy -12 8.415/2
  • 2015 - Jordan Spieth -9 10.09/1

What Will it Take to Win?

Rory McIlroy ranked first for Driving Distance and 10th for Driving Accuracy last year but accuracy off the tee is usually slightly more important than power, although neither stat is of vital importance.

McIlroy ranked first for Putting Average last year and second when winning four years ago, and Tiger topped the PA stats a year earlier, but I wouldn't get too hung up on the putting stats. Cantlay only ranked 13th in 2021 and the main stat for East Lake has always been Greens In Regulation.

The first two ranked fourth and first last year and the first six on the leaderboard in 2021 ranked tied first, seventh, eighth, 13th, third, and tied first. The top-six all ranked tied fifth or better in 2020 and seven of the top eight in 2019 ranked inside the top-eight for GIR.

Is There an Angle In?

From a course correlation angle, form at Donald Ross designed tracks tends to cross over well so check out the Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club, Aronimink Country Club, which hosted the AT & T National in both 2010 and 2011 and the BMW Championship in 2018, this year's US PGA Championship venue, Oak Hill, and Sedgefield Country Club, home of the Wyndham Championship.

Now that this venue and Sedgefield Country Club, both have Bermuda greens, form at the two events should crossover very nicely and that's been the case over the last few years.

East Lake specialists, Justin Rose and Adam Scott, as well as Kevin Na, who along with Jon Rahm, shot the lowest 72-hole score last year all contended at Sedgefield in 2021.

The 2015 winner of this event, Jordan Spieth, was beaten in a playoff at the Wyndham, Webb Simpson, who finished fourth in 2013 and 2018, is a former winner of the event and in 2012, three of the first five home here had all previously won the Wyndham. And Luke Donald, who finished third, finished runner-up in the Wyndham six years ago.

The 2017 Wyndham winner, Henrik Stenson, won here in 2013, the Wyndham's first and fourth in 2018, Brandt Snedeker and Jim Furyk, won this event in 2012 and 2010 and Billy Horschel, who has a first and a second here, was second in the Wyndham in 2020 and he contended again there this year.

If all that wasn't enough, to cement the correlation even further - check out the result of the 2015 renewal of the Wyndham Championship... The 2008 Tour Championship winner, Camilo Villegas, beat the 2011 winner, Bill Haas.

Kevin Na, along with Jon Rahm, posted the lowest 72-hole total in 2021 at a huge price having just finished tied second in the Wyndham and Sungjae Im emulated him 12 months ago finishing second here after finishing runner-up in the Wyndham Championship a month earlier.

Is There an Identikit Winner?

Will Zalatoris, Patrick Cantlay and Rory won the three Playoff Series events last year but following Cantlay's victories in the second and third events of the Playoff Series in 2021, someone has won two FedEx Cup Playoff events in eight of the previous ten years, and on a staggering 11 occasions in total.

Tiger Woods (2007), Camilo Villegas (2008) Billy Horschel (2014), and Cantlay two years ago, have all won the last two events. That's a big plus for Lucas Glover and Viktor Hovland.

Hovland wins BMW.jpg

Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy are the only two to have won the FedEx Cup more than once but neither achieved the feat back-to-back.

Winner's Position and Price Pre-Round Four

  • 2022 - Rory McIlroy - T2 - trailing by six 11.521/2
  • 2021 - Patrick Cantlay - led by two 1.834/5
  • 2020 - Dustin Johnson - led by five strokes 1.292/7
  • 2019 - Rory McIlroy T2 - trailing by one 3.7511/4
  • 2018 - Tiger Woods - led by three strokes 1.664/6
  • 2017 - Xander Schauffele - T2 - trailing by two 6.611/2
  • 2016 - Rory McIlroy - T3 - trailing by two 4.47/2
  • 2015 - Jordan Spieth - led by a stroke 1.9310/11

In-Play Tactics

For the first three renewals after the handicap system was put in place, we witnessed nothing but really dull finishes.

Rory McIlroy never looked like losing four years ago, DJ won cosily in the end in 2020, after a little wobble on the front-nine on Sunday, and the 2021 event was a two-man race between Jon Rahm and the winner, Cantlay for the entirety of the weekend but last year's renewal was a completely different kettle of fish.

Having been matched at a low of just 1.132/15, and following a weather delay on Saturday, Scottie Scheffler returned to the course on Sunday and finished round three by birdying four of his remaining six holes to lead by six with a round to go but a three-over-par 73 in round four opened the door for McIlroy and his four-under-par 66 saw him win by one.

Market Leaders

With a two-stroke lead, Scottie Scheffler understandably heads the market, but he looks far too short at around 6/42.50 given his ongoing struggles with the flatstick.

Week after week it's the same story. From tee-to-green he's streets ahead of his rivals but once he gets to the green his putter is continuing to malfunction, as last week's stats at the BMW Championship demonstrate perfectly.

The world number one ranked first for Strokes Gained Off the Tee, Tee-to-Green and on Approach but he ranked 38th of 50 for SG Putting.

As already highlighted, he traded at a low of just 1.132/15 here last year before his late collapse on Sunday. That was the same price he dropped to on Sunday before he was caught late on by Viktor Hovland.

The American will be very keen to win his first FedEx Cup and he may well do so but he's a poor price given his putting woes and I'm more than happy to pass him over.

Nobody has yet won back-to-back FedEx Cups, but with current form figures reading 1-6-3-4, Rory McIlroy is certainly playing nicely enough to defy that stat.

He hasn't finished outside the top-10 in nine starts since May and he clearly loves East Lake but he too looks short enough given he trails Scheffler by three.

Viktor Hovland is a tempting price at 7.06/1 on the Exchange given he's no bigger than 5/16.00 on the High Street.

The Norwegian was extremely impressive on Sunday when shooting 28 on the back-nine at Olympia Fields to gun down Scheffler and Matt Fitzpatrick but as highlighted in the De-brief, I'm not convinced being up with the pace is ideal and he's another one I'm happy to swerve.

Selection

As Dave Tindall highlights in his each-way column, we do also have the option of backing selections in the Lowest 72 Hole Score market on both the Exchange and the Sportsbook but I'm sticking to the winner market for my sole selection.

Lucas Glover at Southwind.jpg

Lucas Glover must be running on fumes after winning back-to-back at Sedgefield and TPC Southwind before finishing a respectable 22nd last week but I'm happy to chance him modestly at 70.069/1 given he only trails by five and that he's no bigger than 45/146.00 on the High Street.

Back Lucas Glover @ 70.069/1

Bet now

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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