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Xander Schauffele to win the FedExCup at +650 with Caesars Sportsbook
Rory McIlroy to beat Tony Finau at -164 with FanDuel Sportsbook
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Back in September 2021, when this season began, we could not have imagined just what a traumatic time the PGA Tour was in for.
The threat of LIV Golf was first imagined, then worried about, then rubbished, then it was launched, then rubbished again, then disrupted the 150th Open, and now it has started to take more and more elite players over to the rebel cause.
It continues to throw a shadow over the traditional circuit and this week there are growing concerns about exactly who else will make the move next week.
Nor is the controversy off the course because, for the fourth time, the Tour Championship is utilizing the Starting Strokes format which means the players have been assigned a score to begin with which relates to their performance throughout the year (but crucially with weighting towards the two Playoff events which preceded this week).
Some wince when they think of the idea, others admit they don’t like it, Jon Rahm says quite simply: “It’s absolutely ludicrous.”
The best way of looking at it is that we’re watching in an in-running tournament and joining it after the first round.
In the first edition with the new rules, Rory McIlroy did win having started the week 5-under (and five back of the lead) but the last two winners were the pre-tournament leaders.
News came in during Tuesday’s practice that Will Zalatoris, who withdrew midway through last week’s BMW Championship with back pain, has been diagnosed with two herniated discs and will play not take part in the tournament – a cruel blow after he made his winning breakthrough in the first of the Playoffs at TPC Southwind.
-10: Scottie Scheffler
-8: Patrick Cantlay
-7: Will Zalatoris
-6: Xander Schauffele
-5: Sam Burns
-4: Cameron Smith, Rory McIlroy, Tony Finau, Sepp Straka, Sungjae Im
-3: Jon Rahm, Scott Stallings, Justin Thomas, Cameron Young, Matt Fitzpatrick
-2: Max Homa, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth, Joaquin Niemann, Viktor Hovland
-1: Collin Morikawa, Billy Horschel, Tom Hoge, Corey Conners, Brian Harman
E: KH Lee, JT Poston, Sahith Theegala, Adam Scott, Aaron Wise
East Lake Golf Club is a par-70 with Bermuda grass on the greens which makes one think of many regular PGA Tour venues, but its yardage of around 7,400 yards somewhat separates it from the likes of Waialae.
Whereas that Hawaiaan course features lots of short dog legs, East Lake is a little more reliant on big strong, and accurate driving rather than short and canny placement from the tee.
In fact, three of the last six winners at East Lake topped the Strokes Gained Off the Tee rankings.
It’s also a course that tends to suit in-form golfers and ones who have strong course form also – even players who have thrived on debut have then backed that up by going on to play well again on return visits.
Gary Woodland said of the test:
You’ve got to drive the ball in the fairway here. The rough is so brutal, and the greens are so fast, it turns into a ball striker’s paradise. If you drive it in play, you’ve got to find a way to keep the ball below the hole.
Xander Schauffele has a stunning record at East Lake.
He was the winner on debut in 2017 and then tied seventh on his defense of the title.
Since the event has changed format he has been ranked second, first, and third for low-scoring but every single time he was at least six shots back of the lead at the start of the week.
This week is not ideal – he’s four back – but it’s a big improvement on the past.
If you dig deeper, his strength on the Donald Ross design is even more apparent.
No less than 18 of his 20 laps have been sub-70 and six have been 66 or lower.
In his time he has ranked first for Strokes Gained Off the Tee and Approach, and second for Around the Green, Tee to Green, and Putting.
In four of his five appearances, he ended the week ranked in the top three for Strokes Gained Total.
He’s also in superb form, finishing top 20 in every event he has started, bar one, since the Masters. He’s won two of those on the PGA Tour, was victorious in another event (a Pro Am with an elite field), and also claimed the Zurich Classic with Patrick Cantlay.
Take him to win the FedExCup at +650 with Caesars Sportsbook.
It’s a short price but everything looks in Rory McIlroy’s favour in his matchbet with Tony Finau at FanDuel.
Since the start of 2019 the Northern Irishman leads the head-to-head 40-20 and he is 9-3 ahead since the start of 2021.
At East Lake, the situation is yet starker.
McIlroy has twice been the low scorer for the week and has six top 10s from eight starts.
Finau is yet to finish among the top six low scorers for the week and has two top 10s in five starts.
Unsurprisingly McIlroy leads the head-to-head 4-0.
Take him to win again with the FanDuel Sportbook price -164.
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|Tournament||The Tour Championship|
|Location||East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta, Georgia|
|Time||Thursday, August 25 – Sunday, August 28|
|How to watch||Thursday-Friday 1-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday 1-2:30 p.m. (Golf Channel), 2:30-7 p.m. (NBC). Sunday 12-1:30 p.m. (Golf Channel), 1:30-6 p.m. (NBC). And all four days on Sky Sports.|
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Matt Cooper has been a sports journalist since 2009 with his work appearing at ESPN, Sky Sports, NBC, Sporting Life and the Planet Sport Network among many others, in addition to guest appearances on the BBC and CNN. Although a specialist in golf, who has traveled the world to cover the sport, Matt has also covered rugby, cricket, football and the Olympics. Email: [email protected]More info on Matt Cooper
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