This is it, the big one, the FedEx Cup finale. Thirty players, and $11m+ up for grabs. All thirty players can theoretically win the $10m bonus, but those at the tail-end of the rankings will need some help from those at the top.
Justin Rose became World No.1 at the BMW Championship a fortnight ago, despite losing in a play-off to Keegan Bradley, who won for the first time in six years and he is poised to win a first FedEx Cup.
Bryson DeChambeau, who won the first two play-off events currently leads the way in the FedEx Cup standings, from Rose in second. Tony Finau who has yet to follow up his 2016 Puerto Rico Open win, comes in at 3rd place, thanks to three 2nd place finishes this season, including at the Northern Trust, to kick off his Playoff run.
Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, who have been vying for the World No.1 spot all season, complete the top-5 in the rankings, and will each have their own chances at East Lake this week.
Despite winning twice this season, Patton Kizzire is propping up the field in 30th place, whilst Jordan Spieth cruelly missed out on a spot in this field, for the first time in his career, ending his season in 31st place.
Aaron Wise was the only rookie this season to advance to the final event of the season, with a 5th place finish at the Northern Trust a big part of that. He picked up his first Tour win at the AT&T Byron Nelson earlier in the year, and will now have his eyes set on a spot in the World’s top-50, as his currently sits a career-high 52nd.
Elsewhere, Tiger Woods is making his first appearance in this event since 2013, and fellow veteran Phil Mickelson will be making his 20th Tour Championship start and a record-breaking 45th playoff start.
The Course and what it will take to win here
East Lake Golf Club, 7,385 Yards, Par 70
East Lake, whilst not littered with rough, comes with its own challenges and demands good second shots into the greens. With tightly mown run-off areas surrounding the greens, finding the right section of the putting surfaces will be vital.
Given how the course is setup and what it demands, it is perhaps no surprise to anybody that those that find plenty of greens on the week tend to prosper.
Of the last five winners, only Jordan Spieth (9th in 2015) ranked outside the top 6 for Greens in Regulation the week he won, with three of the five winners ranking inside the top-2. As a result, this is clearly the most vital component.
Each of the last five winners of this event had finished inside the top-20 in one of the three previous starts in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, with three (Stenson 13’, Horschel 14’, McIlroy 16’) all having wins in one of these starts. Stenson and McIlroy both won the Dell Technologies Championship before winning here, whilst Horschel kept the hot form going from his last start at the BMW Championship.
This is clearly not the place to find your form, so if a player has been stumbling into the final-30, they are perhaps best avoided.
Look for those finding greens with regularity, en-route to some decent finishes already in these Playoffs.
Tony Finau 22/1 (Betfred) 2pts e/w:
Tony Finau, has been on fire in these Playoffs, finishing no worse than 8th in three starts, and whilst his results have got progressively “worse” (2-4-8), I still believe he has a good chance of winning here.
There is a fear that he may take his foot off the gas now, given that his Ryder Cup spot is secure, but to me the very good chance that he has to bag the $10m bonus, will spur him on to another good finish here.
Finau has shot 69 or better in each of his last 15 rounds, and 18 of his last 20 in total. This level of consistency has meant he has found his way to 3rd in the FedEx Cup rankings, without a single victory on the season.
A big concern is the fact that big-hitting Finau has never followed up his sole PGA Tour victory, which he claimed at the 2016 Puerto Rico Open. It is surely a matter of when, not if he follows this up, and once he secures the next victory, the floodgates could well and truly open.
Winning a FedEx Cup Playoff event, whilst not akin to a Major or WGC event would be a statement of intent from Finau, and would surely give him the confidence to get over the line in the majors, which he’s impressed in consistently, without winning.
12th in Greens in Regulation and top-24 in SG: Tee-to-Green (14th) Off-the-Tee (17th) and Approach-the-Green (24th), Finau is clearly more than dialled in.
His one weakness can be his putter, and despite his 11 top-10 finishes, and current run of good form, he still sits 74th in SG: Putting, so it is clear where he needs to improve, for him to get over the line in a big event such as this.
At 22/1, he’s on the shorter side, but with three-straight top-8 finishes and a 7th place finish here on debut, which was spoilt only by a second-round 71, Finau’s time may be now.
Billy Horschel 30/1 (General) 1.5pts e/w:
Perhaps the most obvious bet of the week, Billy Horschel will be expected to repeat the heroics he showed in 2014, when backing up his BMW Championship victory, with a win here, to secure the $10m FedEx Cup prize.
Horschel hasn’t won an event during the Playoffs this time around, nor has he won an individual event this season (won the Zurich Classic with Scott Piercy), but he has been in good form once again, finishing 3rd at both the Northern Trust and the BMW Championship, either side of withdrawing through illness at the Dell Tech Championship.
Well positioned to win the $10m prize fund for a second time, Horschel will be looking to build on not only on his two 3rd place finishes over his last three starts, but also his course form of 7-1 here.
A 7th place finish on debut proves that his win here in 2014 was more than just him riding some form, and that the course does indeed play to his strengths.
Sitting 5th in Greens in Regulation and 24th in SG: Putting on the season, Horschel has the perfect remedy for East Lake.
Well known for riding hot form, Horschel has every chance to go well again this week, and I fully expect him to do just that, even if positioned nearer the top of the market.
Bubba Watson 50/1 (BetBright) 1pt e/w:
On price alone, Watson should be picked this week, given he has three wins on the season and has played stellar golf throughout.
A good record at East Lake further strengthens Watson’s case this week, with two top-5’s and a top-10 in three of his last four visits to the course. After finishing no better than 17th on his first three starts here, he’s now finished no worse than 14th on his last four, and clearly enjoys this test.
In his three starts in the 2018 Playoffs, Watson has finished 34th, 7th and 16th with the latter coming at the BMW Championship, where he recovered from a poor start.
He opened up the week with a 71 at Aronimink, but rounds of 65-65-66 followed, hitting plenty of greens (77.8%) in the process.
It has been a spectacular season for Watson, who needed to bounce back from a poor 2017, and he has now put himself firmly in position to win the grand prize.
Given his so-so attitude towards golf at times, it would be no surprise if Watson ended his career earlier than anticipated, in order to enjoy his personal life, and cashing in here would certainly help towards that. With that said, when he is in form and enjoying his golf he is very difficult to stop, and takes the game very seriously, which is important in this situation.
With everything taken into account, as well as his decent run of form of late, I think Watson is overpriced here at 50/1 and he could certainly pick up his first Playoff victory, at what would be the optimal time to do so.
Total Points staked this week: 9
Profit/Loss for 2018:-150
After coming up frustratingly short again, last time out at the BMW, I am hoping to reverse fortunes here, in the last event of the 2018/19 season.