This week marks the end of the 2015/16 season on the PGA Tour. 30 players will tee it up at East Lake this week, for the Tour Championship. The Tour Championship marks the end of the FedEx Cup and on Sunday someone will be crowned champion.Not only will this look great on record, but the winner will bag a cool $10m bonus to boot.
There are five players that are guaranteed to be FedEx Cup champion if they win this week. Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Adam Scott, Jason Day and Paul Casey can all consider it “job done” if they win here. Of the five, Johnson and Reed are the two that have won play-off events already this season. Scott has finished 4th at all three, whilst Casey has impressed also. Casey finished 2nd behind Rory McIlroy at the Deutsche Bank Championship and 2nd again last time out at the BMW. Day has flattered to deceive despite finishing 15th and 4th in his last two starts.
It gets a little tricky after that. Every player has a chance, no matter how slim of winning the $10m. All the scenarios can be found here.
East Lake, 7,374 yards, Par 72
The 9’s have been reversed at East Lake ahead of this year’s renewal and the yardage has increased slightly. This is due to the tee boxes being moved back slightly on several holes. Instead of players now finishing on a Par-3 it finishes with a Par-5. The 18th is now 600 yards and we should be in for an exciting finish as ever.
What is required to win the Tour Championship?
Typically it is more beneficial to be accurate as opposed to long at East Lake. Of the last six winners, only Bill Haas has ranked inside the top-10 (9th) for Driving Distance on the week. In contrast all of the winners in that span have ranked inside the top-10 for Greens in Regulation (except Haas who was 11th) and Driving Accuracy. This shouldn’t change drastically due to the slight yardage change, so look for similar results this week. Whilst ruling out the longer hitters would be foolish, it does give more hope to the shorter hitters than in recent weeks.
As a Donald Ross design, it is worth looking at form at the 2010 & 2011 AT&T National and the Wyndham Championship (from 2008 onwards). These events were hosted by Aronimink and Sedgefield CC respectively, both Ross designs. Ross was also responsible for the design of Pinehurst, which hosted the U.S. Open in 1999, 2005 and 2014. Current form is very important this week to. Now of course the 30 golfers here have been playing well, they wouldn’t be here otherwise. but playing well may not be enough.
All of the last six winners of the Tour Championship have taken the FedEx Cup home as well, so they would have been playing very strongly all year to be in a position in the rankings to win it all. Since 2007, only Bill Haas has made the Tour Championship his first PGA TOUR win of the season. In addition, in the nine years the FedEx Cup has been running, four players have won another play-off event before winning the Tour Championship.
Here are my selections this week.
Bubba Watson 35/1 (General)
Often criticised this season, you would think Watson has had a win-less season. He is still ranked inside the top-10 in the World and also managed to make it to East Lake for the 7th time in the last 9 years.
If he wants that last Ryder Cup pick he will need to win here. A case could easily have been made for him to get a Captain’s pick but he was initially overlooked. A lot has been made of this and most of it revolves around his character. Regardless of how likeable he is, Watson is a tremendous player with a unique skill-set.
Others may think he is not bothered, but there is reason to believe Watson is desperate to make Davis Love’s team. A win here, which could also see win the $10m may just get him that pick. Love stressed that it would not be a scoring contest at the Tour Championship for the final pick. If this is the case however, then why not pick all four wildcard selections already?
Watson has a good record recently at East Lake and he can add to that this week. In two of his last three starts here, he has finished 5th, including in 2015. He did however struggle before his last three efforts, finishing no better than 17th.
He looks to have figured East Lake out and he should go well again this week, with the Ryder Cup be in his sights. Watson joined fellow Ryder Cup hopefuls, Daniel Berger and Justin Thomas at Hazeltine for a Ryder Cup practice.
Bubba missed the cut at the Barclays, however has finished 3rd at the Deutsche Bank and 13th at the BMW since.
Watson was amongst my selections at the BMW Championship and I am happy to give him another chance at 35/1 in a 30-man field.
Ryan Moore 40/1 (General)
Moore will be battling for the final Ryder Cup spot and despite not being at the practice, I do still believe he has a chance.
Given his form since winning the John Deere, he probably deserves one too. Despite finishing 64th out of 70 at the BMW Championship his recent form has been excellent.
On his first two starts in the FedEx Cup play-offs he finished 7th and 8th. If he can find that form again this week, he will have no trouble contending.
Moore finished 3rd here in 2012 and 9th in 2009 on his only two starts at East Lake. Given his form here plus the form at other Donald Ross designs, he has to have a chance.
A former winner at the Wyndham Championship, Moore also finished runner-up at the 2010 AT&T National, a further indication he likes Ross’ layouts.
Like Watson he is over-priced in such a small field. Given the incentive of making his first Ryder Cup he should go all out.
Moore also has a realistic chance of the $10m bonus. This could be the breakout season, long promised given his ability.