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Tour Championship Preview/Tips

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So here we are, on the last week of the 2013 PGA Tour season, and the season ending FedEx Cup, is still yet to be decided. Although all 30 players have a mathematical chance of taking home the FedEx cup and the $10m bonus that comes with it, it’s hard to see those at the bottom of the rankings ( 20-30) having a chance of pipping those inside the top- 5/10 to the title but it has been known. Bill Haas won the Tour Championship, and subsequently won the FedEx Cup despite ranking 25th. Jim Furyk also started the week in 11th place, before winning here in 2010 and taking home the grand prize. Still leading in the FedEx rankings, is none other than Tiger Woods, thanks to his T11 finish last week in the Barclays, whilst Henrik Stenson failed to follow up his recent heroics, on his way to a T33 position. A win this week for either Tiger Woods, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Zach Johnson or Matt Kuchar would see them win the $10m bonus, and it’s hard to go against all five of them this week. Zach Johnson in particular has been playing some fantastic golf, ever since the John Deere Classic, and it would not surprise me to see him go back-to-back.  Henrik Stenson has never made it to East Lake, and he’ll look to put last week behind him in order to impress on his debut here, and cap off a superb “comeback season” if you want to call it that. Both Adam Scott and Tiger Woods have won here at East Lake, Scott back in 2004, and Woods in 2007, so with Woods being #1 and Scott #3 in the FedEx rankings, you can see why they are both hot favourites to win again this week. This article gives shows you  what needs to happen in order for each of the 30 players to take home the FedEx Cup. http://www.pgatour.com/news/2013/09/16/scenarios–what-the-final-30-need-to-win-the-fedexcup.html

Looking at the Tour Championship, and how it has been won in the past, the winners have often found themselves at the very top of the Greens in Regulation chart at the end of the week, so that will be a huge focus again this week. Bill Haas is the only winner at East Lake, to finish outside the top-10 in that category so it is going to be important. This is another Donald Ross design course so we will be looking again at some of the same course form we looked at when we were trying to find a winner at the USPGA. With Jim Furyk coming 2nd we didn’t do too badly with the link last time, so again it’s worth looking at those courses. Two events in particular that  use Donald Ross designs are the Wyndham Championship and the AT&T National and the last two winners of the Tour Championship, Brandt Snedeker and Bill Haas have won at these events. Snedeker won the 2007 Wyndham Championship and Bill Haas won the AT&T National this year, so this may be something worth looking at. Time to look at East Lake as it’s own course and see what the players will be facing this week.

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The Course: East Lake, Par 70, 7,154 yards. After Zach Johnson shot the course record (60) in 2007, and Tiger Woods won with a final score of -23, there has been a significant change in the winning score, with the lowest since being -10, posted by last years Champion Brandt Snedeker. The 2007 edition of the Tour Championship was the first time the event was played in September, and there was not enough time to change the style of greens, but from 2008 onwards the greens were changed to Bermuda grass and the scores have reflected in the change. Hitting the right approach shots is always important, but even more so it seems this week, and that’s always helped by finding the fairway off the tee. Bottom line, I’m going to be focusing my attention on players finding greens, scrambling well (short game) as well as those in hot form.

With only 30 players in the field, it may be hard to find a player “good value” but you’ve got to put it in perspective. Those at the head of the betting are still at similar prices to what they have been on recent weeks, with Tiger Woods being 5/1 and Adam Scott coming in at 12s, however others will look a lot shorter. Brandt Snedeker was 45/1 at last week’s BMW Championship, and is 22/1 this week, so in a field half the size, that makes sense, and considering he won the event 12 months ago it looks a reasonable price. One of the more extreme price changes would be Luke Donald, who started Thursday last week at 40/1 and will likely be 16/1 tomorrow. Yes he had a good final round last week, which saw him finish in a tie for 4th and the reduced field obviously shortens the odds, but he’s also played poor for much of the season so therefore doesn’t seem a desirable pick this week. It really is a week where you have to weigh up all the pros and cons as all 30 players have made this week for a reason, so all will believe they have a chance of winning. It’s also worth noting that each way is 1-4 this week rather than the top 5. Here are the players who I believe can go well, and hopefully finish the season with a win, and possibly a sweet $10m bonus.

Hunter Mahan 18/1 (General) 4pts win: Hunter Mahan has had another good season on Tour, but he is missing one big thing, a win. The best finish this season is runner-up when he was beat by a extremely impressive Matt Kuchar at the WGC- Match-Play, an event Mahan had won previously 12 months before. After this disappointment, Mahan failed to finish in the top-10 until the U.S Open in June, where he came T4, after being right in contention for best part of the final day. He added to that good major performance, by impressing at the Open Championship, again finishing in the top-10 this time in a tie for 9th, when again being heavily involved at the top. Just a week later Mahan was leading the RBC Canadian Open at the half-way stage, before withdrawing due to the birth of his first child, much to the delight of eventual winner Brandt Snedeker. After this Mahan took a week off, before struggling to produce good golf at the PGA Championship, ending his good major run. However he has looked like getting back to his best during these FedEx Cup play-offs finishing, T25, T13 and most recently T4 in the first three events, and I expect that to continue here at East Lake. As I mentioned earlier, finding greens will be vital if you want to win this week, and Mahan led the field in that statistic last year, hitting 75% of greens in regulation, on his way to an T8 finish. Last year wasn’t his best performance here however, that came a year previous in 2011, when he lost in a play-off to Bill Haas, and subsequently lost out on the FedEx Cup overall. Mahan’s struggles with his short game have been highlighted in the past, but he holed a clutch putt to stay in a tie for 4th last week on the last hole and hopefully he rises to the occasion this week, at a course he’s proved he’s comfortable with. When he came 8th last year he was dead last at the BMW Championship the week before and T42 the year before when he came 2nd here, so he comes into this week off the back of his best result in the BMW Championship and that could be a huge plus for him. At 18/1 he seems to be the best value at the head of the market, and I want him onside this week.

Brandt Snedeker 22/1 (General) 2.5pts e/w: So last week I noticeably left Snedeker out of my selections, and at one point I was extremely worried that was going to come back and haunt me. In the end it didn’t. After such a great start, Snedeker failed to keep up his good performance in round four, and tailed off into a tie for 8th. He wasn’t holing putts on Saturday and Sunday like he had done Thursday and Friday and that is normally the difference between him featuring or not. Snedeker has had his injury worries over the last couple of years, so it’s a surprise he’s managed to be as consistent as he has. Another two victories either side of him over a month off shows, not only what a great player he is, but also his tremendous character. His play off the tee has been a bit of a concern recently, and I feel the injury may have a lot too do with that, with his ribs being the concern areas, but if he can keep that under control this week, I can’t see why he can’t defend his title. As previously mentioned he’s won on Donald Ross’ designed courses before, when winning the 2007 Wyndham Championship, and considering he won at this very course just a year ago, it would take a brave man to completely rule him out. He had 2o birdies here last year on his way to -10 par final score and hopefully he can get hot again this week. Yes he was 45/1 last week, but he cannot be such a price in a much more limited field and at 22/1, as the defending champion and off the back of another good week last week I simply could not leave him out again. Picking him this week, firmly cements him as my favourite selection this year, but it seems his either won, or gone close most times that we have, and I don’t see it being any different this week. He’s had his up and downs this year, no lower moment than his collapse in the final round at Augusta when he looked ready to win the Masters, but this time last year he enjoyed, without a doubt the best week of his golfing career, and those fond memories should serve him well this week. Steve Stricker probably gave him one of the biggest endorsements, when he said that Snedeker was the best putter in the world. Many believe that, that title belongs to Stricker and that he may just be being modest, but Snedeker on his day really is a wizard with the putter and he will need to be to edge out the other 29 players for a 2nd year in a row!

Webb Simpson 40/1 (General) 2pts e/w: Webb Simpson is the epitome of steady play, and although he sometimes flatters to deceive he is a proven winner, of course his biggest win coming at the US Open in 2012. He was nearly a winner again this year, when losing out to Graeme McDowell at the RBC Heritage mid-way through the season, but even since has finished in the top-20 5 times, and the top-5 once. So although he hasn’t really threatened to win much this season, he’s still managed to play some fine golf and returning to a course he’s enjoyed success at before I wouldn’t rule him out at a good price. Simpson has played the Tour Championship twice in his short PGA Tour career, finishing 22nd in 2011, and T5 here in 2012, showing significant improvement second time around. With just that T5 last year I’m happy to give him another chance this week at 40/1 but he, just like Brandt Snedeker has won the Wyndham Championship, back in 2011 which proves his competence with Donald Ross’ designed courses, and he’ll look to make it third time lucky in 2013. He has won another play-off event, when he won the Deutsche Bank Championship in 2011, that plus his major win at the U.S Open shows he’s a big time player, and a big time performance is what he needs here. 40/1 is a good price for a three-time winner, all three wins coming in quality events.

Gary Woodland 66/1 (General) 1pt e/w: Woodland has found form in 2013, form that saw him win again on Tour, this time at the Reno-Tahoe Open, and he’s enjoyed some good weeks since. After a torrid 2012, Woodland has managed to put last year, and early this year behind him, finishing off strong and making only his second appearance at the Tour Championship. Since winning, Woodland has finished 74th at the US PGA, T2 at the first play off event, The Barclays, T41  a week later, and finally T18 last week. Still the inconsistency is there, but confidence will be higher, and two good performances against one bad in the play-off events will certainly please Woodland. He has played East Lake once in the past and finished a respectable T13, so with him finding form again I’m hoping he can go better than that this time around. At 66/1 he just looked very reasonable value in a 30-man field and hopefully he gives us at least a run for our money. He’s sitting 34th in Greens in Regulation as well as 22nd in GIR Percentage < 125 yards so the big hitter is hitting his wedges well, a good combination here this week. Hopefully he can better his Driving Accuracy this week, as many other long hitters have to, and if he does that, there’s absolutely no reason why he cannot contend and cap off a fairly pleasing season.

Total Points Staked this week: 15

Profit/Loss for 2013: +107.25

I’m really looking forward to the season-ender this week, and after a superb week for us, both sides of the pond in terms of profit last week, we are looking to end 2013 on a high. I have not had a chance to look into the Open dItalia at all this week, and therefore haven’t got involved. If you have anything you may want to ask, or simply want to comment I’m always on Twitter @TomJacobs8.