Tour Championship Tips

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Steve Bamford's tips for the 2011 Tour Championship. Follow us on Twitter: @golfbetting

So we finish the regular PGA Tour season at East Lake in Atlanta, home of the Tour Championship. The final 30 players in the FedEx Cup have all theoretically still got a shot to win the whole shooting match and join the likes of Woods x2, Singh and Jim Furyk. Not too bad a bunch I think you’ll agree!

First things I must point out to the uninitiated. This select field of 30 players leads to typically reduced player prices and all the bookies will only pay-out Each Way to 4th place. The tournament has no cut line and you should expect masses of statistical complexity as the tournament leaderboard often runs second in importance to the actual FedEx Cup standings. Now this in itself adds an interesting angle when formulating my 10 point staking plan this week. If any of the current Top 5 i.e. Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Luke Donald (no US stroke-play wins in 2011) or Matt Kuchar (no wins in 2011) win the tournament they will be crowned 2011 FedEx Cup champion.

However Jim Furyk, who entered Georgia with no expectation on his shoulders, who had previously won 2 tournaments (Copperhead / Hilton Head) and who sat 11th in the FedEx standings (you work it out!) entering East Lake, went on to win both the tournament and the whole damn thing as the overall standing leaders one by one fell by the wayside. 2009 also saw Lefty fly into Atlanta 14th in the standings with Tiger a shoe-in for the overall crown and what do you know he won the Tour Championship from the aforementioned at a tasty 25/1. I’m not so sure Luke Donald looks too tempting at 6/1 or Webb Simpson at 12/1 especially as these guys will have all of the pressure very much on their shoulders. Golf doesn’t tend to be that obvious!

So my theory this week is that we look at the FedEx Cup undercard for some value. So who to go for? As usual the course setup will be key this week. East Lake is a technical Donald Ross original Par 70 that, like so many great US courses, had a Rees Jones re-design in 2008. The problem with East Lake you see was, like nearby Augusta, it featured Bent grass greens which by September had to be soft to be playable - and this made scoring too low. The course in essence was far too easy to hold a tournament of this magnitude. Hence Rees Jones, as part of his work, re-laid the greens in Mini-Verde Bermuda which run at over 12 on the stimp even in late September. Hence like Atlanta Athletic last month, expect a number of new faces to enter the fray this week whose “default setting” is Bermuda carpet. The rough won’t be as penal as we saw at AAC due mainly to an incredibly dry last 4 weeks and with the last 3 East Lake editions being won at -7, -9 and -8 I’m expecting a score of 267/268 (-12/-13) to get the job done this time around.

At this tough Par 70, that plays at +7,300 yards, course experience is paramount so I’m staying away from the 7 players who are making their debuts here this week. I was close to selecting both Wilson and Woodland but they were dropped for this very reason although they may be worth some speculative interest.

Instead I’m going for a bunch of players who all have wins to their name in 2011. Better than that, they all have wins on Bermuda greens, play technical tracks well and because of the bizarre FedEx Cup standing format come into the tournament with no pressure or expectation although they all sit in the Top 18 so a win gets them mighty close to the crown.

Nick Watney 1.5pt EW 16/1 with Ladbrokes Free Bet NEW OFFER! Get a £50 free bet via this link: Ladbrokes Free Bet

I tipped the Nevada-based Butch Harmon product for the PGA Championship at nearby Atlanta Athletic in August, with the following prose “The Californian, who bases himself in Las Vegas close too Harmon’s Rio Secco, Nevada base, has the all-round game to triumph this week and oh yes he loves Bermuda greens. 4 PGA Tour wins have been gleaned in a 7 year “top league” career and the courses he’s won at tell the whole story.” Well Nick gave me a run for my money with 12th place but the rough was a little too penal for his liking. The fact that this won’t be as much of an issue at East Lake this week on a course where Watney finished 4th last season makes the 16/1 seem almost like value.

His wins at TPC Louisiana in 2007 and this year at Doral translate perfectly for the week ahead as do recent Top 5 finishes at Copperhead, Bay Hill and TPC Sawgrass. He also won his 2nd victory of 2011 at the classical Aronimink Par 70 track in July and a play off form-line of 22(Cog Hill)/68/10 suggests to me that Watney is due another win. RESULT: T26

David Toms 1.25pt EW 25/1 with BetFred Free Bet Get a £50 free bet via this link: BetFred Free Bet

Regulars won’t be surprised that I’ve gone for Louisiana’s finest this week who I classify as both a Par 70 and Bermuda carpet “monster.” To back this claim up, since the start of 2008 Toms has the joint best PGA Tour Par 70 record in the field with Phil Mickelson, both of whom sit just behind Zach Johnson across the whole Tour. Toms last qualified for the Tour Championship in 2009 where he finished a credible 13th on the revised Rees Jones track and worthy of note was his 3rd here in 2002, so he has good vibes here in Georgia, especially when you throw in his PGA Championship victory at next door Atlanta Athletic in 2001. Indeed he wasn’t too shabby at that Par 70 Rees-Jones re-design 5 weeks back when he finished 4th behind Bradley, Dufner and Anders Hansen. Since then Sedgefield delivered 17th and Cog Hill (another Rees Jones Redesign) last week saw a 10th place finish.

David is a 2011 winner after raising the trophy at the Par 70 Colonial back in May and that followed a 2nd place finish on the fast Mini-Verde Bermuda greens of TPC Sawgrass and 3rd at Bay Hill in March. David arrives in Atlanta with no pressure as he sits 16th in the FedEx standings knowing that both the course and his game which is based around total consistency – he sits 6th in Bogey Avoidance this season – will suit perfectly. RESULT: T16

K.J.Choi 1.25pt EW 22/1 with Paddy Power Free Bet £100 In free bets, get it here: Paddy Power Free Bet

Waialee, English Turn, Copperhead and TPC Sawgrass. All of these tracks are Bermuda and technical in nature and the domain of one K.J.Choi Esq. Kyung-Ju has always excelled on tough traditional courses where ball striking rather than sheer power gets the job done and his 8 PGA Tour victories also include Muirfield, Sedgefield and Congressional. Choi is a class act. It’s therefore not surprising to note that Choi’s Top 10 finishes in 2011 have been at Riviera, Bay Hill (Bermuda), Augusta, TPC Louisiana (Mini- Verde Bermuda), TPC Sawgrass (Mini-Verde Bermuda) and Aronimink. Naturally he won The Players Championship at 45/1 on the exact same mix/speed of greens as the players will face this week and a progressive playoff form-line of 10(Cog Hill)/MC/32 shows a guy whose game is warming to the task with the Presidents Cup on the horizon. Choi unsurprisingly likes East Lake and was 7th here last year and 9th here in 2008. K.J. like Watney and Toms is an easy inclusion for me this week. RESULT: T3

Bubba Watson 1pt EW 40/1 with Paddy Power Free Bet £100 In free bets, get it here: Paddy Power Free Bet

From the obvious to the damn right ludicrous! My final pick for the Tour Championship is Big Bad Bubba. Instead of listing the obvious negatives the doom-mongers will highlight, I’ll list the positives. Bubba has won twice in 2011 at Torrey Pines and TPC Louisiana the latter as we know on the same green set-up as played this week at East Lake. 3 of the past 4 winners here have had multiple wins prior to winning this event. June 2010 saw Watson win his first PGA Tour victory at River Highlands another Ross designed Par 70. Allied to that his career CV includes “unlikely” results that stack up beautifully with East Lake like 4th at Waialee (2006), 5th at TPC Louisiana (2007), 8th at Bay Hill (2008) and 3rd at Copperhead (2010). Watson shot -3 for the final 54 holes at Atlanta Athletic on his way to 26th at the recent PGA Championship and he had the halfway lead and went out in the final group 2 weeks ago at TPC Boston . 18th in the FedEx Cup Watson has no pressure on him at all this week in Atlanta and 17th here last year after shooting -6 for the final 54 holes suggests to me that an unlikely contention is actually more than possible at 40/1. RESULT: T23

Odds and bookmaker offers correct 19:50BST 20.9.11 but naturally subject to fluctuation.

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