The Tour Championship Tips

Steve Bamford's Tour Championship Tips

So we’ve made it to the Tour Championship in Atlanta, where the elite of the PGA Tour fight it out to win the FedEx Cup series. Casualties are strewn all over Cog Hill, TPC Boston and even Ridgwood. 95 players haven’t delivered the results to propel them into the Top 30 and the chance of earning a cool $1,350,000. No wonder Paul Casey screwed up his chance of Ryder Cup glory to concentrate on reaching the Tour Championship for the first time (tongue firmly in cheek!).

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East Lake is a classical Georgia Par 70 with a difference. The Rees Jones Redesign has seen the course lengthened but, more importantly, the greens are formed of fast Bermuda greens that run +12.5 on the stimp. A true challenge and a step change from Cog Hill and TPC Boston.

I’ve looked for a number of ingredients this week to pull together my 10 point team selection. I want 2010 winners, who have a history of delivering on tough Bermuda tracks. Georgia form helps greatly especially as the only other stop off in the state is Augusta! Allied to that form of other Rees Jones Re Designs is naturally a positive.

The clear favourite has to be Lefty and his current price is about right. His form in Georgia (Augusta & TPC Sugarloaf) and on Bermuda grass greens is exemplary and naturally he ranks within out Predictor Model Top 5. His real game started to surface at Cog Hill and with the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor very much in the front of mind ask yourself the question would he like to arrive as World Number 1?! I’ve always questioned whether he as the fortitude to deliver that and after umpteen opportunities he still hasn’t delivered. This is by far his best opportunity to date...

Ernie Els 1pt EW 20/1 with Paddy Power Free Bet NEW OFFER! £50 of free bets via this link: Paddy Power Free Bet

Els went into the FedEx Cup as Number 1 in the rankings but the pressure of that weighed on the Florida based South African who proceeded to deliver 71st at Ridgwood and 30th in Boston. However positive momentum is now in the ascendancy and this price with Paddy Power offers major value. With no Ryder Cup expectation on his shoulders and taking the positives from 13th in Boston (I know he tripled the 72nd) Ernie’s game is in decent shape. He’s won twice on Tour in 2010 both on Bermuda and won the Honda Classic in 2008 again on Bermuda so there is no doubt this is his favourite surface. Previous visits to East Lake have yielded 7 Top 10 finishes.  RESULT: T7

Zach Johnson 1pt EW 22/1 with Bet365 Up to £200 in free bets via this link: Bet 365 £210 Free Bets

It's fact that a number of Ryder Cup team members pop up at the top of the Tour Championship the week before the biggest event in world golf. Take 2008. 5 of the Top 10 finishers were US Ryder Cup team members. So I’m thinking that the extremely pro Georgia / Bermuda Par 70 campaigner Zach Johnson won’t be a million miles away from contention. Par 70 golf is Johnson’s bread and butter and his resume contains some telling Bermuda victories. Texas Open Champion 08/ 09, Sony Open 09, 3rd at Bay Hill 09 and 2nd here in 2007 all offer real attractiveness. Allied to these positives is Georgia-based tournament performances are excellent. Champion at TPC Sugar Loaf both in 2004 and 2007 and Master Champions also in 2007. In fact his record offers real parallels with Lefty who obviously is the defending champion.  RESULT: T9

Nick Watney 1pt EW 40/1 with Ladbrokes Free Bet

Another crazy stat is that winners of the Tour Championship in the past 3 seasons have all delivered at least 2 major Top 10 finishes in the season prior to their triumph at East Lake. For those not sad enough to trawl through records the players this season in question therefore are Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson and Nick Watney. I can’t back Kuchar and Johnson at single digit prices so as ever I'm plumping for the value in Watney. It's fact that Watney plays his best golf on Bermuda greens in the Southern states and I’m also taking the positives from his 3rd Round lead in the PGA Championship. Watney’s game is close to winning a big tournament. His playoff form line of 36-33-15 backs up the point above and with no Ryder Cup pressure and a liking for courses like East Lake I won’t be surprised to see the big hitting Californian have a great week.  RESULT: T4

Hunter Mahan 1pt EW 33/1 with Ladbrokes Free Bet

Mahan is a two time winner on the PGA Tour this season that will be making his 2nd appearance in the Ryder Cup next week, so he very much falls into the Zach Johnson camp who I’m expecting a decent ‘sharp’ performance from this week. Mahan won his first ever Bermuda green title at Phoenix in February, interestingly on a track that Lefty has won multiple titles at in recent seasons. His price is a product of his recent form that hasn’t been great since his WGC triumph at Akron but that is typical Mahan. Has a superb record on Rees Jones Re-Designs and has had Top 10 finishes at the past 2 Masters and decent finishes at both Bay Hill and East Lake in the past 3 seasons.  RESULT: T15

Camillo Villegas 1pt EW 28/1 with Bet365 Up to £200 in free bets via this link: Bet 365 £210 Free Bets

The Florida-based Colombian seems like a real value punt on a course where he has a record of a Win and 9th last season. His 11th at Cog Hill showed an upturn in recent form and got him into a Top 30 spot and his general game is in decent shape following a Top 10 at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. Villegas was educated in Florida so his liking for Bermuda based tracks is no real surprise. Indeed he triumphed at this seasons Honda Classic at PGA National and tellingly he finished 4th at 2008 PGA Championship hosted at Oakland Hill.  RESULT: T9

Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 20:30BST 21.9.10 but naturally subject to fluctuation.

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