Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Tour Championship Tips 2022

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Plenty of questions will be answered at East Lake Golf Club this week which hosts the 2021/22 PGA Tour season-ending Tour Championship. The FedEx Cup Series culminates in Georgia with the top 30 in the standings arriving in Atlanta with a shot at the overall title. 2022 is the fourth Tour Championship renewal where we will see the FedEx Cup Starting Strokes Index, with FedEx Cup standings Number 1 Scottie Scheffler starting the tournament at -10.

Qualifying for the Tour Championship is always a massive deal for players who don’t reside regularly in the OWGR top 50 with invites to next year’s Masters Tournament, U.S. Open and Open Championship the reward. So congratulations to Tour Championship debutants Scott Stallings (Tour Champ debutant), Sahith Theegala (rookie & Tour Champ debutant), and J.T. Poston (Tour Champ debutant) for booking their tickets to the biggest tournaments in 2023. They are joined by Tom Hoge, Sepp Straka, K.H. Lee, Max Homa, Cameron Young and Matt Fitzpatrick, who despite currently residing in the OWGR top 50 is making his East Lake debut. Unfortunately Will Zalatoris who again would have been an EastLake debutant is a non-starter with a back injury, making this a 29-man contest.

The Tour Championship sees a FedEx Cup Starting Strokes Index used, with the FedEx Cup standings leader starting the next week at -10, FEC Number 2 at -8, FEC Number 3 at -7, FEC Number 4 at -6 and Number 5 at -5. This then cascades down to those ranked 26th to 30th starting at Even.

Before we go into the detail surrounding the Tour Championship, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System. Welcome and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), the Steve Bamford Golf Channel on YouTube and our hugely popular, +6,100 strong, private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

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Course Guide: East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia first hosted the Tour Championship in 1998. Back then the tournament alternated every year with the Champions Golf Club in Houston, but East Lake has been the sole host since 2004. The course is a Donald Ross original which had a Rees Jones renovation in 2008 that included a change from Bentgrass to faster MiniVerde Bermudagrass putting surfaces. This course tends to negate pure power and aggression, instead rewarding consistent ball-striking or excellent tactical play and putting from short-game experts comfortable on undulating Bermuda putting surfaces. Driving accuracy around here actually means something, with gnarly Bermudagrass rough that punishes on a set-up which features half a dozen 450+ yard par-4s. The course is a traditional Par 70 layout with only 2 par-5s. The 6th is reachable for all and the closing 18th is reachable for the power hitters.

Rees Jones-inspired course changes prior to the 2016 renewal saw 78 yards added to course yardage with new tees on both the 16th and 17th par-4s. In addition the sets of 9 holes were reversed, with the round now finishing with the 590 yard par-5 rather than the traditional par-3 closer. Rees Jones inspired the changes on the new 18th, with a larger tee box so that it may always be set up as a two-shot par-5, and a re-contoured landing area to prevent drives rolling into a water hazard on the right side of fairway. Plenty of work has been put in to ensure the chance of a more exciting finish.

East Lake Golf Club, East Atlanta, Georgia: Designer: Donald Ross 1913 with Rees Jones re-designs 2008 & 2016; Course Type: Mid-Score, Classical; Par: 70; Length: 7,346 yards; Holes with Water Hazards In-Play: 4; Fairways: Meyer Zoysiagrass; Rough: Tifway Bermudagrass 2.5″; Greens: 6,090 sq.ft average featuring MiniVerde UltraDwarf Bermudagrass; Stimpmeter: 12.5 ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 70.42 (+0.42), Difficulty Rank 20 of 49 courses. 2013: 69.38 (-0.62), Difficulty Rank 20 of 43 courses. 2014: 70.26 (+0.26), Rank 20 of 48 courses. 2015: 70.38 (+0.38), Difficulty Rank 17 of 52 courses. 2016: 69.62 (-0.38), Difficulty Rank 27 of 50 courses. 2017: 69.38 (-0.62), Difficulty Rank 31 of 50. 2018: 69.62 (-0.38), Rank 24 of 51 courses. 2019: 70.03 (+0.03), Rank 14 of 49 courses. 2020: 68.92 (-1.08), Rank 24 of 41 courses. 2021: 68.81 (-1.19), Rank 37 of 51 courses.

Widths Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for East Lake Golf Club and how they compare to recent courses on Tour:

  • East Lake: 250 yards from the tee: 28 yards wide; 275:26; 300:25; 325:24; 350:23.
  • TPC Southwind: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:29; 300:28; 325:31; 350:25.
  • Sedgefield: 250 yards from tee: 29 yards wide; 275:28; 300:26 325:23; 350:22.
  • Detroit Golf Club: 250 yards from tee: 34 yards wide; 275:34; 300:35 325:34; 350:33.
  • TPC Twin Cities: 250 yards from the tee: 38 yards wide; 275:38; 300:31; 325:30; 350:36.
  • TPC Deere Run: 250 yards from tee: 41 yards wide; 275:40; 300:36 325:33; 350:30.
  • TPC River Highlands: 250 yards from the tee: 38 yards wide; 275:36; 300:29; 325:29; 350:28.
  • Muirfield Village: 250 yards from the tee: 34 yards wide; 275:32; 300:28; 325:24; 350:27.
  • Colonial: 250 yards from tee: 27 yards wide; 275:26; 300:27; 325:26; 350:23.
  • Champions Course – Southern Hills: Average 40 yards wide.
  • TPC Potomac: 250 yards from the tee: 32 yards wide; 275:30; 300:27; 325:23; 350:27.
  • Harbour Town: 250 yards from tee: 29 yards wide; 275:26; 300:22; 325:26; 350:22.
  • Oaks Course: 250 yards from tee: 33 yards wide; 275:34; 300:29; 325:27; 350:26.
  • Copperhead: 250 yards from the tee: 24 yards wide; 275:20; 300:21; 325:23 350:19.
  • TPC Sawgrass: 250 yards from the tee: 31 yards wide; 275:32; 300:30; 325:28 350:20.
  • Bay Hill: 250 yards from the tee: 32 yards wide; 275:33; 300:33; 325:39 350:29.
  • PGA National: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:27 350:25.
  • Riviera: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:26 350:28.
  • TPC Scottsdale: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:30; 300:28; 325:27; 350:27.
  • Pebble Beach: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:33; 300:29; 325:30 350:26.
  • Torrey Pines South: 250 yards from the tee: 26 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:24; 350:23.
  • TPC Stadium: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:26; 350:24.
  • Waialae: 250 yards from the tee: 34 yards wide; 275:32; 300:34; 325:37; 350:34.
  • Plantation Course: 250 yards from the tee: 59 yards wide; 275:61; 300:65; 325:60; 350:62.

Course Designer Links: For research purposes other Donald Ross and Rees Jones re-designs include:

Donald Ross

  • Aronimink – 2010/11 AT&T National + 2019 BMW Championship
  • Detroit Golf Club –  Rocket Mortgage Classic
  • East Course at Oak Hill – 2013 PGA Championship
  • Pinehurst Number 2 – 2014 US Open
  • Plainfield – 2011 & 2015 Barclays
  • Sedgefield Country Club – Wyndham Championship

Rees Jones

  • Aronimink GC – 2010,2011 A&T National + 2018 BMW Championship
  • Baltusrol – 2016 PGA Championship
  • Bellerive CC – 2018 PGA Championship
  • Bethpage Black – 2009 U.S Open, 2019 PGA Championship + 2012/2016 The Barclays
  • Blue Course, Congressional CC – 2011 U.S. Open + 2012-2014 & 2016 National
  • Blue Course, Royal Montreal GC – 2014 RBC Canadian Open
  • Dubsdread, Cog Hill GCC – 2009,2010,2011 BMW Championship
  • East Lake GC – Tour Championship
  • GC of Houston – Houston Open
  • Hazeltine – 2009 PGA Championship
  • Highlands Course, Atlanta Athletic Club – 2011 PGA Championship
  • Medinah Number 3 – 2019 BMW Championship
  • Torrey Pines South Course – Farmers Insurance Open + 2008 U.S. Open + 2021 U.S. Open

Course Overview: East Lake is a long circa 7,400 yard, Par 70. The course’s main defence is fast MiniVerde Bermudagrass greens which feature the Donald Ross trademark back-to-front pitch surrounded by tightly mown run-offs into collection areas. The green complexes are fast (12+ on the Stimpmeter) and contoured. Downhill putts are difficult to attack and players constantly talk about positioning approach shots below the pin. Plenty of green complexes are also long and thin, making finding the putting surfaces tricky. East Lake is a traditional, old-school golf course that up until now hasn’t been overpowered by brute force and it has a definite Southern-States feel to it after weeks of up-country Bentgrass and Poa Annua green action apart from TPC Southwind a fortnight ago.

Driving accuracy undoubtedly helps around here with fairways surrounded by trees and gnarly, tough Bermuda rough. Fairways are also extremely tight and feature quirky Meyer Zoysiagrass fairways which many players claim promotes flyers. 10 of the last 14 winners have been in the top 10 for fairways hit, but high Greens in Regulation numbers are also critical. Since the 2008 Rees Jones re-design, Xander Schauffele holds the tournament lowest total at -15/265 from 2021, beating Kevin Na and John Rahm from last year with -14/266 totals. East Lake is a tough assignment!

East Lake is one of those rare tests on the PGA Tour, where accuracy from the tee needs to be respected, especially on a course which continually ranks in the top-third in terms of hardest to hit fairways on the Tour. Ball-striking wise the last 13 lowest scorers (ignoring starting scores from 2019 onwards) here have ranked – Na 13th, Rahm 2nd, Schauffele 9th, McIlroy 2nd, Woods 6th, Schauffele 3rd, McIlroy 3rd, Spieth 7th, Horschel 9th, Stenson 8th, Snedeker 5th, Haas 3rd and Furyk 3rd.

From a Strokes Gained Off the Tee perspective, ranks look like this: Rahm 4th, Schauffele 5th, McIlroy 1st, Woods 6th, Schauffele 1st, McIlroy, 1st, Spieth 3rd, Horschel 7th, Stenson 16th, Snedeker 5th, Haas 5th and Furyk 14th. Naturally Kevin Na last year broke the mould by ranking 24th out of 30 for Strokes Gained Off the Tee, but where he was trademark short off the tee, he was also arrow straight ranking 3rd for Fairways Hit.

So hitting both fairways and greens here is a prerequisite for victory. That solid core of play both with tee shots and approach shots is magnified on the basis that East Lake always ranks in the top-half for scrambling difficulty on the PGA Tour. This is a course to be respected.

tour championship tips

Tour Championship Winners: 2021: Patrick Cantlay (-21) & Kevin Na / Jon Rahm 72-Hole (-14); 2020: Dustin Johnson (-21) & Xander Schauffele 72-Hole (-15); 2019: Rory McIlroy (-18) & Rory McIlroy 72-Hole (-13); 2018: Tiger Woods (-11); 2017: Xander Schauffele (-12); 2016: Rory McIlroy (-12); 2015: Jordan Spieth (-9); 2014: Billy Horschel (-11); 2013: Henrik Stenson (-13); 2012: Brandt Snedeker (-10); 2011: Bill Haas (-9); 2010: Jim Furyk (-8).

Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Combined Stats | SG Stats.

Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Sungjae Im, Matt Fitzpatrick, Patrick Cantlay, Scottie Scheffler and Corey Conners.

Tour Championship Winning Prices: 2021: Patrick Cantlay 4/1 – 72-Hole Kevin Na 70/1 & Jon Rahm 7/1; 2020: Dustin Johnson 15/8 – 72-Hole Xander Schauffele 12/1; 2019: Rory McIlroy 9/1 – 72-Hole Rory McIlroy 8/1; 2018: Tiger Woods 14/1; 2017: Xander Schauffele 100/1; 2016: McIlroy 13/2; 2015: Spieth 9/1; 2014: Horschel 25/1; 2013: Stenson 16/1; 2012: Snedeker 40/1; 2011: Haas 45/1; 2010: Furyk 20/1.

Historical Weather:

  • 2021: Thursday: Partly cloudy with a high of 85. Wind NE 5-10 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy with a high of 84. Wind ENE 5-10 mph. Saturday: Mostly sunny with a high of 84. Wind SE 4-8 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy with a high of 86. Wind WSW 4-8 mph.
  • 2020: Thursday: Partly cloudy with a high of 92. Wind WNW 10-15 mph. Friday: Mostly sunny, less humid with a high of 87. Wind N 6-12 mph. Saturday: Sunny skies with temperatures reaching into the mid-80s. Wind ENE 10-15 mph. Sunday: Sunny. High of 86. Wind E 5-10 mph.
  • 2019: Thursday: Partly cloudy with a high of 93. Wind SW at 5-10 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 91. Wind W/SW 10-15 mph. Due to inclement weather, round two was suspended from 4:07 p.m. until 5:33 p.m. (1 hour, 26 minutes). Saturday: Round three resumed as scheduled at 8 a.m. Widely scattered passing showers throughout the day. High of 79. Wind E 7-15 mph. Sunday: Overcast and cooler, with a high of 79. Wind E 7-15 mph.
  • 2018: Thursday: Sunny with a high of 93. Wind ESE at 5-10 mph. Friday: Sunny with a high of 91. Wind SE at 5-10 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy with a high of 90. Wind SSE at 4-8 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy with a high of 90. Wind SE at 5-10 mph.
  • 2017: Thursday: Partly cloudy with a high of 90. Wind NNE 4-8 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy with a high of 89. Wind ENE 4-8 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy with a high of 87. Wind NE 5-10 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy with a high of 85. Wind ENE 10-15 mph.
  • 2016: Thursday: Partly cloudy with a high of 89. Wind NNE at 6-12 mph. Friday: Clear skies with a high of 89. Wind N at 5-10 mph. Saturday: Hot and humid conditions with a high in the lower 90s. Calm NNE wind reaching 5-10 mph in the afternoon. Sunday: Partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the lower 90s. Wind E at 5-10 mph.
  • 2015: Thursday: Partly cloudy with a high of 88. Wind WSW at 7-12 mph. Friday: Mist and drizzle in between showers. High of 68. Wind NNE at 10-15 mph. Saturday: Rain showers all day with a high of 71. ENE wind at 7-12 mph. Sunday: Cloudy with a high of 74. Wind E at 7-12 mph.

Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for East Atlanta, Georgia, is here.

First point to highlight is that Atlanta hasn’t seen too much rain since the start of June. 222mm (8.75 inches) of rain is similar to what we saw in 2019, when the East Lake test was nice and firm. Indeed the course only received 8mm last week. Now the forecast suggests a 60% chance of rain on Wednesday night, with the standard Augusta 40/50% chance of rain across the tournament, but we know that the greens here have Sub-Air and can be set to release. With 31-33 degree Celsius temperatures throughout the tournament, expect them to be watered. Wind won’t be a factor this week, so in my mind this will be a -12 to -14 scoring test this week.

Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the John Deere Classic / Irish Open, which includes both PGA Tour and DP World Tour events. Player rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Jon Rahm; 2) Sungjae Im / Aaron Wise; 4) Scottie Scheffler; 5) Matt Fitzpatrick; 6) Corey Conners; 7) Tony Finau; 8) Max Homa; 9) Cameron Young; 10) Cameron Smith; 11) Joaquin Niemann; 12) Rory McIlroy / Xander Schauffele / Adam Scott; 15) Jordan Spieth; 16) Viktor Hovland; 17) Patrick Cantlay; 18) Scott Stallings; 19) Billy Horschel; 20) Brian Harman / K.H. Lee.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Joaquin Niemann; 2) Tony Finau; 3) Rory McIlroy / Scott Stallings; 5) Tom Hoge; 6) Viktor Hovland / Xander Schauffele; 8) Patrick Cantlay; 9) Collin Morikawa / Scottie Scheffler; 11) Jordan Spieth; 12) Sam Burns; 13) J.T. Poston; 14) Aaron Wise; 15) Justin Thomas; 16) Cameron Young; 17) Corey Conners / Billy Horschel; 19) Sahith Theegala; 20) Sungjae Im.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Rory McIlroy; 2) Patrick Cantlay; 3) Scott Stallings; 4) Max Homa; 5) Matt Fitzpatrick; 6) Jordan Spieth; 7) Adam Scott; 8) Tony Finau; 9) Cameron Young; 10) Xander Schauffele; 11) Sahith Theegala; 12)  J.T. Poston; 13) Aaron Wise; 14) Brian Harman; 15) Justin Thomas; 16) Jon Rahm; 17) Hideki Matsuyama / Cameron Smith; 19) Billy Horschel / Viktor Hovland.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Rory McIlroy / Joaquin Niemann; 3) Aaron Wise; 4) Scott Stallings; 5) Tony Finau; 6) Scottie Scheffler; 7) Patrick Cantlay; 8) Jon Rahm / Xander Schauffele; 10) Matt Fitzpatrick / Sungjae Im / Jordan Spieth; 13) Viktor Hovland / Cameron Smith; 15) Cameron Young; 16) Corey Conners; 17) Max Homa / Adam Scott; 19) Justin Thomas; 20) Billy Horschel.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Cameron Smith; 2) Patrick Cantlay; 3) Tony Finau; 4) Matt Fitzpatrick; 5) J.T. Poston; 6) Xander Schauffele; 7) K.H. Lee; 8) Sam Burns; 9) Max Homa / Scott Stallings; 11) Collin Morikawa; 12) Sungjae Im; 13) Viktor Hovland / Jon Rahm; 15) Rory McIlroy; 16) Sahith Theegala; 17) Adam Scott; 18) Billy Horschel; 19) Corey Conners / Brian Harman / Aaron Wise.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Cameron Smith; 2) Tony Finau; 3) Patrick Cantlay; 4) Scott Stallings; 5) Matt Fitzpatrick; 6) Xander Schauffele; 7) Rory McIlroy / Joaquin Niemann / Aaron Wise; 10) Jon Rahm; 11) J.T. Poston; 12) Corey Conners; 13) Max Homa / Adam Scott; 15) Jordan Spieth; 16) Scottie Scheffler; 17) Sahith Theegala; 18) Viktor Hovland; 19) Sungjae Im / Cameron Young.

For a summary of the Strokes Gained Performances from this week’s field here at East Lake since 2016 click here.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 72-hole stroke play winners here since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

Note Kevin Na and Jon Rahm tied at -14/266 as the 72-hole leaders in 2021.

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:

  • 2021, Jon Rahm (-14). SG Off the Tee: 4th, SG Approach: 22nd, SG Around the Green: 1st, SG Tee to Green: 4th, SG Putting: 4th.
  • 2021, Kevin Na (-14). SG Off the Tee: 24th, SG Approach: 2nd, SG Around the Green: 4th, SG Tee to Green: 3rd, SG Putting: 5th.
  • 2020, Xander Schauffele (-15). SG Off the Tee: 5th, SG Approach: 17th, SG Around the Green: 11th, SG Tee to Green: 12th, SG Putting: 2nd.
  • 2019, Rory McIlroy (-13). SG Off the Tee: 1st, SG Approach: 9th, SG Around the Green: 2nd, SG Tee to Green: 1st, SG Putting: 11th.
  • 2018, Tiger Woods (-11). SG Off the Tee: 6th, SG Approach: 14th, SG Around the Green: 9th, SG Tee to Green: 7th, SG Putting: 2nd.
  • 2017, Xander Schauffele (-12). SG Off the Tee: 1st, SG Approach: 15th, SG Around the Green: 3rd, SG Tee to Green: 2nd, SG Putting: 13th.
  • 2016, Rory McIlroy (-12). SG Off the Tee: 1st, SG Approach: 6th, SG Around the Green: 8th, SG Tee to Green: 2nd, SG Putting: 9th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:

  • SG Off the Tee: 6th, SG Approach: 12th, SG Around the Green: 5th, SG Tee to Green: 4th, SG Putting: 7th.

Traditional Skill Set Trends:

  • 2021, Jon Rahm (-14). 313 yards (5th), 60.7% fairways (10th), 70.8% greens in regulation (7th), 33″1″ proximity to hole (8th), 81.0% scrambling (2nd), 1.71 putts per GIR (12th).
  • 2021, Kevin Na (-14). 290 yards (28th), 66.1% fairways (3rd), 69.4% greens in regulation (8th), 32″1″ proximity to hole (3rd), 95.5% scrambling (1st), 1.74 putts per GIR (21st).
  • 2020, Xander Schauffele (-15). 303 yards (15th), 53.6% fairways (16th), 69.4% greens in regulation (5th), 34″10″ proximity to hole (14th), 77.3% scrambling (2nd), 1.62 putts per GIR (2nd).
  • 2019, Rory McIlroy (-13). 306 yards (8th), 64.3% fairways (3rd), 69.4% greens in regulation (5th), 34″3″ proximity to hole (12th), 68.2% scrambling (5th), 1.62 putts per GIR (2nd).
  • 2018, Tiger Woods (-11). 304 yards (13th), 64.3% fairways (3rd), 66.7% greens in regulation (14th), 34″3″ proximity to hole (16th), 70.8% scrambling (1st), 1.65 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2017, Xander Schauffele (-12). 315 yards (5th), 60.7% fairways (9th), 70.8% greens in regulation (6th), 36″4″ proximity to hole (21st), 66.7 % scrambling (7th), 1.75 putts per GIR (14th).
  • 2016, Rory McIlroy (-12). 315 yards (3rd), 53.6% fairways (11th), 77.8% greens in regulation (2nd), 31″4″ proximity to hole (4th), 56.3 % scrambling (13th), 1.64 putts per GIR (3rd).
  • 2015, Jordan Spieth (-9). 282 yards (16th), 64.3% fairways (7th), 65.3% greens in regulation (9th), 33″4″ proximity to hole (4th), 66.7 % scrambling (8th), 1.72 putts per GIR (9th).
  • 2014, Billy Horschel (-11). 296 yards (12th), 51.8% fairways (21st), 79.2% greens in regulation (1st), 32″0″ proximity to hole (6th), 66.7 % scrambling (8th), 1.74 putts per GIR (13th).
  • 2013, Henrik Stenson (-13). 285 yards (27th), 64.3% fairways (3rd), 77.8% greens in regulation (1st), 37″11″ proximity to hole (22nd), 62.5% scrambling (10th), 1.66 putts per GIR (2nd).
  • 2012, Brandt Snedeker (-10). 294 yards (18th), 66.1% fairways (2nd), 69.4% greens in regulation (8th), 31″4″ proximity to hole (1st), 63.6% scrambling (1st), 1.66 putts per GIR (3rd).
  • 2011, Bill Haas (-9). 300 yards (9th), 62.5% fairways (5th), 69.4% greens in regulation (11th), 39″4″ proximity to hole (26th), 40.9% scrambling (24th), 1.58 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2010, Jim Furyk(-8). 290 yards (22nd), 57.1% fairways (7th), 73.6% greens in regulation (1st), 38″4″ proximity to hole (25th), 68.4% scrambling (1st), 1.81 putts per GIR (20th).

Traditional Skill Set Averages:

  • Driving Distance: 14th, Driving Accuracy: 8th, Greens in Regulation: 6th, Proximity to Hole: 12th, Scrambling: 6th, Putting Average 8th.

So let’s take a view from players as to how East Lake set’s up and what specific skills it requires:

Patrick Cantlay (2021): I think controlling your golf ball out here is really important and I think leaving the golf ball below the hole because the greens are very fast and undulated, so that gives you a chance to be aggressive with some of your looks. I think hitting the ball in the fairway is really important out here because the rough being Bermuda and being long it gets really hard to leave your golf ball in the right spot if you get off track and you hit it in the rough. So I think controlling your golf ball and staying below the hole and hitting a bunch of fairways is a recipe for success around this golf course.

I thought my opening two rounds were very similar, mostly mistake-free, both rounds, and I hit the ball pretty well, kept the ball in control, fat side mostly, and had really nice speed on the greens and just didn’t make very much. But that can kind of be this golf course because of the degree of slope they put the pins on is very extreme. So you have putts and you might be 10, 12 feet, but you almost have to be a little defensive or at least you have to be careful because the pins are on so much slope. But I thought it was a good start. I’m playing really well and I think I’m playing the golf course the right way.

You don’t ever really want to press because it’s that classic golf course where you don’t want to short side yourself, you don’t want to hit it over greens, so staying really diligent and hitting the ball to the fat side I think is a good recipe for success around this place.

I think I’ve gotten all the par-5s so far, four birdies on the four par-5s I’ve played, and it’s important around this golf course because the 5s are gettable”

Dustin Johnson (2020): “The 18th is a great closing hole. You can make a 3, actually it’s hard to make a 3. You don’t see a lot of those during the week, just because it’s always hard to get it close to the hole. It’s a tough drive. You have to hit the fairway if you want any shot at knocking it on the green. I mean, that’s first and foremost. The rough here is always brutal, and you never get a good lie ever. You have to hit the fairway, and then once you do hit the fairway, you’ve got to hit a perfect iron shot if you want to get it on the green. It makes it a difficult hole. But you have a chance. You can get it, depending on which way the wind is blowing, you can get a mid-iron in your hand coming into the green. But again, like I said, it’s hard to hit the green.

Round 1, it was okay. I mean, I scored well. I gave myself a few looks, but I need to hit some more fairways. That’s just the key out here is driving, if you can drive it in the fairway, you can shoot a good score. The greens are so good, and the only way to control the golf ball coming into the greens is hitting out of the fairway. That’s the only thing I need to do a little better tomorrow. It wasn’t like I was way off or anything. Just hit quite a few drives just in the rough, which is no good around here.”

Rory McIlroy (2019): ” I started pretty well. I had pretty decent opportunities on the first three holes and didn’t make them and then made a nice one on 4. The greens are so fast, and the greens are getting a little firm. It’s difficult at times to put yourself on the right side of the pin. I felt like I had a lot of putts today from 15 to 20 feet, but you’re just being so defensive with them. You’re just rolling them down the hill, hoping — with good speed, hoping that they might drop. I think, because you’re hitting them so easily or slowly, they take a lot more break as well. So I missed a lot of those downhill ones a little low. So that’s something to just sort of, for me to pay attention to the next few days.

You don’t hit fairways, and with this Bermuda rough, you have no control of your golf ball. You’re sort of guessing whether it’s going to fly or whether it’s going to come out soft. So you need your scrambling boots on this week, and I scrambled well, and I think I only made two bogeys over the first 36 holes, which is a big key to doing well around here.”

Tiger Woods (2018): “Well, these have been some of the – once they’ve redone the greens and went away from bent, some of the best Bermuda greens we’ll ever putt on. They’re as smooth as you can ever ask for. But in general, this golf course is a ball striker’s course. I mean, you’ve got to hit your golf ball well. You’ve got to drive it well, place your irons correctly. But it really does set up for a good ball striker. For most of my career, that’s basically what I’ve done. It’s hard to get the ball close here. There’s so much chase in it. If you drive the ball in the rough, you know you can’t get the ball close. The Bermuda rough, you just can’t control it. It puts a premium on driving and puts a premium on allowing for a little bit of chase on some of these greens. When I had some good looks, I went right after it, and otherwise I played pretty conservatively.

Well, it’s not like we faced a couple weeks ago at a soft Aronimink, when you felt uncomfortable firing at 18 straight flags. Here we’re playing a little bit more conservatively and working the ball in there, and take your par. Dump it and move on. The scores are indicative of that. The guys aren’t going to be running away with this. The golf course is just too difficult and too hard.”

Rory McIlroy: “I actually thought with the way they switched the nines, it’s going to be – it’s a bit of a slog because you’ve got your first par 5 on the 6th hole, and then you don’t have the par 5 again until the 18th. So you have to play a lot of good golf to make birdies. Fortunately, I did. I hit some fairways on the front nine and made some putts. Yeah, I think it makes it — I think the flow of the golf course has gotten more difficult. Obviously, you’re playing the same amount of holes, but the way you’re playing the holes just, it makes the flow of the golf course a little harder, I think. I think that’s why you’re not seeing so many low scores. It’s a tough golf course. You’ve got to hit fairways. But once you get it on the fairway, you have chances to score.

Yeah, like any golf course, if you hit fairways and you hit greens, it’s not that difficult, but when you start to get yourself out of position, especially they’ve let this Bermuda rough just get up a little bit, and it just takes all control out of your hands with your second shot. So I’ve only hit basically half of the fairways this week. When you do that, you’re going to struggle. But I have been aggressive off the tee. I’ve been hitting driver quite a lot. There was some holes where I was hitting drivers where Paul was just hitting a 3 wood. But I feel like I’ve been driving the ball really well the last couple of weeks and feel confident with that club. So I’m going to keep hitting it.”

Jordan Spieth: “I like to come to a place that I look at as very similar to Augusta National. I think the layout, the feel, the slopes, it reminds me a lot of it. I said it from after the first time I played Augusta, and then came back here last year, said, wow, this actually is somewhat similar. Just by the look of it. Obviously the greens are different and the bunkers are a bit different, but it has a very similar look and layout in my mind. And I really like this place. I like this place. I played solid two years ago. I know how to attack this golf course. I’ve been here before and attacked it the right way. This Bermuda can get a hold of you, you got to play it the right way, you got to be very careful about where you’re leaving the ball. And I believe on these greens, that I can get back to the way that I’ve been putting and that I believe that I should be able to putt because these are the type of greens I grew up on. So I feel very comfortable.

Brandt Snedeker: “This set of par 3s that we play at East Lake is probably the toughest set of par 3s we play all year on tour. I think all four of them are ranked in the top nine toughest holes on the golf course which we don’t see very often. Most important element here is hitting the fairways. If you don’t hit the fairways here, you can’t be aggressive. You can’t be aggressive if you put the ball in bad spots and you make bogeys. But the green complexes here are so severe. They’re probably the second most severe we play all year compared to Augusta. That’s where it’s going to be won or lost this year is where you play around the greens. Hardest hole every year is 16, 17, 18, that stretch of holes. Those three holes always play the most difficult, I think, just coming down the stretch because so much can happen. 17 is a really tough par 4. Tough tee shot, tough second shot. And 18 is an iconic par 3, the way it is. Always a tough finish. It’s tough coming down those few holes, it seems like. And the guys that play those holes the best can end up winning.

Henrik Stenson: “It’s still kind of important to hit the fairways and you leave yourself the right path. It’s crucial to be underneath the hole around here because even with a bit of rain and so on, you still get a lot of slick putts if you’re above the hole. It’s one of those courses, I think, if you’re on the wrong hole, you’re trying to attack too much, it can come back and bite you straight away. It’s got some real long holes, some tough holes. The greens are really slick if you’re coming down the hill. So it’s key to keep the ball underneath the hole. So good approach play is going to pay off for sure. You know, I didn’t grow up on Bermuda. So it might not be my best surface to pitch from and so on. So to hit a lot of greens is going to be crucial to do well. I don’t think the scoring has been that low here in the past either. I think it’s a golf course that kind of keeps the scoring pretty much under control.

Jim Furyk: “A lot of the defence of this golf course really is the Bermuda rough. You have to hit fairways. Some of them are very thin and very difficult to hit. 16 comes to mind. And then also I’d say the severity of the greens. They’re very quick. And they have a lot of slope from back to front and I hit a lot of putts today where I had 20 footers for birdie and really was putting extremely defensive because I was above the pin on the wrong side of the hole. And it’s tough to stay patient. You got a short iron in your hand, whip one in there 15, 18 feet behind the hole and you realize it’s really not a great opportunity for birdie. And it’s similar to the style of greens I grew up on, pitching very severe from back to front. But it’s tough to make putts because you have a lot of putts that have a lot of break to them.

Chris Kirk: “I’d say this course and Boston are probably the most similar as far as it’s a lot of drivers and it’s a long golf course and not a whole lot of wedges in. So it’s going to favour guys that are hitting their drivers real well and obviously putting well. These greens, like I said, are in perfect shape. They are very, very tricky to read with the grain, and the ball doesn’t generally go with the grain, but not always. So it can be despite how perfect they roll, they can be tough.

Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 12 Tour Championship winners:

  • 2021 – Patrick Cantlay: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2020 – Dustin Johnson: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st,  Round 3: 1st.
  • 2019 – Rory McIlroy: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2018 – Tiger Woods: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2017 – Xander Schauffele: Round 1: 17th, Round 2: 8th, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2016 – Rory McIlroy: Round 1: 7th, Round 2: 5th, Round 3: 3rd.
  • 2015 – Jordan Spieth: Round 1: 5th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2014 – Billy Horschel: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2013 – Henrik Stenson: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2012 – Brandt Snedeker: Round 1: 7th, Round 2: 10th, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2011 – Bill Haas: Round 1: 10th, Round 2: 5th, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2010 – Jim Furyk: Round 1: 4th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.

Shots From the Lead: Below are the last 12 Tour Championship winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

  • 2021 – Patrick Cantlay: Round 1: 2 ahead, Round 2: 1 ahead, Round 3: 2 ahead.
  • 2020 – Dustin Johnson: Round 1: level, Round 2: 1 ahead, Round 3: 5 ahead.
  • 2019 – Rory McIlroy: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 1 back.
  • 2018 – Tiger Woods: Round 1: level, Round 2: level, Round 3: 3 ahead.
  • 2017 – Xander Schauffele: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2016 – Rory McIlroy: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 5 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2015 – Jordan Spieth: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2014 – Billy Horschel: Round 1: level, Round 2: 2 ahead, Round 3: level.
  • 2013 – Henrik Stenson: Round 1: 1 ahead, Round 2: 4 ahead, Round 3: 4 ahead.
  • 2012 – Brandt Snedeker: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 5 back, Round 3: level.
  • 2011 – Bill Haas: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 3 back.
  • 2010 – Jim Furyk: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: level, Round 3: 1 ahead.

Incoming form of Tour Championship winners since 2010:

  • Patrick Cantlay: 1st BMW/11th Northern Trust/23rd St Jude/MC Open.
  • Dustin Johnson: 2nd BMW/1st Northern Trust/2nd PGA/12th St Jude.
  • Rory McIlroy: 19th BMW/6th Northern Trust/4th St Jude/MC Open.
  • Tiger Woods: 6th BMW/24th Dell Tech/40th Northern Trust/2nd PGA.
  • Xander Schauffele: 20th BMW/53rd Dell Tech/17th Northern Trust/MC PGA.
  • Rory McIlroy: 42nd BMW/1st Deutsche/31st Barclays/MC PGA.
  • Jordan Spieth: 13th BMW/MC Deutsche/MC Barclays/2nd PGA.
  • Billy Horschel: 1st BMW/2nd Deutsche/MC Barclays/47th Wyndham.
  • Henrik Stenson: 33rd BMW/1st Deutsche/43rd Barclays/3rd PGA.
  • Brandt Snedeker: 37th BMW/6th Deutsche/2nd Barclays/28th Wyndham.
  • Bill Haas: 16th BMW/61st Deutsche/24th Barclays/MC Wyndham.
  • Jim Furyk: 15th BMW/37th Deutsche/24th PGA/15th Bridgestone.

First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.

  • 2021 – Cantlay = Group 15 -13 (Total) – 10/11.
  • 2020 – Johnson/Rahm = Group 15 -13 (Total) – 5/6 & 3/1.
  • 2019 – Koepka/Schauffele/Thomas = Groups 13, 14 & 15 -10 (Total) – 11/2, 22/1 & 4/6.
  • 2018 – Fowler/Woods = Groups 4 & 6 -5/65 – 20/1 & 16/1.
  • 2017 – Stanley – Group 5 -6/64.
  • 2016 – Chappell/D Johnson/Matsuyama – Groups 7/8/15 -4/66.
  • 2015 – Stenson – Group 14 -7/63.
  • 2014 – Horschel/Kirk = Both Group 15 -4/66.
  • 2013 – Stenson – Group 15 -6/64.
  • 2012 – Rose/Woods – Groups 4 & 15 -4/66.
  • 2011 – Bradley – Group 6 -6/64.
  • 2010 – Casey/Donald/Ogilvy – Groups 10/12/13 -4/66.

For the record, here’s the breakdown of Bermudagrass PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

  • 6 – Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas.
  • 5 – Jordan Spieth.
  • 4 – Billy Horschel, Jordan Spieth.
  • 3 –  Sam Burns, Xander Schauffele, Scottie Scheffler, Cameron Smith.
  • 2 –  Patrick Cantlay, Jon Rahm, Adam Scott.
  • 1 –  Max Homa, Sungjae Im, Hideki Matsuyama, Collin Morikawa, J.T Poston, Scott Stallings, Sepp Straka, Aaron Wise.

The Tour Championship sees a FedEx Cup Starting Strokes Index used, with the FedEx Cup standings leader starting the next week at -10, FEC Number 2 at -8, FEC Number 3 at -7, FEC Number 4 at -6 and Number 5 at -5. This then cascades down to those ranked 26th to 30th starting at Even. Previous to 2019 at the Tour Championship, any player ranked 1-5 had the same chance of taking the overall FedEx Cup title by winning the title. So yes the FedEx Cup Playoff Standings leader has a tangible advantage over their fellow competitors when it comes to winning the season-long FedEx race.

But recent history highlights that the FedEx Cup leader tends to not be the place you want to be when it comes to shooting the lowest score this week, if the 72-hole market – ignoring starting scores – is where your interest is this week. But more of that in a minute.

4/1 Patrick Cantlay won the Tour Championship in 2021, starting 1st in the FedEx Cup standings with that -10 starting score. Dustin Johnson won the Tour Championship at 15/8 in 2020, again starting 1st in the standings. 2019 saw Rory McIlroy start in 5th spot on his way to winning the tournament at 9/1.

But if we’re taking the starting scores out of the scenario this week, nobody leading the FedEx Cup has shot the lowest total at East Lake for a considerable length of time. 2021 saw a -14/266 total tie between Jon Rahm and Kevin Na. Rahm was the main challenger to Patrick Cantlay throughout. He started 4th in the FEC standings 4 shots back with a -6 starting score. Kevin Na was way down the standings at 19th starting at -2.

2020 saw Xander Schauffele enter the Tour Championship at 14th in the FedEx Cup standings (-3 start score), shooting -15/265 for the week – 4 shots lower than FedEx Champion Dustin Johnson.

Rory McIlroy entered the Tour Championship at Number 5 in the standings and at -5 on the leaderboard. He went onto shoot -13/267 for the week which was both good enough to capture the FedEx Cup overall and was also the lowest total for the week, beating Xander Schauffele by 3 shots in that regards,

Before the FedEx Cup Starting Strokes Index, Tiger Woods (Rank 20), Xander Schauffele (Rank 26), Rory McIlroy (Rank 6), Jordan Spieth (Rank 2), Billy Horschel (Rank 2), Henrik Stenson (Rank 2) and Brandt Snedeker (Rank 5) have won the Tour Championship since 2012. Bill Haas and Jim Furyk were in positions 25 and 11 respectively in the 2 years prior to that.

My selections are as follows, all bets advised are in 72-hole market, ignoring starting scores:

Xander Schauffele 3pts EW 14/1 (5EW, 1/5) 72-Holes Without Strokes Index with Boylesports

Xander Schauffele is the main one I’m taking at the Tour Championship this week. Whichever way you look at Xander, he simply loves the East Lake course and tends to get on well with this quirky FedEx Cup Starting Strokes Index. Since that was introduced in 2019, he’s finished in the Tour Championship – FedEx Cup each-way places via 2nd (30/1), 3rd (28/1) and 5th (33/1) place finishes. Simplifying that (I know it’s tiresome!) his 72-hole finishes at East Lake read: 1st (2017), 7th (2018), 2nd (2019), 1st (2020) and 3rd (2021). Outstanding form I think you’ll agree and for those thinking this will be a straight fight between Scottie Scheffler and Patrick Cantlay for the FedEx Cup, Xander starting in 4th at -6 may well have something to say about it.

Spurred on by his best friend on the golf course Patrick Cantlay, Schauffele has been amazing since the middle of April. He won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans with Cantlay at TPC Louisiana on Bermudagrass greens, then shot a weekend 65-61 at TPC Craig Ranch to finish 5th at the Byron Nelson on his next start. That course, like this one, features Zoysiagrass fairways. Top 15 finishes at both the PGA Championship and U.S. Open ultimately disappointed but were hardly disastrous, before his 6th and 7th PGA Tour victories which came in consecutive starts at the Travelers Championship and the Genesis Scottish Open.

3rd last week at the BMW Championship makes it 3 wins, plus additional top-3 and top-5 finishes from his last 10 starts. And now he arrives at East Lake where he has the best Scoring Average of 67.30 and ranks Number 1 in this field for Strokes Gained Total going back to 2016. RESULT: T6

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Tony Finau 2pts EW 16/1 (5EW, 1/5) 72-Holes Without Strokes Index with Betfred

Golf Betting System podcast listeners and Golf Betting Show viewers on YouTube will know my long history with Tony Finau. The “Terminator” as I now call him is more in jest than belief, and I’m still of the opinion that Finau doesn’t have the mental stature (right now in his career) to go out and win a Major Championship or an event with the gravitas of the FedEx Cup. However starting at -4, Finau can’t genuinely consider himself a realistic contender for overall FedEx Cup glory. So I think he can play his game pretty stress free this week so I’m getting behind him at 16/1 to shoot the best score.

A lover of long golf courses, Finau at the Tour Championship has played well enough. Ranking in the top 10 in this field for Strokes Gained Total at East Lake, Finau has finished 7th (2017), 15th (2018), 7th (2019) and 14th (2020) in 72-hole scoring across 5 starts here. It’s a course that Tony has admitted to in the past as “really enjoying. I think East Lake is a great test, and all parts of your game have to click. And this is a golf course that I know I have a low one in me.” And the latter part of 2022 has undoubtedly seen Tony move forward a step or two in results and mental strength when contending.

4th at Colonial (Charles Schwab Challenge) and 2nd behind Rory at St George’s (RBC Canadian Open) where he finished with a bogey-free -6/64, was the precursor to a July and August where he won in Detroit (Rocket Mortgage Classic), won in Minneapolis (3M Open) and was 5th in Memphis (FedEx St Jude Championship). Remember the latter is at TPC Southwind, which features the same agronomy, as in Zoysiagrass fairways and Bermudagrass greens as we shall see this week. A 77 in Round 1 last week at the BMW Championship derailed any real FedEx Cup aspirations and once relieved of that pressure Tony went on to finish 28th, shooting a final 54-hole total which was only bested by Jon Rahm and Patrick Cantlay.

5th for Tee to Green, 3rd for Putting and 2nd for Current Form across my 8-week Strokes Gained trackers, I’m on the “Terminator Train” this week at the Tour Championship. RESULT: T9

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Matt Fitzpatrick 2pts EW 18/1 (5EW, 1/5) 72-Holes Without Strokes Index with Betfred

I will finish my card with Matt Fitzpatrick. At 15th in the FedEx Cup standings he will start at -3, with no pressure on his shoulders whatsoever. And I think he will like what he finds on his East Lake debut on a course where strong driving, fantastic around the green and top putting are required to compete at the top end of the leaderboard.

Let’s start with the 8-week Strokes Gained tracker where “Fitzy” ranks 5th for Off the Tee, 5th for Around the Green, 10th for Tee to Green, 4th for Putting and 5th for Current Form. Strong numbers made even better by the fact that they do not include his U.S. Open win from mid-June. 6th at the Scottish Open, 22nd at the Open Championship and 5th at the FedEx St Jude Championship, it’s clear that the Sheffield World Number 10 is still playing some very nice stuff.

At home on tree-lined, parkland, classics, East Lake should be right up his street and, as we know, he’s no slouch on Bermudagrass greens either. The DP World Tour season-ending winner at the DPWTC played at the Earth Course in Dubai across both 2016 and 2020, the Sheffield man has a 2nd (2019), 9th (2020), 10th (2021) and 9th (2022) at Bay Hill; 9th (2021) at TPC Sawgrass; 5th (2022) at Copperhead; plus 4th (2021) at Harbour Town all to his name in the United States. That Bermuda carpet form is also bolstered by 4th (2019), 6th (2020) and 5th (a fortnight ago) at TPC Southwind, a strict Par 70 set-up which like East Lake features Zoysiagrass Fairways and similar Bermudagrass greens. RESULT: T16

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 16:40BST 22.8.22 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.