The PGA Tour season comes to an end this week with the Tour Championship. As usual, the FedEx Cup winner will be decided at East Lake Golf Club with only the top 30 in the rankings qualified to compete. However, there’s a big change in the format with players awarded a starting score based on their ranking going into the Tour Championship.
Justin Thomas won the FedEx Cup in 2017 despite finishing runner up to Xander Schauffele in the Tour Championship. The change in format means that he will have to win this year’s tournament if he is to join Tiger Woods as the only two time FedEx Cup champions. The quality of his play last week and his controversial head start make it tough to see anybody overturning Thomas’ position.
East Lake Golf Club has played host to the Tour Championship since 2004. It is a fitting test for the best players of the year on the PGA Tour as it’s a challenging test of distance. The par 70 layout can stretch to almost 7,400 yards. That includes some very long par fours but the par fives are reachable with two good hits.
Power is a plus at East Lake but accuracy off the tee is also vital. Justin Thomas admitted in Chicago last week that he’ll need to drive the ball considerably better if he is to complete the job and win at East Lake. It’s certainly no bomb and gauge golf course with a fair amount of renovation work over the years ensuring that the original Donald Ross design lives up to the rigours of modern golf.
|East Lake Golf Club||Atlanta, Georgia||7,346 Yards||$15,000,000|
The new scoring system was introduced by the PGA Tour to make the race for the FedEx Cup and the battle to win the Tour Championship simpler for fans. Although newcomers to golf will find it easier, golf fans were used to seeing players win the Tour Championship but not the FedEx Cup. That was the case in the last two years with impressive wins from both Tiger Woods and Xander Schauffele.
The main takeaway from the list of five most recent winners is that East Lake is a tough course. Birdies are hard to come by so the winner this week will need the right balance of risk and reward to score well, whilst ensuring not to hand shots back to the field.
|Year||Winner||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2018||Tiger Woods||-11||2 Strokes|
|2017||Xander Schauffele||-12||1 Stroke|
|2015||Jordan Spieth||-9||4 Strokes|
|2014||Billy Horschel||-11||3 Strokes|
Analysis: Two Ways of Approaching Your Tour Championship Betting
Justin Thomas confirmed top spot in the FedEx Cup rankings heading into East Lake thanks to an excellent win at the BMW Championship. He will therefore start the Tour Championship on -10, two strokes better than Patrick Cantlay who is second and three better than Brooks Koepka in third. The handicap scoring system provides a challenge for the bookies. Their solution is to price up two markets, one with the starting scores applied and one without.
Thomas’ Head Start Too Big at East Lake
Golf fans all over the world have been having their say on the new scoring format for the Tour Championship. There’s no doubt it makes the season-ending FedEx Cup race easier to follow and every player in the field does at least have a chance of winning. However, it doesn’t do much for the integrity of the Tour Championship as a tournament.
Perhaps the new scoring system would have worked better at Medinah last week where the best players in the world were making birdies for fun. As we’ve seen with the recent scoring, East Lake is not going to play easy. Justin Thomas may need to stop spraying the ball with his driver but his iron and wedge play was absolutely phenomenal last week. Given that he has at least a two-shot lead over the rest of the field, Thomas should be able to lean on his strengths to make the most of his head start and claim the staggering $15 million prize awaiting the FedEx Cup winner at 12/5 with bet365.
Matsuyama Ready for Another Big Week in Atlanta
It’s been two years since Hideki Matsuyama last won on the PGA Tour. The Japanese superstar has played some very good golf in that time but he has arguably never been better than during the second and fourth rounds of the BMW Championship. Two rounds of 63 will always be enough to get you into contention but Matsuyama’s Saturday 73 just gave him too much to do on the final day.
That performance took Matsuyama up to 26th in the world and he could be in store for another big climb up the rankings this week. He’s played in the last five Tour Championships and finished inside the top five in two of the last three years. Matsuyama will likely fall short of being able to catch Thomas but he could ‘win’ the tournament without the starting scores being applied at odds of 18/1 with Betfred.
Final Verdict: Justin Thomas to Win
Justin Thomas is only 26 and yet he’s already had an incredible PGA Tour career with 10 wins and a major championship. It’s to his great credit that a disappointing, injury affected season has ended with victory in a playoff event and the chance to win the FedEx Cup for a second time. The new format will pose its own challenges as he seeks to fend off all manner of different challenges from the field but Thomas is more than good enough to see the job out at 12/5 with bet365.
About the Tour Championship
The Tour Championship is the final event on the PGA Tour calendar. Since the 2007 season, the competition has also been the last playoff event for the FedEx Cup, with the Northern Trust and BMW Championship being the other two current playoff tournaments. The first Tour Championship, which was named the Nabisco Championship, took place in 1987, with Tom Watson coming out on top. In 2019, a new format was introduced, with the winner being awarded the FedEx Cup and receiving a five-year PGA Tour exemption.
Over the years, the Tour Championship has taken place across various golf courses in the USA, including Oak Hills Country Club in San Antonio, Pinehurst Resort in Carolina and the Champions Golf Club in Houston. East Lake in Atlanta, Georgia has been the tournament’s venue each year since 2004. The course was established back in 1904 and was the home course of Bobby Jones, one of the most influential people in the history of golf. Aside from winning the US Open four times and the Open Championship three times, he also co-founded the Masters!
Woods’ Three Tour Championship Wins
This has become a big tournament on the PGA Tour, with several of the world’s best winning the event since the first back in 1987. Tiger Woods, arguably the best golfer of all time, has won this tournament on three occasions, which is the current record.
In 2007, Tiger won the first FedEx Cup, winning by a whopping eight strokes at East Lake. Woods’ score of 23 under par is still by far the best score in the Tour Championship. Tiger’s first victory came in 1999, when he beat Davis Love III to the line by four strokes. The American ace also prevailed in 2018 to win his third Tour Championship crown when he got the better of runner-up Billy Horschel by two strokes.
Rory’s Recent Success
Rory McIlroy has been very successful in this tournament in recent years. In fact, the man from Northern Ireland has won two of the last four Tour Championships (prior to the 2020 edition). McIlroy’s first triumph came in 2016, and a memorable one it was too. He was three shots down with three holes to play on the Sunday, but he managed to clinch the memorable win on the fourth playoff hole in a three-way playoff that also featured Ryan Moore and Kevin Chappell.
Two years later, Rory was on top once again, this time beating Xander Schauffele by four strokes. Only McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have won the Tour Championship on more than one occasion.
Jordan’s Superb 2015 Season
Jordan Spieth capped off a remarkable season of golf in 2015 by winning the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup, setting a record for a single-season earnings in the process. Spieth had a superb Tour Championship at East Lake, beating Danny Lee, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson by four strokes.
Spieth ended the season in the number one spot in the golf World Rankings. Before claiming his first and only Tour Championship, the Texas-born star won the Valspar Championship, the Masters Tournament, the US Open and the John Deere Classic. 2015 was certainly a year to remember for Spieth. He hasn’t quite evolved into the dominant force in golf as many had predicted, but his best years might still be ahead of him if he is able to reassert himself.
Henrik’s Historic Double
Swede Henrik Stenson became the first European golfer to win the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup when he reigned supreme in 2013. Shortly after his success at East Lake, Stenson won the DP World Championship, allowing him to claim the Tour’s Race to Dubai.
American duo Jordan Spieth and Steve Stricker pushed the Swedish great all the way in the 2013 Tour Championship. However, Stenson stood firm to secure an impressive three-shot victory over the pair to claim his first FedEx Cup. And a whole lot of cash to boot!
Horschel’s Stunning Victory in 2014
Billy Horschel caused a big upset when he won the 2014 Tour Championship. Horschel had a memorable year, coming from nowhere to win the 2014 FedEx Cup. Just two days after his stunning victory at East Lake, Horschel celebrated the news by becoming a farther for the first time.
Horschel played some sparkling golf, shooting an 11-under par to see off heavyweights Jim Furyk and Rory McIlroy by three strokes. The Florida-born ace definitely enjoyed his time in the limelight.
Furyk’s Memorable Win in the Rain
Jim Furyk picked up his one and only Tour Championship in an unforgettable 2010 event in the rain. He was suspended from the first playoff event (The Barclays) after oversleeping and missing the pro-am tee time, so his victory of the 2010 The Tour Championship presented by Coca-Cola was even more memorable.
In rainy conditions in Atlanta, Furyk edged past Englishman Luke Donald, winning the Tour Championship by a single stroke. The popular Pennsylvanian picked up the FedEx Cup, $10m as well as the PGA and PGA Tour Player of the Year awards for the first time in 2010.
Variety of Nationalities Amongst Winners
In the early days of the event, it was players from the United States who dominated with every tournament from 1987 to 2000 being won by an American player. Since then, however, things have been a lot more varied with players from a range of nationalities being triumphant. It is notable that an Englishman has never won The Tour Championship, though Justin Rose has been second – or tied for second – twice (2015, 2012) and Luke Donald was the runner-up in 2012 behind Brandt Snedeker.
Non-US Winners of The Tour Championship (2001-2019)
|South Africa||Retief Goosen||2004|
|Northern Ireland||Rory McIlroy||2016, 2019|