For those who missed it, please check out the 2020 Tour Championship Preview and Betting Strategies for the types of golfers you should look to target for your bets.
With that in mind, here’s who I like this week at East Lake Golf Club (with odds courtesy of MyBookie.ag).
Outrights – To Win FedEx Cup
Save me from reading 1,500 words and just tell me why Dustin Johnson is winning this week – It’s absolutely no surprise that the guy who’s been the hottest player on the planet over the last month is the overwhelming favorite to win the FedEx Cup, especially considering the head start he has against the rest of the field.
But does that mean you should bet on him to cruise to the title? I have some reservations.
On paper, Dustin Johnson’s performance metrics are off the chart. Over his last 16 rounds he’s gained 2.45 shots per round tee-to-green on the field, and he’s gained 0.93 strokes per round putting in that same stretch. It should come to no surprise to anyone that if you’re crushing it tee-to-green and also have one of the hottest putters on the PGA Tour, you’re going to win a lot of tournaments.
At some point, this hot streak is going to end, and even for Dustin Johnson standards his recent performance is way over his baseline metrics. And he has two things working against him. For starters, his history at East Lake isn’t very strong. In his 40 career rounds at East Lake, Dustin Johnson has gained only 1.3 strokes total per round on the field. It’s a perfectly fine clip, but it ranks 11th out of all 30 golfers in this week’s field.
In addition, if the staggered leaderboard had been in place since 2010, only one player who would have started at -10 would have ended up winning the FedEx Cup, even with the head start. Granted, no one entering the Tour Championship was playing as good as Dustin Johnson was coming in, but if anyone is looking for the cherry on top to avoid betting on Dustin Johnson at +160 to seal the deal and win the FedEx Cup, that negative trend might be a reason to shy away.
OK, so bet on Jon Rahm at +270, right? – If you had to put a gun to my head on who’s walking out of East Lake with the Cup, it’s the Spaniard.
The head start he’s awarded over everyone but Dustin Johnson alone is already a massive advantage. But one thing I think goes underappreciated about Jon Rahm’s game is how straight he hits the ball off the tee. Everyone loves to talk about his elite length with his driver, but not many people realize that this year on the PGA Tour Rahm ranks 47th in driving accuracy and hits 64% of his fairways.
Hitting from the rough is a big penalty at East Lake. Players who hit approach shots from the fairways generally hit the green in regulation 80% of the time. But out of the rough? The number drops to 50%. When you take a long player like Jon Rahm and know that he’s going to be hitting from the fairway most of the time, that combination of length and accuracy sets himself up great to take advantage of his -8 start and run away and hide from the competition.
The cherry on top of my argument as to why Jon Rahm will win the FedEx Cup is the guy knows exactly what it takes to win these end of season cash grabs, which is basically what the Tour Championship is when you boil it down to it. Rahm has won the DP World Championship twice, which is the season finale of the European Tour’s Rolex Series. He won the tournament in 2017, and then won it again last year on his way to winning the Order of Merit. While there is a lot more money on the line this week, Rahm knows exactly what he needs to do to make sure he comes out on top.
I can’t stomach betting on someone +270 to win a golf tournament, what are my other options?
Webb Simpson – +1100: Webb skipped the BMW Championship knowing that he’d most likely wouldn’t drop below 4th in the standings to at least start the tournament at -6. Everyone has played a ton of golf in a very short amount of time, and Webb should be fresh and ready to hit the ground running to go for the win. Webb is also a statistical darling of mine, as he’s gained 0.6 strokes per round with his irons over his last four tournaments, he’s an accurate player off the tee and on paper is the best putter on bermuda greens in the field. 2020 has been Webb’s second best year in his career, and with a FedEx Cup title it might even eclipse 2012 as his greatest year ever.
Collin Morikawa – +2000: Morikawa comes into this tournament woefully under-performing his baseline measures in ball-striking. Possibly still on cloud-nine from his PGA Championship win, Morikawa’s ball-striking has been pretty bland in the first two legs of the FedEx Cup.
Morikawa has shown he’s too good of a ball-striker not to see some positive regression in this category fairly soon. And there’s no place better than East Lake at a golf course that should suit his strengths. Morikawa is a very accurate driver and is elite with his irons, two of the most important characteristics to success at the golf course. He also starts the tournament at -5, which isn’t as insurmountable as one would think. Rory started last year at -5 and wound up not only chasing down Justin Thomas but put up the best 72 hole score of anyone in the field. And if the staggered start had been used in 2012, Brandt Snedeker would have done the exact same on his way to claiming a FedEx title.
Morikawa is supremely talented and is a great fit for the golf course. And given that the realistic list of winners of the FedEx Cup is about 7 or 8 guys, 20/1 is a great dart throw.
Daniel Berger – +2800: -4 is as far back as I’ll go for anyone with a realistic chance at winning the FedEx Cup. Some may be tempted to look at Rory McIlroy or Xander Schauffele down at -3, but as I talked about yesterday there just isn’t enough birdies on the golf course to quickly make up the deficit on the guys ahead of him, and both of them would need absolutely everything to right for them to come from behind and win.
But Berger at -4 has the tools in his arsenal to come from behind for the win. Berger has been lights out with his putting ever since the restart, consistently putting up great performances week after week. Berger also is a pretty good iron player and has a good combination of length and accuracy off the tee.
Berger would need to get off to a really hot start if he wants a shot at winning, but he’s had a knack of doing so in his last few tournaments.
Positional Props (No Starting Strokes)
Billy Horschel Top 10 – +150: Horschel has a great history at East Lake with a win in 2014 and a runner up finish in 2018. Horschel played well up until the weekend, but over his last four tournaments he’s struck the ball beautifully with his irons. He also should see positive regression with his putting as he’s typically been much better on bermuda surfaces. On a level playing field with everyone, I love getting +150 for him to have one of the 10 best 72 hole scores the entire weekend.
Scottie Scheffler Top – +150: One more time to the mat with Scheffler. Scheffler got off to a slow start at Olympia Fields but rallied over the weekend to post a respectable finish. His torrid pace with his ball striking continues as he gained 1.14 strokes per round in that category last week, only to let poor putting ruin a good finish. Scheffler is more accurate off the tee than you think, and over everyone’s last four tournaments only Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Kevin Kisner have gained more strokes per round with their irons than he has.
Others to Consider:
- Hideki Matsuyama – EVEN
- Kevin Kisner – +225
- Brendon Todd – +250
- Joaquin Niemann – +250
Mackenzie Hughes over Marc Leishman (-130): I never like taking poor ball strikers in matchup props, but Marc Leishman is completely lost right now. Over his last 16 rounds he’s lost 1.3 strokes per round with his ball striking and 0.6 shots per round on and around the greens. Even if you take out Leishman’s disastrous +30 performance last week, Mackenzie Hughes still would be a total of 8 strokes per tournament better than Leishman over each of their last four tournaments. Even despite the one stroke head start, Hughes should surpass Leishman easily on Friday and never look back.
Kevin Kisner over Sebastian Munoz (-110): Munoz starts the tournament two strokes ahead of Kisner, but I expect Kisner to overcome that deficit very quickly. Kisner is both the superior ball-striker and putter to Munoz, and over each of their last four tournaments Kisner has been six strokes better per tournament. That pace would easily make up the early deficit Kisner finds himself, and he should ultimately wind up ahead of Munoz on the leaderboard.