The season ending Tour Championship is back but this time it comes with a big difference. With the climax to the FedEx playoffs teeing off on Thursday, a ranking system has been introduced for 2019 based purely on form and it is having a significant effect on the betting markets.
As we’ll see when we move through the names, it effectively gives the best performing players a head start. Those that have enjoyed handicap betting in the past might have an advantage but otherwise, just imagine that you’re betting in play after the first round.
Hopefully all will become clear as we develop this Tour Championship preview. At the head of the market at +250 (5/2) with Bovada sports betting firm is the top seed Justin Thomas, who tees off at 10 under par. JT is seeded at number one because of his stunning performance at the BMW Championship last week and it also means that he goes off at a much shorter price.
Thomas’ most recent performance puts him two shots clear of the rest and it is worth noting that in three previous visits to this East Lake course, his worst finish is a tie for seventh.
Behind our leader is the number two seed Patrick Cantlay (+450) who will start on Thursday at eight under par. Having pressed Thomas on Sunday, Cantlay slots in behind JT for the Tour Championship but it’s a tournament that has produced little joy for him in the past.
Brooks Koepka looks a strong third favorite at +500 and the multiple Major winner will tee off at seven under. Brooks was disappointing last week as he tied for 24th and he doesn’t have a good record on this course but that ability to raise his game when it matters makes him a strong contender.
Also in the mix in this section are Patrick Reed (14/1) and Rory McIlroy (8/1) who will go off at six under and five under respectively. The 2018 Masters Champion Reed followed his win two weeks ago with a 19th place on Sunday while Rory has been more consistent at the top of the leaderboard this season. Both are in with a chance but, like the rest of the field, they will need Justin Thomas to slump at the very top.
The lowest ranked players – seeds 26 to 30 – will start at Even Par. That puts them at 10 shots behind Justin Thomas and they are unlikely to cause a shock from that far back. So could there be any outsider value at all this week?
We suspect we haveve already mentioned our Tour Championship winner in this preview but, of those who could storm through the pack to overcome that handicap, Justin Rose (40/1), Paul Casey (80/1), Jon Rahm (14/1) and 2017 Champion Xander Schauffele (28/1) may be worth a punt. Rahm is at four under par and, given recent form, could be the most likely but it is a big ask to make up a six shot deficit over the form golfer.
Our Tour Championship Preview’s Predictions & Picks Verdict with Course & Betting Trends
The gradual thinning process during this FedEx Playoff series has left us with the best 30 golfers ahead of Thursday’s first tee time. There is no cut so all will play through the four days, irrespective of their performances prior to the weekend.
As for the course, we are back at the East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta Georgia which has held this event continuously since 2004. It’s a par 70, albeit a lengthy one at 7346 yards. The traditional nines are reversed so we finish with a par five and the champion will need to take advantage of their distance hitting on the longer holes. This is the longest course on Tour, outside of the Majors, but with greens expected to hit 13 on the Stimp, it could all come down to a battle with the flatstick.
In all honesty we cannot see anyone but Justin Thomas lifting the trophy on Sunday. He is too far ahead of the rest and his record at East Lake is exemplary. There isn’t too much value in his straight win price and the short field means that we are not exploring the top 10 finish markets.
However, there is some good news as Bovada and Intertops, two of the best sportsbooks for US customers, have set a market which ignores the starting strokes and takes everyone back to a level playing field. On that basis, we can get a decent price on Brooks Koepka who has the game for East Lake and the capacity to lift for the big occasion. So our Tour Championship prediction and pick is: