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PGA Tour: Tour Championship 72-Hole Match Bet preview

Original article published 17 October 2022

The end of the PGA Tour’s FedExCup season is upon us where the top 29 players (Will Zalatoris is an unfortunate WD with a back injury) this year are set to do battle in the Tour Championship for the season-long title and the $18million bonus that comes with it.

While the race for the Cup involves a staggered start based on seedings our focus remains the head-to-head battles over 72 holes as we look to get a nice return.

East Lake Golf Club will once again host the finale, as it has for every iteration of the FedExCup Playoffs since its inception in 2007. The former home of Bobby Jones is a par 70 at 7,346 yards these days with just two par-5s to get after.

Ball-Striking is clearly important this week, particularly on the par-3s. They are long and anything wayward all week will find itself in almost three inches of Bermuda rough. The greens might not be small but they do have distinctive tiers so finding the mark from the rough is tough. The last seven winners have all ranked T7 or better in Ball-Striking.

We will once again home in on Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee as avoiding the rough sets one up for scoring. Of the last six winners three have led the field in this category and all have been T7 or better.

With a limited supply of birdie chances, one must clearly avoid bogeys. Five of the last eight winners at East Lake have led the field in Bogey Avoidance, while all have sat inside the top five.

When it comes to the crunch can players make the critical putts to win it all? With that in mind we will also have an eye on Strokes Gained: Putting.

Rory McIlroy 8/15 vs. Tony Finau 11/8

McIlroy is a two-time FedExCup champion who has finished the job off at East Lake. This is his ninth trip to the Tour Championship with a second and third also on his resume.

McIlroy is one of five players with four or more eagles at the Tour Championship in the FedExCup Era and is +0.77 in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee in the FedExCup playoffs, the most of any player since 2007. McIlroy also averages 320.7 yards in driving distance (all drives) during the playoffs this season, the longest of any player.

Finau is fronting up for his sixth consecutive trip to East Lake with his best result in the FedExCup a sixth place in 2018, the year before the starting strokes. Just one of his four PGA Tour wins saw him trailing by at least six shots after any round.

Finau is bringing form of late with two recent wins and at 3.85 his par 4 scoring average during the FedExCup Playoffs this season is the best of any player with a minimum of six rounds.

Key Stat Ranks (PGA Tour)

Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee: McIlroy 3rd; Finau 14th
Ball-Striking: McIlroy 11th; Finau 22nd
Strokes Gained: Putting: McIlroy 27th; Finau 86th
Par-3 Scoring: McIlroy 51st; Finau 51st
Bogey Avoidance: McIlroy 11th; Finau 2nd

McIlroy has been there done that at East Lake. We can’t go past the man gunning to become the first three-time FedExCup winner.

Jon Rahm 8/15 vs. Justin Thomas 11/8

Battle of the big guns here. Rahm has had five starts over the last five seasons cash in at T12 or better including three in the top 10 at East Lake, and was second last season to Patrick Cantlay.

Five of Rahm’s last eight rounds at East Lake have been 65 or 66. He's 23-under in those eight rounds. Entering the 2022 Tour Championship, Jon Rahm has the longest active streak of top-10 finishes in the FedExCup Playoffs (8). Rahm has finished in the top-10 in 74% of his starts during the FedExCup Playoffs (14 of 19).

Thomas is a previous FedExCup winner. Six visits over the last six seasons have resulted in six T7 or better results. Of his 24 rounds, 21 are par or better with 17 resulting in red figures and the seven-time Tour winner has won five times when trailing by four or more shot after any round.

Thomas sports a 67.3 scoring average at the Tour Championship, the best of any player since 2017 (-54, 13 strokes better than the next player.

Key Stat Ranks (PGA Tour)

Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee: Rahm 1st; Thomas 50th
Ball-Striking: Rahm 1st; Thomas 21st
Strokes Gained: Putting: Rahm 46th; Thomas 85th
Par-3 Scoring: Rahm 83rd; Thomas 30th
Bogey Avoidance: Rahm 15th; Thomas 12th

This should be tightly contested toss of the coin. Being first in two categories the medical story.

Billy Horschel 4/5 vs. Brian Harman 10/11

Horschel was the winner of the FedExCup in 2014 and had top 10 finishes in the season-long race in 2018 and 2021 also. Harman is making his second appearance in East Lake, the first since 2017 where he failed to prove a contender for it all and settled for 25th in the standings.

Horschel’s 70 scoring average on the Tour this season has him on track for a career year in the stat while he’s navigated both previous Playoff events without a three-putt. Harman is one of six players who started the FedExCup Playoffs outside the Top-30 and played their way in.

Key Stat Ranks (PGA Tour)

Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee: Horschel 47th; Harman 70th
Ball-Striking: Horschel 23rd; Harman 74th
Strokes Gained: Putting: Horschel 14th; Harman 60th
Par-3 Scoring: Horschel 63rd; Harman 177th
Bogey Avoidance: Horschel 31st; Harman 34th

Horschel to the house.

Viktor Hovland 5/6 vs. Joaquin Niemann 5/6

Hovland and Niemann make their third trips to East Lake with Hovland finishing 20th in 2020 and 5th in 2021 and Niemann settling for 27th and 29th in his two appearances.

Hovland comes in after a third career hole-in-one on the par-3 second hole in the final round last week at Wilmington Country Club. Since the start of the 2019-20 PGA Tour season, Hovland is one of three players with at least three aces on Tour in this time frame. Corey Conners has four and Martin Laird also three.

Niemann, at 23, is the youngest player in the field (Hovland is third at 24). His Playoffs proximity is 28’2”, the best of any player with a minimum of six rounds.

Key Stat Ranks (PGA Tour)

Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee: Hovland 19th; Niemann 15th
Ball-Striking: Hovland 39th; Niemann 54th
Strokes Gained: Putting: Hovland 24th; Niemann 119th
Par-3 Scoring: Hovland 13th; Niemann 13th
Bogey Avoidance: Hovland 95th; Niemann 42nd

We are siding with history here which shows Niemann has failed to fire at East Lake so Hovland it is.

Collin Morikawa 8/11 vs. Corey Conners 1/1

Morikawa is a five-time PGA Tour winner although none came this season. He’s made 39 birdies in the FedExCup Playoffs the last few weeks, most of any player and he boasts the third closest proximity to hole average (33’3”) on Tour this season.

Conners is set to make his third Tour Championship start. He owns the second-best proximity to the hole average in the FedExCup Playoffs of players with a minimum of 30 rounds (32’5”) and leads the FedExCup Playoffs this season in driving accuracy of players with minimum of six rounds. Last year’s 22nd in his best FedExCup finish.

Key Stat Ranks (PGA Tour)

Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee: Morikawa 34th; Conners 5th
Ball-Striking: Morikawa 16th; Conners 2nd
Strokes Gained: Putting: Morikawa 89th; Conners 99th
Par-3 Scoring: Morikawa 19th; Conners 63rd
Bogey Avoidance: Morikawa 56th; Conners 25th

The numbers point to a Conners upset off the back of his qualification for the International Presidents Cup team but it’s a hard commitment to make.

Matt Fitzpatrick 4/6 vs. Cameron Young 11/10

The U.S. Open champion Fitzpatrick is finally making his long-awaited Tour Championship debut.  The Englishman leads the Tour in scrambling percentage (69.4%) over the season and is third in the same metric in the Playoffs alone (77.8%). Fitzpatrick also ranks second on Tour in average Strokes Gained: Total per round, (1.96), the second best of any player on PGA Tour this season.

Young is the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year despite having a season dotted with opportunities to win yet failing to do so. He became the first player since Vijay Singh in 2003 to have at least five runner up results in the one season. Leads the Tour in Driving Distance (320+ yards), hitting 37.23% of drives over 320 yards.

Key Stat Ranks (PGA Tour)

Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee: Fitzpatrick 8th; Young 2nd
Ball-Striking: Fitzpatrick 45th; Young 79th
Strokes Gained: Putting: Fitzpatrick 21st; Young 70th
Par-3 Scoring: Fitzpatrick 83rd; Young 145th
Bogey Avoidance: Fitzpatrick 6th; Young 87th

A handful of the key stat ranks are very concerning for the impressive rookie so the lean goes to England and Fitzpatrick here.

Other Match-ups:

J.T. Poston 1/1 vs. K.H. Lee 8/11

Key Stat Ranks (PGA Tour)

Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee: Poston 59th; Lee 49th
Ball-Striking: Poston 109th; Lee 66th
Strokes Gained: Putting: Poston 40th; Lee 65th
Par-3 Scoring: Poston 125th; Lee 83rd
Bogey Avoidance: Poston 46th; Lee 89th

Adam Scott 4/5 vs. Aaron Wise 10/11

Key Stat Ranks (PGA Tour)

Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee: Scott 61st; Wise 26th
Ball-Striking: Scott 57th; Wise 21st
Strokes Gained: Putting: Scott 39th; Wise 97th
Par-3 Scoring: Scott 157th; Wise 5th
Bogey Avoidance: Scott 74th; Wise 23rd

Jordan Spieth 8/11 vs. Max Homa 1/1

Key Stat Ranks (PGA Tour)

Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee: Spieth 36th; Homa 27th
Ball-Striking: Spieth 80th; Homa 73rd
Strokes Gained: Putting: Spieth 153rd; Homa 35th
Par-3 Scoring: Spieth 185th; Homa 51st
Bogey Avoidance: Spieth 64th; Homa 92nd

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