PGA Tour Picks: Tour Championship

Patrick Cantlay became the favorite to win the FedEx Cup, the Tour Championship and the PGA Tour Player of the Year award with his putter.

Cantlay sank a number of big putts on Sunday, the last from 18 feet, to beat Bryson DeChambeau in a six-hole playoff and win the BMW Championship, the second event of the FedEx Cup playoffs.

That means under the format of the Tour Championship, which begins Thursday at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Cantlay will start at 10-under-par with a two-stroke lead over Tony Finau, three ahead of DeChambeau, four up on Jon Rahm of Spain and five in front of Cameron Smith of Australia.

“I think just I’m going to reset and play the golf tournament like any other golf tournament, just trying to put a bunch of rounds in the 60s on the board,” said Cantlay, who became the first player on the PGA Tour with three victories in this super season. “It’s a really good golf course and it’s usually in fantastic shape. Those guys down there always bring their “A” game when it comes to course conditions.

“It’s a golf course that I actually like, even though I haven’t played that well there in the past. I like the visuals out there, and I’m looking forward to having a better result this year. I think the most important thing is treating it like a regular tournament and trying to see just the lowest score you can shoot every day. I think not getting caught up in the two strokes ahead, or whatever it is. That’s the best way to handle that situation.

“My game feels really good. It has for a while now and I’m finally starting to putt like me again. It’s really nice.”

Cantlay is playing in the Tour Championship for the fourth time, with his best result a tie for 20th in 2017 before he tied for 21st in both 2018 and 2019.

Dustin Johnson, who is the defending FedEx Cup champion and Tour Championship winner, will start at 3-under, seven strokes behind. Other former winners of the Tour Championship in the 30-man field are Xander Schauffele (2019), who is at 2-under; Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland (2016 and 2019), who also is at 2-under; Jordan Spieth (2015), who is 4-under, and Billy Horschel (2014), who starts at even par.

McIlroy captured the FedEx Cup in 2016 and 2019, Spieth won it in 2015, Horschel claimed it in 2014 and Justin Thomas, who will start at 2-under, took it in 2017.

Last year, Johnson won The Northern Trust to open the playoffs, then lost to Rahm in a playoff at the BMW Championship before closing with a 68 to win the Tour Championship by three strokes over Schauffele and Thomas.

Other players in the field:

At 4-under: Harris English, Abraham Ancer of Mexico and Sam Burns; at 3-under: Collin Morikawa, Sungjae Im of South Korea, Viktor Hovland of Norway and Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa; at 2-under: Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na and Brooks Koepka; at 1-under: Corey Conners of Canada, Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, Stewart Cink, Joaquin Niemann of Chile, Scottie Scheffler, and at even par: Daniel Berger, Erik van Rooyen of South Africa, Sergio Garcia of Spain and Patrick Reed.

Theoretically all of them have a mathematical chance, to matter how small, to win

BEST BETS

1. Patrick Cantlay, United States – By beating Bryson DeChambeau on the sixth playoff hole in the BMW Championship, Cantlay took the FedEx Cup standings lead and rose to No. 4 in the World Golf Rankings. The first three-time winner on the PGA Tour this season, his best finish in the Tour Championship was a tie for 20th in 2017, and he tied for 22nd in 2018 and 2019.

2. Jon Rahm, Spain – The top-ranked player in the world and reigning U.S. Open champion finished third in The Barclays, tied for ninth in the BMW Championship to start the playoffs and is fourth in the FedEx Cup standings. Rahm finished no worse than a tie for 12th in four starts in the Tour Championship, with his best a tie for fourth last year with three scores of 66 or better. 

3. Bryson DeChambeau, United States – If the seventh-ranked DeChambeau can get over his devastating playoff loss to Patrick Cantlay in the BMW Championship, he should be a factor in the Tour Championship. The 2020 U.S. Open champion is playing in the finale at East Lake for  the fourth time and his best result was a tie for 12th in 2019 and he finished 19th the year before.

4. Dustin Johnson, United States – The second-ranked DJ is the defending Tour Championship and FedEx Cup champion, and has five more top-10 finishes in the season finale at East Lake. The 2020 Masters champion missed the cut in his title defense in The Northern Trust to open the playoffs before tying for sixth in the BMW Championship by playing the weekend in 65-66.

5. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland – Rory wrapped up the FedEx Cup title in 2016 and 2019 by winning the Tour Championship each time. He has finished in the top 10 of the finale at East Lake in five of six appearances, including a tie for second in 2014 and a tie for eighth last year. After a tie for 43rd in The Northern Trust, McIlroy was solo fourth in the BMW Championship.

6. Justin Thomas, United States – JT, No. 6 in the World Golf Rankings, captured the 2017 FedEx Cup by tying for sixth in The Northern Trust, winning the Dell Technologies, and finishing second in the Tour Championship. Thomas tied for fourth in The Northern Trust this season and has recorded five straight top-10 finishes in the finale, including second twice.

7. Cameron Smith, Australia – After losing in a payoff to Tony Finau in The Northern Trust to open the FedEx Cup playoffs, Smith tied for 34th in the BMW Championship despite carding three rounds in the 60s and is fifth in the FedEx Cup standings. He is playing in the Tour Championship for the third time and finished 20th in 2018 before tying for 24th last season.

8. Tony Finau, United States – After winning The Northern Trust in a playoff over Cameron Smith to open the playoffs, Finau closed with a 63 to tie for 15th in the Northern Trust and is second in the point standings behind Patrick Cantlay. He will make his fifth start in the Tour Championship and was seventh in 2019, tied for seventh in 2017 and tied for 17th last year.

9. Abraham Ancer, Mexico – Claimed his first PGA Tour victory recently in the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, tied for ninth in the BMW Championship and is eighth in the FedEx Cup point standings. Ancer is playing in the Tour Championship for the third time and tied for 21st in 2019 before taking the lead with an opening 64 last season before finishing in a tie for 18th. 

10. Jordan Spieth, United States – The winner of the 2015 Tour Championship to capture the FedEx Cup, Spieth won the Valero Texas Open in addition to finishing second and third twice this season to sit ninth in the FedEx Cup point standings. He also tied for second in the 2012 Tour Championship behind Henrik Stenson, tied for seventh in 2017 and tied for 16th in 2016. 

 

  • OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Collin Morikawa, United States; Brooks Koepka, United States; Xander Schauffele, United States; Sungjae Im, South Korea; Harris English, United States; Louis Oosthuizen, South Africa; Hideki Matsuyama, Japan; Harris English, United States; Corey Conners, Canada; Daniel Berger, United States.
  • SLEEPERS
  • 1. Erik van Rooyen, South Africa – Birdied two of the last three holes to shoot 65 and finish fifth in the BMW Championship. Making his first Tour Championship at 27th in the standings.
  • 2. Sam Burns, United States – Won the Valspar for his first PGA Tour victory this season and makes his Tour Championship debut at 10th in the standings after finishing eighth in the BMW.
  • 3. Joaquin Niemann, Chile– Won in 2020 at the Greenbrier and has two runner-up finishes this season and is 24th in the standings after tying for 27th in Tour Championship debut last year.
  • 4. Billy Horschel, United States – The 2014 Tour Championship and FedEx Cup champ won WGC-Match Play this year and is No. 29 in the standings. Second in 2018 Tour Championship.
  • 5. Patrick Reed, United States – Hasn’t played in almost two months because of pneumonia and is 30th in the standings. Won Farmers this year and was T-8 and T-9 in the finale last two years.

For first-round tee times, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html 

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