The Tour Championship preview with Skeeter McGillicuddy
East Lake Atlanta beckons for the Tour Championship Final – the now familiar East Lake despite the nines being switched some years back.
Down as we are to the top 30 one thing we can’t complain about is lack of exposed from over the track. Yes, some are making their debuts here but we’ve had all season to review their play. Our picks last week hardly disgraced themselves but neither did they set the world on fire. As usual we will steer clear of the market leaders as their credentials are obvious and it’s impossible to differentiate their chances – at the prices on offer anyway.
Rory failed to make it as predicted but most of the other top echelon delivered to an extent- without winning. Leishman’s putt on 18 typified the game – he made it when he didn’t need to. He also had great form coming in but for his lame back nine at the Dell.
The obvious conclusion to all this is that in all probability one of the top 5 will win the Tour Final but may not and there is plenty of scope for just about anyone of the 30.
Of the market leaders Speith looks the most obvious given he’s a freak with the putter and leads the rankings, the scoring average and amazingly ranks 3rd in GIR at 70.66%. The one issue, aside from his price is that Jordan is hitting lots of greens but when he is wide he is super wide and you’d not want to be sweating on him down the stretch off the tee – not here anyway. Notably Kyle Stanley at 70.66 and Casey at 69.96 are 1st and 3rd – but then again they don’t putt like Jordan. Hitting both fairways and greens is critical at Eastlake with most recent winners ranking in single figures across these categories. If you miss the greens then you need your scrambling boots.
Looking at past form the likes of Rose and Casey would appear to have excellent chances but I can’t have them. Rose, whose Eastlake form is rock solid despite missing the finals last year, got the pulls under pressure last week after he’d cantered up to the leaders and Casey’s putting has caught up with him. He looks like he’s having too much fun out there as if actually winning isn’t really an issue. So despite the affable Englishmen’s excellent numbers I just can’t back them at the prices available.
Xander Schauffle 1pt win at $130 on
Tony Finau 1pt win at $67 with
Webb Simpson 1pt win at $65 on
Daniel Berger 1pt win at $67 with
Xander Schauffle (from last week) is one of the surprise packages of the 2016/17 season with a breakthrough won at the old GGO and a tied fifth at the US Open. He not only has the chance to get to East Lake in his rookie year (he has), sitting 32nd as he does in the rankings, but to secure the coveted Rookie of the Year Title. He duly delivered on the promise to make the Tour Finals and got better as the week progressed posting 65 / 67 on the weekend. He leads the Playoffs in par 5 scoring and ranks 29th in greens in regulation which he’ll need to bring to Eastlake and he’s no slouch with the putter ranked at 42nd (Speith is 30th). I’m banking on his mental toughness to overcome his lack of Eastlake experience and produce a fairytale rookie year, Tour Championship double, at 129/1.
Tony Finau gets the nod based on our previous assertions he has the game and the fact he put it almost all together last week opening with a 65 before a great final round of 64. Crucially he’s ranked 16th in greens in regulation at 68.89% – a fraction behind the leaders and he found his putting at the BMW. Ranked generally way down at 146th in strokes gained putting if he can putt like he did at Conway Farms he in with a shout.
1pt win at 66/1
Webb Simpson’s form coming into Eastlake is all trending in the right direction. Having overcome the anchoring ban to great effect this former major winner is having his first Tour Final outing since finishing 24th in 2014. Prior to this he had two top fives. Then there is the Donald Ross / Sedgefield connection which Simpson lives in. Sedgefield Country Club, like Eastlake is a Ross design and the performance parallels across the two venues are striking. Sedgefield hosted the Wyndham Championship this year with an admittedly weak field won by Stenson. The connection is the performance by players across the years by players over the two venues. Take 2017. Simpson’s Eastlake credentials are well establisged – 3rd at Sedgefield. 2016 – 72nd….didn’t make the Tour Finals. 2016 – T6. 2015 – T5. Winner 2011. Bill Hass former Tour Championship winner – 2nd at Sedgefield in 2014, T7 in 2012. It goes on and one. What emerges from both venues is that moderate, straight hitters prevail – with the odd exception of course. Consider the last seven winners at Eastlake and only Rory averaged over 300 of the tee (Hass did but that year was exceptionally dry – remember his shot out of the dried up lake?) most were in the second tier off the tee. Length isn’t an issue. Simpson simply has to be backed at the price with all the convergent factors. He’s emerged strongest of the two biggest victims of the anchoring ban (Keegan Bradley being the other and he’s getting there) and a strong performance here wouldn’t surprise. Another bonus he ranks 2nd in scrambling.
1pt win at 64/1
Daniel Berger….we just can’t let run against us. (from last week…..and the week before) is a multiple tour winner, a winner this season and was stiffed by a freak show from Jordan (holed out of the bunker on 18 at the Travellers) to boot. A win, an unlucky 2nd, and another top 5 in his last eight starts looks about as solid as any player out there. Burger’s season has been built on solid approach play and putting. Any semblance of his peak form and he’s up there. …What’s changed in a week – or two? Berger was 4 under through 8 at the BMW and finished a credible 8 under for 33rd. So why get on again? Apart from the aforementioned credentials we know why he’s not in the mix – his putting. He’s given a staggering number of stokes per round to the field over the playoffs but he get’s another chance here to find some form on the Bermuda grass greens where both his wins came. In a 30 runner field he makes too much appeal to leave alone at 69/1.