The PGA Tour heads to East Lake outside of Atlanta for the 2019 Tour Championship with a reduced field following the BMW Championship last weekend. Only the top 30 players in the FedEx Cup standings will tee it up in the no-cut event. That leaves more than 100 players, Tiger Woods is one of them, at home watching from the couch. That’s if they choose to watch the event they missed which has a familiar name at the top of the odds list. Justin Thomas is the outright favorite heading into the opening round.


Tiger's 'very special' season ends at BMW Championship


Thomas enters +225 and rides the top of the FedEx points list with a No. 4 spot in the Official World Golf Rankings. He’s had a win this season, a second and third finish with a bunch of top-ten runs. The Thomas pick may be a surprise to some but the new Tour Championship format may have something to do with the way oddsmakers are viewing the favorite list. More on that below, but for now, here are the top-five favored players to win the 2019 Tour Championship outright according to Intertops.

 

Justin Thomas+225
Patrick Cantlay+450
Brooks Koepka+500
Rory McIlroy+800
Jon Rahm+1400

 

More on the odds and the new Tour format that’s now in place. The old format was a confusing method of resetting FedEx points for each player based on seeding. Now the format simply starts with the No. 1 seeded player starting on day one ten-under par. Then No. 2 starts -8 and so on all the way to No. 5 who starts -5. Then, six thru ten start -4, eleven thru fifteen start -3, etc. Finally, players 26-30 start the tournament even. 

No Defending Champion

As hinted in the opening paragraph, Tiger Woods missed the opportunity to defend his title by finishing the season No. 38 in FedEx points. He’s not the only big name to miss the Tour Championship as players such as Bubba Watson, Jordan Speith, Francesco Molinari and more all ended their chance last week at the BMW which was limited to the top seventy Tour players.

Another player missing the thirty-man field is Billy Horschel who came close to winning over Tiger last year. Horschel finished the day only two strokes behind Woods who went eleven under for the event. That leaves the door wide open for a new Tour Champion as the top-two players from last season are not there. Here’s how the wins have broken down over the last five Tour Championships. 

 

2018Tiger Woods−112 strokes over Billy Horschel
2017Xander Schauffele−121 stroke over Justin Thomas
2016Rory McIlroy−12Playoff win over Kevin Chappell, Ryan Moore
2015Jordan Spieth−94 strokes over Danny Lee, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson
2014Billy Horschel−113 strokes over Jim Furyk, Rory McIlroy

 

Predicting the BMW Championship

East Lake has been the permanent home for the Tour Championship since 1994. The course was designed by Tom Bendelow in 1908 and made famous by Bobby Jones. It was redesigned by Donald Ross before gaining back it’s stature following years of decay when Rees Jones purchased it, repaired it, and put it back on the PGA map as one of the best course on the tour. It plays a solid par 70 at 7,385 yards with several narrow fairways and thick cuts in the rough.

"You've got to drive the ball in the fairway here,” Justin Woodland said of the course. “The rough is so brutal, and the greens are so fast, it turns into a ball striker's paradise. If you drive it in play, you've got to find a way to keep the ball below the hole."

There are only two par-fives and just a handful of water hazards. Get ready to see some awesome wedge shots! And, that may be where Brooks Koepka needs to worry about his driver. Koepka has missed his fair share of fairways this season as he enters the Tour Championship ranked 96th in driving accuracy percentage at 62.50 percent according to PGA stats. Plus, he dropped down the rankings as Thomas jumped from the teens to the top spot.

Patrick Cantlay enters Thursday to play with a win on the season and two second-place finishes. His win came earlier in the year at the Memorial which was followed by a T21 showing at the British Open Cantlay has not missed a cut since early April with only one bad finish of T41 at the British Open. Since then, he’s knocked down several top-ten and top-fifteen finishes while carding out in sole possession of second place last week at the BMW Championship which sent him to Atlanta. His wedges and putter will come in handy this week. 



Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm can’t be counted out as they both can catch fire at any given moment but the question will be if they can dial down the urge to drive the ball too hard. East lake demands solid shots off the tee to avoid playing from the thick stuff. Trying to gain a stroke or two while reaching for a par-four could cause problems.

The sleeper pick of the bunch may, in fact, be Hideki Matsuyama who has had several fantastic finishes over the course of the season including carding two 63s at the BMW Championship for a lone third-place finish. At one point he was one stroke behind Thomas for the win. The problem for Matsuyama is he enters three-under along with Gary Woodland, Tony Finau, Adam Scott, and Dustin Johnson. All of which are possible winners but far behind Thomas who starts at ten-under.

In fact, the format for the 2019 Tour Championship may be an overwhelming factor to any of the players seeded below the top-ten. It’s hard to make up ten-strokes and it’s harder for a player to cover ten-strokes against 29 of the best golfers in the world. The lower seeded player will have to hope everyone above them plays four horrible rounds of golf while they have four of the best rounds of their careers. The top five favored players to win the 2019 Tour Championship may have a lock on the win – which would open the door almost instantly for talks on changing the format for 2020.

Odds to win the 2019 Tour Championship Outright

 

Justin Thomas+225
Patrick Cantlay+450
Brooks Koepka+500
Rory McIlroy+800
Jon Rahm+1400
Patrick Reed+1600
Webb Simpson+2200
Dustin Johnson+2200
Xander Schauffele+2500
Hideki Matsuyama+3300
Tony Finau+3300
Adam Scott+3300
Matt Kuchar+3500
Justin Rose+4000
Rickie Fowler+5000
Abraham Ancer+6600
Paul Casey+7000
Gary Woodland+7000
Tommy Fleetwood+10000
Brandt Snedeker+10000
Kevin Kisner+10000
Marc Leishman+17500
Louis Oosthuizen+17500
Bryson DeChambeau+20000
Sungjae Im+22500
Jason Kokrak+25000
Lucas Glover+30000
Corey Conners+30000
Chez Reavie+30000
Charles Howell III+30000

 

 

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