The Tour Championship 2018: Rose to Show His Thorny Side in Atlanta

Golf Course with LakeThe final 30 is finally known….

After a PGA Tour season that started way back in October 2017, the top 30 players in the FedEx Cup standings have been confirmed and they will duke it out on two fronts at East Lake Golf Club.

Firstly, there is the chance to be win the Tour Championship, a prestigious enough event that brings with it plenty of interest and a hefty prize cheque for the winner.

And then there’s the significant matter of the FedEx Cup play-offs. This is the fourth and final event in the series, and the FedEx Cup champion will be crowned at the close of play on Sunday.

Incredibly, all 30 players can – mathematically at least – be crowned the FedEx guv’nor, and that ensures plenty of interest for punters heading into the tournament.

So who will end the 2018 PGA Tour campaign on the ultimate high?

The Course

East Lake Golf Course Clubhouse in Atlanta USA
Image Credit: Cem0030 via Wikimedia Commons

East Lake has been the main host of the Tour Championship for the best part of 20 years, and exclusively since 2007 when the FedEx Cup was introduced.

Found in Atlanta, Georgia, East Lake was a fairly unremarkable layout until it underwent renovation work from the likes of Donald Ross, George Cobb and Rees Jones.

Today, it’s a pretty demanding tree-lined layout which also has water in play on six holes, and with an average winning score around the -11 mark in recent years you can see that this is a course where patience, and grinding out birdie opportunities, is key.

It’s not particularly long, so bombing off the tee is no pre-requisite, and indeed finding the fairway is a decent way to ensure you have the best chance of approaching these undulating greens from the right angle.

And East Lake marks a switch from Bentgrass, which has been almost exclusively the grass used in the past few months on the courses, to Bermuda, and so being able to read these greens is crucial too.

Tour Championship 2018 Field

Rank Player Country Points 2018 PGA Tour Earnings
1 Bryson DeChambeau USA 5789 $7.9 million
2 Justin Rose England 4391 $7.8 million
3 Tony Finau USA 3479 $5.4 million
4 Dustin Johnson USA 3425 $7.8 million
5 Justin Thomas USA 3327 $8.4 million
6 Keegan Bradley USA 2979 $3.9 million
7 Brooks Koepka USA 2723 $6.9 million
8 Bubba Watson USA 2481 $5.6 million
9 Billy Horschel USA 2260 $3.3 million
10 Cameron Smith Australia 2247 $3.4 million
11 Webb Simpson USA 2228 $5.0 million
12 Jason Day Australia 2071 $4.9 million
13 Francesco Molinari Italy 1992 $4.9 million
14 Phil Mickelson USA 1990 $4.5 million
15 Patrick Reed USA 1933 $4.9 million
16 Patrick Cantley USA 1861 $3.8 million
17 Rory McIlroy Northern Ireland 1813 $4.1 million
18 Xander Schauffele USA 1759 $3.8 million
19 Tommy Fleetwood England 1734 $3.7 million
20 Tiger Woods USA 1722 $3.8 million
21 Aaron Wise USA 1702 $3.3 million
22 Kevin Na USA 1629 $3.4 million
23 Rickie Fowler USA 1612 $4.0 million
24 John Rahm Spain 1610 $3.8 million
25 Kyle Stanley USA 1564 $3.7 million
26 Paul Casey England 1499 $3.4 million
27 Hideki Matsuyama Japan 1491 $2.3 million
28 Gary Woodland USA 1448 $2.9 million
29 Marc Leishman Australia 1444 $3.6 million
30 Patton Kizzire USA 1432 $3.4 million

There are only a handful of notable absentees given the cut-off point in the FedEx Cup standings.

Jordan Spieth finished agonisingly outside the top-30 – he ended up in 31st – and so he misses out on the Tour Championship for the first time since 2012.

Ian Poulter, Adam Scott and Alex Noren also miss out, with Patton Kizzire – helplessly out of form – sneaking into the top-30 despite not finishing inside the top 20 of any event since the spring.

Tiger Woods is back in the Tour Championship since 2013, and if he wins at East Lake he stands a really good chance of being crowned the FedEx Cup champion in a staggering renaissance from the big cat.

Europe’s best hopes of a winner come in the form of Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy, with Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari making their East Lake debuts.

The Hot Contenders

Betting for the 2018 Golf Tour Championship
If we look at the most recent winners at East Lake, we can see that only classy ball-strikers need apply.

Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Billy Horschel and Henrik Stenson can all laser in their irons when in form, and at a layout with only two Par 5s clearly doing the business on the regulation holes – and avoiding bogey where required – is key.

Justin Rose has been installed as the bookmakers’ joint favourite, and why not? Beaten in a play-off at the BMW Championship last week despite having his fate in his own hands – he bogeyed the last to drop into a play-off, the Englishman has recorded five consecutive top-10 finishes at East Lake.

Do we really believe that Dustin Johnson will have the focus to win this tough event, given the press intrusion into his private life? Possibly not, and the former world number one – he was usurped by Rose last week – certainly hasn’t been himself for a while.

Rory McIlroy (8/1) would love a big win to take into the Ryder Cup, and Justin Thomas (10/1) would love to defend his FedEx Cup trophy too. Brooks Koepka, a dual major winner in 2018, deserves plenty of respect at 12/1.

The Outsiders

American Golfer Xander Schauffele
Image Credit: Xander Schauffele by Stefantast via Wikimedia Commons

There isn’t really such a thing as an ‘outsider’ in this event, given that all 30 entrants are classy operators who have the game to win when everything goes their way.

But there is certainly value in the 40/1 about Billy Horschel, a former champion at East Lake.

He might feel slightly aggrieved not to have made the cut for the USA Ryder Cup team – he’s plenty more experience and trophies on his mantelpiece than Tony Finau, and this would serve as the ideal opportunity to stick the metaphorical ‘v-signs’ up at Jim Furyk and his fellow team selectors.

All aspects of Horschel’s game were in good nick at the BMW Championship in his third place finish, and he certainly seems to be playing well enough to win a biggie just as he did back in 2014.

And how about a small flutter on the defending champion, Xander Schauffele, who looks a touch long at 50/1? His iron play and putting looked impeccable at the BMW.