This article is part of our Golf Picks series.
TOUR Championship Betting Preview
The 2022-23 PGA Tour season concludes this week with the remaining 30 players heading to Atlanta for the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club.
The TOUR Championship is unlike any other tournament, as Scottie Scheffler will begin with a two-shot lead at 10-under-par -- an advantage he earned as the leader of the FedExCup Standings heading into this week's event. Players are staggered from there, with Viktor Hovland checking in next at 8-under and the group of players who rank 26th-30th in the standings beginning at at even par.
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East Lake has been the host of this event every year since 2004, and it has proven to be a tough test for those still standing, with McIlroy's 17-under performance last year -- not counting starting strokes -- being the lowest winning score since 2017. The new format was adopted in 2019 to avoid having a winner of the tournament and a separate FedExCup Champion, and we haven't seen anyone starting outside the top 10 make up the deficit in strokes. A par-70 playing 7,346 yards, East Lake is a lengthy course, with the shortest par-3 being 197 yards and only three par-4s under 440 yards. Off the tee, players are faced with the narrowest fairways on Tour. They average less than 25 yards across and are surrounded by trees and challenging bermuda rough that make it difficult to find greens in regulation when hitting from off the fairway. Players will be forced to use driver most of the time and will see a lot of approach shots from 200 yards and up. As a result, I'm looking for quality ball strikers, good long iron players and those that avoid bogeys.
En Fuego at East Lake
The following golfers, with a minimum of two appearances, have the lowest scoring average at East Lake since 2018.
Schauffele has saved his best golf for the season-ending event, as he is one of only two players who averaged fewer than 68 strokes per round over the last five years. He took home the trophy in 2017, posted the lowest gross in 2020 and finished runner-up both that year and the year before. Schauffele comes into Atlanta off a T8 result in Chicago in which he finished third in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee. He will have some ground to make up, as he begins at 3-under par. Another player who has had success here is Rahm. He enters following two playoff events he'd like to forget, as he failed to finish top-30 in either one. Rahm has been struggling off the tee, even dealing with a two-way miss at times. He checks in at 8-1, and at only four strokes back he is one of only a handful of players likely to find the winner's circle. If he can get right at the right time he is in position to take home the FedEx Cup.
Trending Off the Tee
These players, on a per-round basis, gained the most strokes off the tee over their last 20 rounds.
Driving prowess is key at East Lake, and Scheffler certainly has the goods there, ranking first in SG: Off-the-Tee, 29th in distance and 46th in accuracy. With a two-stroke advantage before even hitting a shot, it's easy to see why he is listed at a meager +140. Scheffler looked to be in position to win the BMW Championship until Hovland charged on the back nine to steal the victory. Nevertheless, Scheffler enters in excellent form, having led the field in both SG: Off-the-Tee and Approach last week. The other player who finds himself on both lists is the defending champion and second favorite, McIlroy. He's a three-time winner here and has twice won since the new format was instituted, posting the lowest gross total each time. Although he was sporadic off the tee in Chicago he still managed a fourth-place result.
TOUR Championship Bets: Outright Picks
Max Homa (14-1 Without Starting Strokes)
Homa made his TOUR Championship debut last year and sure seemed to like the course, as his 265 cumulative total was bested only by McIlroy and Im. He has played really well off the tee lately, with a combination of length and accuracy leading him to three consecutive top-10 results.
Tommy Fleetwood (25-1 Without Starting Strokes)
It sure would be exciting to see Fleetwood pick up his first PGA Tour victory at such a marquee event. Considering he's starting seven shots back, that will be easier said than done. As a result, I'll pivot to him posting the lowest gross score. He has played so well this year, finishing top-10 in over half of his last 13 starts. He hasn't played East Lake since 2019, but his all-around game makes him a contender almost anywhere.
TOUR Championship Bets: Top-5 Wagers
Wyndham Clark (5-1 With Starting Strokes)
East Lake can be a tough challenge for first-timers, but Clark has super length and isn't too wayward with the driver, which is a recipe for success here. He will be tied for sixth to start, so he doesn't have nearly as much ground to make up as others.
Sungjae Im (9-1 With Starting Strokes)
Im will have to make a leap considering he's starting at just 2-under, but he did shoot 16-under here last year. After failing to post any notable results over the summer, he has come alive with back-to-back top-10s to start the playoffs.
TOUR Championship Bets: Head-to-Head Matchups
I went 2-0 in matchups last week, and I'll try to end the season on a winning streak, albeit with just one pick this time around. I'm surprised Schenk isn't favored here. Neither golfer has played this venue before, but Schenk is longer and a slightly better iron player, and he has also fared better in the playoffs, besting Taylor the last two weeks and posting a T6 in Memphis. Taylor, meanwhile, has failed to post a top-15 since winning the RBC Canadian Open over two months ago.