FedEx Cup: Tour Championship, East Lake GC, Atlanta
East Lake Golf Club will again play host to the final leg of the Fed Ex Cup Playoffs – the Tour Championship. For the top 5 in the standings the scenario is simple, win this week and take home the FedExCup to go will a very cool $10 million bonus.
That means that Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Adam Scott, Jason Day and Paul Casey all control their own destiny. If any of the remaining 25 players are to win they will need other players to do them favours. Those ranked 6-10, which includes Rory McIlory and reigning FedExCup winner Jordan Spieth, are a genuine chance if they can win this week but outside of that the Wolf says even victory at East Lake will not be enough to claim the grand prize.
At 6,356 yards East Lake Golf Club is far from the longest on tour but for the Tour Championship two of the par 5’s, namely the 1st and 14th, have been shortened to play as par 4’s. That means the par 70 course plays longer than it reads on paper and there are several very tricky holes.
No two holes play the same at East Lake with most fairways playing very differently. Some are lined with bunkers, other play narrow thanks to old oaks and tall pine trees while undulations and hills make it difficult to get into prime position on others.
The greens are protected by both bunkers and water while the variety of elevations and shadows from afternoon trees make it tough to create easy birdie opportunities.
Two holes to keep a close eye on, especially in the final round, are the 15th and 18th. The 15th is a long signature par 3 which features an island green. The prevailing wind generally pushed the ball toward the water right of the green but a deep bunker on the left also takes that side out of play. Players will be more than happy to walk of the green with a par.
What makes the final hole so interesting is the risk/reward factor. A long drive will allow players to reach the green in two but that means taking on the water and anything short will end up in the drink. With players chasing $10 million in prize money we can be sure to see fireworks down the stretch!
Jordan Spieth is the defending champion and took out the FedExCup last year winning by four strokes. It came on the back of four rounds in the 60’s and shooting low in the first round has been crucial here in the past. The last 6 winners have all shot under par in the opening round and 4 of the last 6 winners have in fact been in the top 5 at the end of round 1.
Other former winners in the field this week are Australia’s Adam Scott, Brand Snedeker and Phil Mickleson. In the last 8 years the biggest margin of victory has been four strokes with two champions being determined via a playoff. The Americans have dominated this event in recent years producing 6 of the last 7 winners. That being said 4 of the top 5 last year were internationals including Englishmen Justin Rose and Paul Casey.
This week The Wolf is going with a man who has been in scintillating form. Paul Casey has been striking the ball as good as anyone over the last month and it has shown with runner up finishes at the Deutsche Bank and BMW Championships. The Wolf loves the fact that he has been able to perform under pressure – he shot 67 in the final round of both The Masters and the PGA Championship which consequently resulted in him finishing 4th and 10th respectively. He also finished 5th here last year after opening with a 65 and at $17 he is the bet of the week.
Of the top contenders we have to have a little something on Aussie Adam Scott. A former winner here he has clearly gained more than enough confident since being forced to give up the long putter. He already has two wins on tour this season (Honda Classic and WGC Cadillac Championship) and is coming off three consecutive top 5 finishes. He is averaging well over 300 yards off the tee over the last month and if he can avoid a round in the 70’s he will be very hard to hold off.
Big 6 (Johnson,McIlroy,Scott,Day,Casey) v The Field: Big 6 ($1.45)
Adam Scott v Jason Day: Scott ($1.90)
Patrick Reed v Matt Kuchar: Reed ($1.77)
Russell Knox v Ryan Moore: Knox ($1.95)
Emiliano Grillo v Gary Woodland: Grillo ($1.80)
Kevin Chappell v Jason Dufner: Dufner ($2.00)