For the best part of a year, the PGA Tour’s finest have been battling it out for titles, trophies and paycheques – with the happy side-effect of picking up FedEx Cup points along the way.
The FedEx Cup is, essentially, the end of season blowout: it’s a series of four events played on a knockout basis (those without a certain amount of points are eliminated each week) until we are left 30 men who will contest for the title of Tour Champion.
Ahead of the final event in the series, the Tour Championship, the points tallies of the top five in the standings are reset, which basically means that if any of those guys with the event at East Lake Golf Club, they will thus be crowned FedEx Cup champion and trouser a rather sizeable cheque.
There are permutations that allow players ranked 6-10 to win the FedEx Cup based on the performances of those above them, but every year since 2010 has witnessed the Tour Championship winner coming from that top five.
So where are we at this week?
East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta, Georgia
Built in the early 1900s, East Lake stands pretty much untouched more than a century later, with the Donald Ross design given a refresh by Rees Jones back in 1994.
It’s the standard ball-strikers layout at 7,300 yards for its Par 70, with just two Par 5s and three Par 3s offering any difference from the usual bread-and-butter.
If you want to win at East Lake you will need to drive well. The rough is up and said to be very penal, and with slick greens in force giving yourself a short iron in from the fairway is essential. Trying to maintain close proximity to the flag out of the rough stuff is an absolute no-no.
So what should punters be looking for? Well, clearly current form is key heading into a showdown with the current best 30 players on the planet. Most Tour Championship winners have shown some form in the build-up, and many had actually won an event prior to triumphing at East Lake.
We can do away with any wayward drivers of the ball this week – no fairway equals no good. And the longer the strike off the tee the better; the quickness of these greens means that proximity on approach is essential.
If the player is on a hot streak with the putter then all the merrier, and of course a proven track record of victory is very helpful in this illustrious company.
The Top Five
There are five players who can win the FedEx Cup simply by triumphing at East Lake this week, and those players are Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Marc Leishman and Dustin Johnson. If you are having a flutter, this is the quintuple to focus on given that the winner has come from this elite band in each of the last six Tour Championships.
Of the five, it is arguably Rahm who appeals the most at 14/1. The Spaniard has finished inside the top five of each of the last three FedEx Cup events, and but for a cold putter he may well have contested Leishman’s victory at the BMW Championship last week.
Only Leishman gained more strokes from tee to green than Rahm there, and that is always a decent sign that somebody is striking the ball well. Putting can come and go – as long as Rahm keeps flushing the ball off the tee and on approach, he will surely contend.
Statistically at least, it is unlikely that anybody outside of the five mentioned will win the Tour Championship and thus be crowned FedEx Cup champion. But if anybody is likely to, then Justin Rose is certainly worth chancing at 16/1.
The Masters runner-up endured a poor time of it after Augusta as he searched for a solution to his long-standing back problems. A few swing changes later, and the Olympic gold medallist has roared back to form with three straight top-ten finishes – including second at the BMW Championship last week.
Rose is a proven winner who has connected a quartet of top-10 finishes at East Lake from 2012-2016, and so everything is adding up to a strong effort from the Englishman.