We have two words for you this week: Rory McIlroy.
But, more on him in a couple of minutes.
There are 15 million reasons why PGA Tour players are hoping this is the best week of their lives.
The top 30 have qualified for this week’s Tour Championship being held at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta and it’s simple: The guy sitting atop the FedEx Cup points after this week is in for a boatload of honors…not the least of which is the $15 million payday for the champion.
Not bad for a week of playing golf. Oh, and the last place finisher this week still earns $395,000. Also not bad.
This week is the culmination of a year-long, 48-event marathon of golf that has brought the top 30 here for one final showdown.
But this tournament will play out quite differently. The No. 1 ranked player starts this week at 10-under-par. The No 2 player will be at 8-under-par. It breaks down little by little until you get to players No. 26-30 who will start at even-par.
The format changed in 2019 and it’s had mixed results. The first year, 2019, McIlroy came from behind out of the No. 5 spot (five shots behind to start) to win the event. Last year Dustin Johnson led at -10 starting the event and went on to win by a stroke.
What will 2021 bring? That is, as we pointed out earlier, the $15 million question.
To say the higher you’re ranked coming into this event the better odds you have to win would be an understatement.
Let’s look at who is coming in playing well and who will have to have a miracle week to win.
Odds To Win The Tour Championship From BetMGM
|2021 Tour Championship Odds||BetMGM|
The Bottom 15 Players Are Likely Out Of The Picture
We’re thinking the top 15 of the 30 players teeing it up this week certainly have the best chance to win. That’s the good news. The bad news is they may have won early in the year to get into the top 15 and may be limping into the playoffs without their best efforts recently.
But the guys outside the top 15 have it even tougher.
The new format puts quite a monkey wrench into the tournament. If you’re outside the top 15, you’re at least eight shots behind the leaders (those ranked 16-20 in the FedEx Cup points race will be eight shots back, those 21-25 will be nine shots back and players 26-30 will be a full 10 shots off the lead.)
It’s a daunting task to win one of these events on a level playing field. Give some of the world’s best players any kind of an edge and the task becomes even tougher.
Put guys like Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed, Billy Horschel (the final three guys in the top-30) and others down the list, in that category. Sure they are ranked pretty high in an overall point of view but play these guys at your own risk. They will have to have an exceptional week to be in contention.
Playing Catchup With This Field Will Be A Challenge
It’s weird to say Patrick Cantlay, at +333, is leading the tournament by two strokes before anyone even tees off.
But we aren’t going with the favorite. We’re going to give the nod to Dustin Johnson at +2000. He’s starting at three-under-par but he’s coming in way under the radar. He’s more than capable of erasing that lead…and could even do it early in the event.
He’s coming in hot with a T-6 at last week’s BMW Championship that included rounds of 65 and 66 on the weekend.
Sure, it’s been an up-and-down mediocre season for Johnson (in his eyes) but there’s no better way to end a year than coming up big in the season finale.
A Player Right On The Edge
Now, back to Rory…and our thought that no one outside the top 15 has much of a chance to win.
McIlroy may be the one exception. He just isn’t going away. His solo fourth last week moved him up to No. 16 heading into the finale. At +2500 he’s got great value and he certainly could play well enough to sneak in and win this thing. He is starting out eight strokes behind at two-under-par heading to the first tee but remember that he was fifth when he rallied to win the whole thing in 2019. He also won the title in 2016 so he’s definitely able to handle the pressure of a huge week.
And one more thing to take into consideration: He came into last week No. 28 and had to play well just to make sure he was in the top-30.
In the first two playoff events he was T-43 at the Northern Trust before hitting high gear and finishing fourth last week…no victories in either tournament but he’s close enough that if a few putts drop he could be in the mix this week.
He’s a longshot for sure. But when the pressure is on, putting a couple of bucks on him can pay off nicely.
Keep No. 1 Cantlay In Mind
Sure the odds are low with Cantlay at +333. After all, he starts with a two-stroke edge. Add in the fact he now has three victories this season and you’ve got a guy playing with a lot of confidence.
(A quick rant: Don’t get us started on how bad it is to have this type of format decide a championship. It’s like giving an NFL team a field goal edge before the kickoff. It’s just not a good look.)
But, back to Cantlay. He’s got that two-stroke edge…he’s playing championship golf and, best of all, he’s coming off a win last week that vaulted him to the very valuable No. 1 spot.
It’s never easy to bet against Cantlay any week. With a two-stroke lead and $15 million on the line, it might be an even worse time to not back him.
After all, as another over-used cliché goes, there is no tomorrow.
He proved that with a dramatic six-hole playoff victory against Bryson DeChambeau. It was one of the more riveting playoffs you’ll ever see and when you’re talking about golf, that’s saying something.