The PGA Tour’s best—and their fleet of private jets—will head down South to the house that Bobby built. Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club plays host to PGA’s final surviving 30, all vying for Bobby Jones’ Calamity Jane sterling silver putter (the Tour Championship trophy), not to mention the $15 million in FedEx Cup coinage.
The A-Town stomp…
This year’s Tour Championship format change has Justin Thomas (+225 with FedEx strokes or +800 straight up) already sleeping on a two-shot lead. Thomas is coming off an impressive three-shot victory at last week’s BMW Championship, which was ignited by his third-round, course-record 61.
Shots like this helped Justin Thomas to a course record -11, 61 🦅pic.twitter.com/jxgsRvBDoY
— GOLFTV (@GOLFTV) August 18, 2019
When Thomas pegs the first tee Thursday, he will already be 10-under par, which makes him the clear favorite to stomp out the hopes of his 29 bombing brethren. But what if Thomas can’t handle the heat? Who will RISE UP?
Perched closely to Thomas in this year’s staggered start, are Patrick Cantlay (+450, +1100) and Brooks Koepka (+500, +900). Cantlay (starts at 8-under) also had a strong BMW Championship, with a final-round 65 to finish runner-up to Thomas. The 27 year-old, a two-time winner on Tour, is flying high of late and do not be surprised if that continues at East Lake. Contrary to Cantlay, Koepka (starts at 7-under) did not have the right stuff at the BMW. Why? We all know it takes quite the stage for cantankerous Koepka to come out of his shell. The four-time major champion cleaned up last week’s dismal display with a final-round 67. The Tour Championship coupled with the $15 million FedEx Cup delivery is motivation enough for Brooks to actually practice ahead of time, right? Right. Between the two, I boast Brooks will be the best bet to soar with Thomas this week.
Who will come from the back to even the score early? Hideki Matsuyama (+3300, +1600) held the Medinah course record for a whopping 24 hours last week before Thomas bettered it by two strokes. Matsuyama had a pair of 63s at the BMW Championship, which earned him third-place finish.
Hideki Matsuyama records his second 9-under round of the week at Medinah. 🎌
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 18, 2019
When Matsuyama tees up Thursday in Atlanta, he will be a staggering seven shots behind Thomas, but if he can string a few low rounds together early, it will be Matsuyama mania come Sunday. Look for Hideki to put the full package together this week, making him well worth the extra delivery expense.
The Xander shuffle…
Xander Schauffele (+2200, +2075) and his loveable disposition bring a 4-under start this week, six shots back. The four-time PGA tour winner has all the moves to go low at East Lake. At the 2017 Tour Championship, a 23-year-old Schauffele bested Thomas to win by one stroke. Will history repeat itself? Can Xander groove his way to another Calamity Jane trophy? As much as we yearn to see the likeable people succeed, unfortunately this week, the proverbial “nice guys finish last” will ring true for young Xander.
The MARTA money…
The new format gives all the advantage to juggernaut Justin Thomas. Identical in stature to East Lake’s famed Bobby Jones, Thomas will breeze his way through the city’s oldest golf course, just as Jones did countless times before. Given that the favorite peach juice is not quite worth the squeeze, prop bets are the way to go this week. Thomas will wield the FedEx Cup trophy, but my tramway tender will be on the resurging 2012 Tour champion Brandt Snedeker (+900) to finish in the top five.