Tour Championship expert picks: 4 wagers we really like this week

Do you like Rory McIlroy this week? Our expert does.

Getty Images

And then there were 30.

With each passing week of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, the fields have shrunk and the purses have swelled.

Now comes the grand finale, the Tour Championship, at East Lake Golf Club, in Atlanta, where a gaggle of guys will vie for a giant pot of gold. First place pays a cool $18 million, and dead last isn’t a hardship either. The golfer at the bottom of the leaderboard will walk off with $500,000, and a guaranteed spot in all four majors next year.

scottie scheffler reads putt
Here are the starting positions for all 30 players at the Tour Championship
By: Zephyr Melton

It’s not just any event. And it’s not the same-old format. The Tour Championship features a staggered start, based on the current FedEx Cup standings. The current points leader begins the competition at 10 under; second place begins at eight under; third place at seven under and so on down the line. If you’re keeping score at home, that means Scottie Scheffler will have a two-stroke head start over Patrick Cantlay, followed by Xander Schauffele and Sam Burns — a pack of the world’s best, chasing the current world-number one.

As for our format, we’re keeping it the same by asking our expert prognosticator, Andy Lack, to supply us with his four favorite wagers. And because we like to track public opinion, too, we’re also including data from Chirp, a free-to-play mobile platform (and GOLF.com affiliate) that allows fans to engage with the action through a range of games. You can check out those Chirp stats at the bottom of this page.

Here’s to a profitable final week of the season.

ANDY LACK’S PICKS

Outright Winner (With Starting Strokes): Rory McIlroy (14/1)

Odds Available at BetMGM 

Let’s rewind to the Tour Championship in 2019, when McIlroy started four strokes off the lead, and went on to win by five in runaway fashion. It’s undeniable that the World No. 3 faces an uphill battle this week, starting six strokes behind Scottie Scheffler. Still, my recommendation would be to embrace the variance, as there is little value in betting the leaders.

McIlroy has a sterling resume at East Lake, with six top-10s in eight appearances, a runner-up, and two wins. From a strokes gained and overall consistency standpoint, the four-time winner has been the best player in the world this year. No player has gained more strokes to the field in the four major championships, and McIlroy has put himself in position constantly, finishing in the top 10 in 50% of his starts this season.

Last week, he could have claimed his second victory of the year had the putter been more cooperative, as McIlroy gained 5.9 strokes off the tee and 2.4 strokes on approach. The Northern Irishman’s dominance off the tee is a given, but his iron play this season has also been remarkable. McIlroy has gained over a stroke and a half on approach in 10 straight starts. East Lake is a ball-striker’s course through and through, and there’s no reason to believe that Rory won’t continue to thrive in Atlanta. 

Outright Winner (Without Starting Strokes): Corey Conners (35/1)

Odds Available at BetMGM

While Conners is likely too far back to win the FedEx Cup, I expect him to greatly improve his position on the leaderboard. The Canadian is coming off a fifth-place finish last week at the BMW where he gained 3.6 strokes off the tee, and 5.1 strokes on approach. Conners has the ball on an absolute string right now, and he remains one of the most accurate drivers of the ball in the world. East Lake consistently ranks top five every year in missed fairway penalty due to its sticky and unpredictable Bermuda rough. There may not be a player in this field I trust more to keep the ball in the short grass off the tee this week than Conners, and if the putter can cooperate, the former Valero Texas Open can easily shoot the lowest gross score. 

Top 10: Collin Morikawa (+270)

Odds Available at FanDuel

Morikawa’s 44th-place finish last week at the BMW Championship was misleading, to say the least. Heading into the final stretch on Sunday, the two-time major winner was only three strokes off the lead, before he proceeded to four putt for double bogey from 15 feet, and dunk two wedge shots into the water on the next hole. Outside of one disastrous hole, where last year’s Open Championship winner lost a whopping 4.7 strokes on approach, Morikawa struck his irons extremely well. East Lake is a golf course that rewards accurate driving and elite middle to long iron play, and even in a down year, Morikawa remains one of the world’s best in both of those categories. 

Matchup: Scottie Scheffler (-130) over Patrick Cantlay

Odds Available at DraftKings

This price just feels too cheap on Scottie Scheffler. I believe that the reigning Masters champion will outperform Cantlay this week, even if they were starting on even footing. Yet consider the fact that Scheffler is starting the week already two ahead of Cantlay, and this matchup feels like a slam dunk. Cantlay’s win at the BMW Championship was certainly impressive, but I still have major concerns about him on Bermuda-grass courses. The eight-time PGA Tour winner lowers his baseline on Bermuda significantly, and outside of one strong performance at East Lake last year where he was in peak form, Cantlay has found little to no success at East Lake, and on southeastern Bermuda courses in general. I expect Scheffler, who is coming off an elite ball-striking performance in his own right, to take care of business. 

WHO FANS LIKE TO WIN

The Trifecta game on Chirp calls for users to make three picks: a favorite, a contender, and a long shot. Nearly 500 Chirp users have already made their choices. Here’s a look at the three top vote getters in each category, along with the percentage of support they have received. (Want to play for yourself? Click here!)

Favorites (players ranked 1-20)

Scottie Scheffler (35.43)

Rory McIlroy (30.15)

Patrick Cantlay (16.08)

Contenders (players ranked 21-60)

Xander Schauffele (36.43)

Justin Thomas (20.60)

Will Zalatoris (12.56)

Long Shots (players ranked 61 and higher)

Hideki Matsuyama (20.10)

Cameron Young (19.35)

Sungjae Im (12.06)

NEWSLETTER
josh sens

Josh Sens

Golf.com Contributor

A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.