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Can Patrick Cantlay follow up being the first back-to-back BMW Championship winner since that tournament became part of the FedEx Cup Playoffs by being the first back-to-back winner of the competition itself and adding a tidy $18 million to last year’s $15m jackpot?
Not even Tiger Woods could do that but the first and most famous FedEx winner remains one of only two double winners, along with Rory McIlroy, in the 15-year history of the PGA Tour’s end-of-term golden handshake.
It is only for the last three years that this $75m extravaganza has been tweaked and turned into a “handicap”, the idea being to ensure the Tour Championship winner also carried off the FedEx Cup.
That was not guaranteed before. In the two years immediately preceding the switch, Xander Schauffele and Woods won the Tour Championship while the two Justins, Thomas and Rose, walked off with the Cup and the biggest bucks as their reward for through-the-year excellence.
Now there’s a sliding scale of “starter strokes” for the final 29 qualifiers doing battle at East Lake (Zalatoris has withdrawn due to back injury), just outside Atlanta, for a share of the competition’s huge bonus pool. The No. 1 on the points table, Scottie Scheffler, is rewarded for achieving that position with an extra ten shots, No. 2 Cantlay gets eight, No. 3 Will Zalatoris seven, No. 4 Schauffele six, and so on, down to numbers 26 to 30 who get nothing at all and are simply scrapping for the morsels at the bottom of the money tree, well worth having though they are. Quite tasty morsels - even No. 30 wins $500,000.
It’s a similar principle to Formula 1 where the fastest in practice gets pole; here the best is handed a two-shot edge over the next-best and up to ten over the minnows at the bottom - totally opposite to horse racing where the most talented have to concede weight to those who have accomplished less so that, in theory, all the runners finish level and we get thrilling finishes.
To use the opposite method to identify the best golfer in the Tour Championship is seriously flawed. Last year’s “winner”, Cantlay, starting ten up after his BMW triumph, didn’t play the best golf because, on gross scores, Jon Rahm (6), Kevin Na (2) and Schauffele (2) shot a lower number.
It was the same story in 2020: back-marker Dustin Johnson scored 269 - 10 but it was second-placed Schauffele with 265 - 3 who would normally have won.
The only one to buck the system was 2019 hero McIlroy, who started five back of leader Thomas but swamped him by ten with four scintillating rounds of 66-67-68-66
on the venerable 7346-yard par 70 that was legendary Bobby Jones’s home course.
Critical of the ‘handicap’ before last year’s tournament, Cantlay didn’t back down after winning it, saying: “Frankly it’s not a good format but it was actually to my benefit this week. For that I am very grateful.” Fifteen million times grateful.
This time it’s different. He’s playing catch-up, this BMW victory only taking him to second spot on the points table. And with the double-double the week’s big talking point, quiet ‘Patty Ice’ is more in the spotlight than he perhaps cares to be. Yet which of his rivals are in better form? A fourth and eighth in Scotland, a second in Detroit, a grinding victory in Delaware, only that last-round meltdown at the Travelers on the debit side.
He, rather than 5/2 favourite Scheffler, is surely the man to beat. Scottie owes the No. 1 spot to his dazzling spring form. It has been far patchier in recent months with missed cuts at the Travelers and Scottish Open. Fair enough, third place at the BMW was a perfect tune-up but his putting was suspect and he never totally convinced. Besides, he was only 22nd last year.
More to be feared is course specialist and Cantlay’s best pal Schauffele who is my each-way banker at 8/1. Some bookies are even paying down to five places. Just look at what he has achieved at East Lake: 2017 - Winner, 2018 - 7th, 2019 - 2nd, 2020 - 2nd, 2021 - 5th (those last two figures would read 1st and 3rd in any normal tournament).
In real terms, 2-1-3 for the three ‘handicap’ years and 1-7 before that. Compelling stuff. And you have an East Lake master in belting current form (1st Travelers, 1st Scottish Open, 15th Open, 3rd BMW) … starting at -6 means giving two to Cantlay and four to Scheffler - a tough ask but his record suggests he might well be up to it.
Zalatoris had to withdraw with a lower problem on Saturday and forfeited top spot so is hard to support on debut even with a start of seven, while Burns (-5) was only 18th last year and doesn’t seem in quite good enough form to trouble the favourites.
McIlroy won from 5 and now has to do it off 4, conceding six to Scheffler. Possible but Rory will need to putt a lot better than he did in Delaware. More appealing, considering his 132 was the low 36 for the weekend at the BMW, is Rahm whose putting is now back on track.
Starting back on -3, it will take a gargantuan effort for the Spaniard even to get into the mix, but at 16/1 you are getting 4/1 a place which is fair value for a course-proven former World No. 1 trending the right way (fifth and eighth in the first two playoffs).
Two who will begin at -4 capable of shooting the lights out are in-form Tony Finau and Cameron Smith but the Aussie missed the BMW citing hip trouble and looks a risky investment in what may be the LIV-bound star's PGA Tour swansong.
Prepare for some weather delays - there’s thunder in the forecast for three of the four days. Temperatures are to be around 29C.
Tour Championship golf betting tips 2022
- 3pts each-way, Xander Schauffele at 8/1
- 2pts win, Patrick Cantlay at 4/1
- 1pt each-way, Jon Rahm at 16/1
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Celebrating my 52nd year tipping and writing about golf. Tipped more than 800 winners (and more than 8000 losers!). First big winner Lee Trevino at 8-1, 1972 Open at Muirfield. Biggest win £40 each-way Ernie Els at 80-1 and 50-1, 2012 Open. Most memorable: Giving the 1-2-3 at 33-1, 50-1, 33-1 out of 4 tips from a field of 180 in 2006 Pebble Beach Pro-Am. According to one bookmaker “Undoubtedly one of the greatest tipping performances of all time”. And, of course, putting up a 150/1 winner with Stewart Cink in my very first column for Golf Monthly. Lowest handicap 9 Present handicap 35.6. Publications tipped for: Sporting Life, Racing Post, Racing&Football Outlook, Golf World, Golf Weekly, Golf Monthly, Fitzdares Times. Check our Jeremy's latest tips at our Golf Betting tips home page
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