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$18 Million Is Up For Grabs At The PGA Tour Championship At East Lake

Icon Sportswire. Getty Images.

Programming note from Banksy on Wednesday at 2 PM ET: Gonna be adding something new to the blog this week. I'm on site at East Lake (thanks to the good folks at 2K Sports, who are dropping an awesome golf game October 11th, pre-order now) so I'm going to be recording a few videos that more or less summarize what I've written below. I know a lot of people love these blogs, but these types of blogs don't exactly pile up the clicks. So it's time for me to try to supplement them in a way that's consumable in more formats and more monetizable… if that's a word. The type of stuff that I know will help to get me hired full-time so that I can truly dive in headfirst and elevate golf gambling at Barstool Sports to the level it belongs. So with that said, there will be some videos peppered in as I go shoot them selfie-style out on the course this afternoon and embed them in the blog. As always, thanks for reading and follow @BarstoolBanks on Twitter and Instagram. God bless.

This is it! Season all comes down to this weekend at the Tour Championship at East Lake. These guys have been jockeying for position all year to accumulate FedEx Cup points and survive and advance to the Tour Championship for a shot at the $18 million prize. 

The standings have earned these guys their positioning to start the week. I keep going back and forth on the staggered stroke thing, which is in its 4th year. The last year the system was different, Tiger Woods won the 2018 Tour Championship, yet Justin Rose took home the FedEx Cup by making birdie on the 18th hole. I don't think it's talked about enough how close Tiger was to not just winning that iconic Tour Championship, but also taking home the hardware/payday for the entire damn season. Regardless, it's bizarre as hell to give out two trophies. It felt equally weird as hell to make the shift in 2019, but I think it adds a little more gas to the BMW as guys jockey for strokes, and it aligns everyone's efforts down the stretch at East Lake. So I guess I'm in. 

Here's your leaderboard (scratch Will Z at -7, everyone else sticks) as we start on Thursday, along with the Tour's primer on how it all works: 

Last year, Patrick Cantlay was top dog at -10 after winning the BMW and was able to parlay that into a narrow one-stroke win over Jon Rahm, who had started at -6. Rahm (along with Kevin Na) shot the lowest 72 hole score of the week but came up just short. Turns out that COVID withdrawal when he had the Memorial Tournament in the bag cost him the points he would've needed to have started the week close enough to catch (and pass) Patrick Cantlay. Pretty ridiculous if you ask me.

In 2020, Dustin Johnson was the leader going into last year's Tour Championship and received the -10 head start. He finished the job at -21 to win the Tour Championship, while Xander Schauffele was actually the low scorer for the week by 3 strokes with a final score of 265.

In 2019, Rory McIlroy won the Tour Championship by shooting the lowest round of the week (267) after starting in 5th with a -5 score. Justin Thomas was the leader going in at -10, and ultimately finished T-3 at -13. So with a very small sample here, there's evidence to support that while Scottie Scheffler has a strong advantage there at the top of the leaderboard, there's also no guarantee that he's going to cakewalk to $18 milly.

I've done the digging so that you don't have to. Might be a bit overboard but I've got all 3 years of leaderboards under this format, both by finishing score to par (including the staggered start) AND by lowest score that week.

2021 Final Leaderboard

2021 Best Scores (see score totals on far right)

2020 Final Leaderboard

2020 Best Scores (see score totals on far right)

2019 Final Leaderboard

2019 Best Scores (see score totals on far right)

Recent Winners

 The Course

East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, GA is a par 70 measuring 7,346 yards. It's most well known for having been Bobby Jones' club. It's been said that his first and final rounds were played here. Started in 1904, it's gone through a variety of re-designs and tweaks over the years, but is primarily regarded as a Donald Ross design. It hosted its first Tour Championship in 1998 and was named the permanent location for it starting in 2004.

Sedgefield (Wyndham Championship) and Detroit GC are your two other Donald Ross designs on Tour. All 3 of these are courses that generally give everyone in the field an opportunity to score - they're not overpowered by length… but by no means are they easy. East Lake features 74 bunkers and 6 water hazards on the property, which is most prominent on the dangerous 8th tee shot. That's one that separates the men from the boys. The Bermuda greens are typically some of the quickest on Tour, which is typical of golf in Georgia. I watched guys nudge putts all day Tuesday on the 18th green and those babies are FAST.

Best Hole - 18th hole, 590 yard Par 5

Kevin C. Cox. Getty Images.

The 18th hole at East Lake is heckin sweet. When I think about hitting high draws on the range, I think about this hole and the way it slopes right to left down the hill towards the lake. A good drive on the right line will leave you a bit of a downhill lie in the fairway, but a good look at getting home in two. The opportunity to make up multiple strokes down the stretch here is what I like about it so much. The 8th hole I mentioned before is a beast, but there's too much on the line here coming home for this hole not to be the pick.

Plus we've watched so much golf history happen on this hole, especially after they flipped the nines at East Lake and made this the finishing hole. Who could forget 2018?

The Weather

The weather looks reaaal shaky out there all week. That'll soften up the greens, but obviously threatens continuous play. Good news is that this field is only 29 players, so it's not like they've got to cram in a ton of golf into 4 days. They should be able to find pockets between this weather to get this thing done by Sunday if need be.

TV Coverage

The Trophy

Kevin C. Cox. Getty Images.

This is a trophy that we see all year in the form of logos, promos, etc. It represents the FedEx Cup and the PGA Tour as a whole. I think there's a lot of apathy extended towards the FedEx Cup as a whole, but I'm a fan. I'm in on anything that gives me one more thing to track, one more piece of action to watch or bet on. The FedEx Cup does that. I know it doesn't draw in the casual sports fan like the 4 majors do and probably never will, but that's fine. Those who watch golf closely should be embracing this thing. It may not be perfect and you can disagree with the way the points or schedule is laid out, but right now this is the best we got and I think it's pretty damn good. 

As for the trophy itself? I guess it's fine. 7/10. Would go a lot better with a big novelty check though.

The Boards

To Win The Tour Championship

To Post The Lowest 72-Hole Score

Predictably, Scottie Scheffler is your favorite to finish the job at +200. I don't think the advantage is so much about being 2 shots ahead of the next guy as much as it is being 6+ strokes over 25 of the other 29 guys. It's the wrong mentality for him to come out of the gates defensively, but it's a different mental battle when you really know there's only 3 guys (now that Will Z is out) that are in the same ballpark as you.

Rory is the favorite to post the lowest score at +700. He's been the best player on Tour in strokes gained since Jan. 1 and he has some good history here to back him up as the favorite.

HOWEVA. Up down left and right, I love Xander Schauffele +650 to win the FedEx Cup AND +1000 to shoot lowest score this week. This place just speaks to the X man. Nobody is even in the same stratosphere as him when it comes to East Lake.

His play has been strong all summer since those back to back wins in late June/July and he finished T-3 in last week's BMW. Also this stat is just silly.

Other Plays

X To Finish Top 5 (without starting strokes) +200 - All in on him. Can't express that enough.

Tony Finau Group B Winner +335 (over Rahm/Sungjae/Fitz/JT, no starting strokes involved) - Guy is still scorching hot and I watched him prep around the 18th green on Tuesday. Guy is dialed in.

Collin Morikawa Group D Winner +250 (over Conners/Horschel/Wise/Harman, no starting strokes involved) - Don't think, just shoot on this one. Morikawa is in a different class than these other guys.

Collin Morikawa over Corey Conners -114 (Tournament Bet) - These guys being a pick em is a joke. Take the money.

Top European Viktor Hovland +750 - His competition here is Rory (+130), Rahm (+210), Fitzpatrick (+350) and Straka (+1400). Hovland should be neck and neck with Fitzy in my eyes and not twice as long in the odds.

Viktor Hovland (-110) over Joaquin Niemann - Niemann is a great young golfer (youngest in this field, actually) but the Hov is better.

Winner To Eagle 72nd Hole +3300 - It's a Par 5. IT's a reachable par 5. I watched some guys on Tuesday hit some approach shots from the fairway to within 15 feet. It's certainly doable. Let's make it happen.

That's what I got for this week. Thanks for reading all season. Plenty more where that came from.