Well, last week didn’t go so hot. None of our four picks hit, and our pick to win (Jon Rahm) finished in the bottom half of the 50-man field at the BMW Championship. But all that means is the only way from here is up, so it’s back to the well for the Tour Championship, which tees off Thursday at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
One note before we start. The Tour Championship utilizes a staggered format, meaning Scottie Scheffler (first in the FedEx Cup standings) will start at 10-under-par, Viktor Hovland (second) will start at 8-under-par, Rory McIlroy (third) will start at 7-under-par, and so on.
We are utilizing the odds for the net division, but you can place wagers on the gross results as well. For the full staggered-start leaderboard, click here.
As a refresher, we have 100 nuggets at our disposal, and are picking one winner, one darkhorse, a top 5 lock and a top 10 lock off the odds sheet. All lines are courtesy of the DraftKings Sportsbook.
Pick to win: Rory McIlroy (+330, 30 nuggets)
Last year, he became the first three-time winner of the FedEx Cup. Why not make it four? In nine starts since a tie for 47th at the Wells Fargo Championship in early May, McIlroy has finished in the top 10 in every event he’s played. Factor in a win at the Genesis Scottish Open in July, and that he is second on tour in total strokes gained (+2.22), and the Northern Irishman is playing some of the most complete golf of his career.
That is before we even mention his sterling record at East Lake. Since the staggered-start format was implemented in 2019, McIlroy has been under par in 13 of 16 rounds at the Atlanta venue. In his two Tour Championship victories in that timeframe, in 2019 and 2022, McIlroy started the week five and six strokes back, respectively.
Now, with only three shots between him and Scheffler (the favorite at +140), McIlroy is primed for another trophy. Go with the chalk here, folks.
Darkhorse: Matthew Fitzpatrick (+4000, 10 nuggets)
Given his resumé, Fitzpatrick is a dark horse the same way Joey Chestnut is a vegetarian, but the odds are the odds, so we are playing the board here. The Englishman, coming off a tie for second at the BMW Championship, enters the week six back of Scheffler at 4-under-par. That would match the farthest a player has come back to win in the four years of the staggered format — McIlroy last year.
Until last week, it had been a relatively quiet couple months for the 2022 U.S. Open champion — not an awful stretch, but one that featured just two top 10s and a best finish of joint-ninth at the Memorial Tournament in June. At Olympia Fields Golf Club, though, we saw a different Fitzpatrick, as the 28-year-old led the field in putting strokes gained and finished fifth in approach strokes gained.
That’s a formula that works anywhere, and if he is in that same ballpark with his irons and putter this week, Fitzpatrick could be the guy to challenge from the chasing pack.
Top 5 lock: Xander Schauffele (+280, 40 nuggets)
Death, taxes and Xander Schauffele playing well at the Tour Championship. Dating back to 2017 (his rookie year on tour), here are the 29-year-old’s finishes at the season finale: win, tie for seventh, solo second, tied for second, tied for fifth, solo fourth.
He isn’t the flashiest player on tour, but he makes a bunch of birdies and has just one finish outside the top 25 dating back to March. Part of the group in a tie for 11th at 3-under-par, Schauffele is just two shots behind Lucas Glover, who occupies solo fifth.
He might be too far back to win the whole thing, but with his track record at East Lake, +280 is a steal for a top five. Lock this one in and do not think twice.
Top 10 lock: Sunjae Im (+230, 20 nuggets)
The sweet-swinging Im is one of only five players to make the Tour Championship in each of the past five years, as noted by CBS Sports’ Kyle Porter on Sunday. At 2-under-par and in a tie for 16th, Im has his work cut out for him if he wants to get into the mix for the title at East Lake, but a sizable deficit did not stop him from nearly nabbing the $18 million prize last year.
Starting at 4-under-par, Im fired rounds of 67, 65, 66 and 66 to finish alongside Scheffler in second place, just a shot back of McIlroy. While Scheffler and McIlroy took the spotlight during their memorable Sunday battle, it was Im who kept plodding along and making birdies, nearly snatching the title in the process.
East Lake is a layout that values driving accuracy just as much as driving distance, which plays into Im’s hands — he is 33rd on tour in fairways hit (63.4%). Given that tidbit, along with his 2022 Tour Championship performance, Im finishing in the top 10 is well within reason.