Full betting preview, picks for the Tour Championship
Andrew Redington / Getty Images Sport / Getty

For the first time ever, a PGA Tour event will feature a staggered-scoring format at the Tour Championship to ensure the winner at East Lake Golf Club also heads home with the FedEx Cup.

This revision to the season finale creates an interesting scenario from a betting perspective. Thankfully, there are two markets to choose from: Tour Championship winner, which includes starting score, and low 72-hole total, which ignores the FedEx Cup bonus position.

In the outright market, the odds are heavily skewed towards players starting multiple shots ahead of the field (understandably). The low 72-hole-score market, meanwhile, resembles what you'd see during a typical week on Tour.

The course

  • East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta
  • 7,346 yards, par 70
  • Donald Ross design
  • Bermuda grass greens
  • Five par 4s over 450 yards
  • All four par 3s over 190 yards

Getting the ball in play off the tee is crucial at East Lake. Straight drivers of the ball will be rewarded with easier approach shots from the fairway, as the rough can be punitive. Keeping bogeys off the scorecard goes a long way at this tough track, so hitting greens in regulation and a strong short game are key.

Past winners at East Lake

2018: Tiger Woods (-11)
2017: Xander Schauffele (-12)
2016: Rory McIlroy (-12)
2015: Jordan Spieth (-9)
2014: Billy Horschel (-11)
2013: Henrik Stenson (-13)
2012: Brandt Snedeker (-10)

The average winning score at East Lake in the past seven years is slightly below 11-under par. This basically eliminates golfers starting at 2-under or worse before the tournament starts; there simply aren't enough scoring opportunities for these long shots to make up the ground.

Favorites' course history

Player (Odds) 2018 2017 2016
Justin Thomas (5-2) 7 2 6
Patrick Cantlay (9-2) 21 20 DNP
Brooks Koepka (5-1) 26 6 DNP
Rory McIlroy (8-1) 7 DNP
Jon Rahm (14-1) 11 7 DNP
Patrick Reed (16-1) 28 13 24

The top

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Player Odds to Win Starting Score
Justin Thomas 5-2 -10
Patrick Cantlay 9-2 -8
Brooks Koepka 5-1 -7
Rory McIlroy 8-1 -5
Jon Rahm 14-1 -4
Patrick Reed 16-1 -6
Dustin Johnson 25-1 -3
Webb Simpson 25-1 -4
Xander Schauffele 25-1 -4

Justin Thomas enters as the obvious favorite with a two-shot lead before he even hits his first tee shot. While starting at 10-under is a huge advantage, 5-2 to win the Tour Championship is too short a number. On Sunday at Medinah, he displayed how quickly a six-shot lead can vanish, and that was over just 10 holes.

Patrick Cantlay and Brooks Koepka offer a little value at 9-2 and 5-1, respectively. Koepka would be tempting if he had been playing better of late or had a strong record at East Lake, but neither player is worth their price.

Enter Rory McIlroy at 8-1. The Northern Irishman is one of few players in this field who can erase a five-shot hole without needing any of the golfers he's trailing to struggle. He's shown his ability to dominate at East Lake in the past, and as a chaser, his aggressive style could pay off to the tune of $15 million.

Jon Rahm also fits the mold as someone who's never seen a deficit too large to overcome. He can make birdies in bunches and is playing extremely consistently leading into the Tour Championship. Rahm needs some help in order to win, as he starts six back of Thomas, but he presents the best value of the favorites at 14-1.

The next tier

Andrew Redington / Getty Images Sport / Getty
Player To win odds Starting Score
Hideki Matsuyama 33-1 -3
Adam Scott 40-1 -3
Justin Rose 40-1 -2
Matt Kuchar 40-1 -4
Tony Finau 40-1 -3
Rickie Fowler 50-1 -2
Abraham Ancer 66-1 -4
Gary Woodland 80-1 -3
Paul Casey 80-1 -2

As you move further down the betting board, the players' realistic chances of winning the Tour Championship drop drastically and don't match their odds. Hideki Matsuyama (33-1) enters down seven shots to Thomas, five to Cantlay, and four to Koepka. That's a lot of shots to make up against world-class golfers who likely won't all play well below their averages.

However, this is a good range to look at for the alternate line, the low 72-hole total without the FedEx Cup starting scores.

Matsuyama is 16-1 in the alternate market, with Tony Finau (25-1) and Paul Casey (28-1) presenting enticing options. These three aren't notorious winners on Tour, and not seeing their names on top of the leaderboard while posting the low 72-hole score could do wonders for their mentality.

Long shots

Sam Greenwood / Getty Images Sport / Getty
Player To win odds Starting Score
Tommy Fleetwood 100-1 -1
Brandt Snedeker 125-1 -1
Kevin Kisner 125-1 -2
Bryson DeChambeau 200-1 E
Louis Oosthuizen 200-1 E
Marc Leishman 200-1 -1
Sungjae Im 200-1 -1
Corey Conners 250-1 -1
Jason Kokrak 250-1 E
Chez Reavie 300-1 -1
Lucas Glover 300-1 E
Charles Howell III 350-1 E

While digging for long shots is fun and can pay off a considerable amount in regular PGA Tour events, it's an area to avoid this week.

As noted above, the average winning score at East Lake is around 11-under. That means the players starting at 1-under or even would have to, in theory, win the tournament had everyone started at level par while the likes of Thomas, Cantlay, and Koepka play poorly.

If you project the winning score to be around 18-under, which is reasonable given the starting position of some golfers, anyone starting at 2-under has no chance.

Picks to win

Rory McIlroy (8-1)

Jane Barlow - PA Images / PA Images / Getty

McIlroy at 8-1 from a chasing position for four rounds is too intriguing to pass up. His aggressive style favors him when he needs to make up strokes rather than protect a lead.

Taking him to win outright versus the low 72-hole score is also the play to make. It seems more likely that he can overtake four players than an entire field.

Jon Rahm (14-1)

Andrew Redington / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Like McIlroy, an aggressive Rahm can shoot some seriously low scores - and he'll need to do that to dig himself out of his six-shot hole. The Spaniard's recorded seven straight top-11 finishes worldwide and is primed to break through in a big way on the PGA Tour.

Tony Finau (25-1) *without starting score

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The one alternate-line pick to consider is Finau at 25-1. The American has proven he's really good at not winning, as he continually racks up top-five finishes in some of the biggest tournaments on Tour. Perhaps it's a mental thing where he can't make a clutch putt under pressure.

The leaderboard at the Tour Championship will incorporate the starting score, and since Finau enters at 3-under, it's unlikely he will ever be on top. However, he could have the lowest 72-hole score without even realizing.

(Odds courtesy: Bodog)

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Full betting preview, picks for the Tour Championship
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