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PGA Picks: Tour Championship Odds and Predictions
by - 9/18/2013

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Hunter Mahan

Look, I get that golfers are independent contractors and thus can play when and if they choose. No one is paying their salaries, other than some sponsorship money, and they are responsible for all expenses to travel, pay the caddie, etc. Still, how can anyone take the four-event FedEx Cup playoff seriously if a player can win the $10 million prize despite missing one of the four tournaments? Anyone who thinks golfers are athletes and that playing four tournaments in a row is hard work is clueless.
 
That brings me to Zach Johnson. He missed the playoff-opening Barclays because of his brother's wedding. No problem there, and good for Zach. He was high up enough in the points to start off that it likely wouldn't hurt him in making the Tour Championship. And Johnson proved that point moot by winning the BMW Championship outside Chicago in Monday's weather-delayed finish. I personally believe that the PGA Tour should not let any player who doesn't play in all four events eligible for the FedEx Cup -- unless said player wins a tournament in the playoffs. Tiger Woods has done this previously as well, and Steve Stricker also skipped the season-opening Barclays yet qualified for the Tour Championship.

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Perhaps the big news at the BMW was that Jim Furyk shot a 59 in Round 2 and was leading yet again in a final round of a tournament this year but gagged again. He finished third, three shots behind Johnson. Alas, I didn't take Zach on any prop. I did get Stricker on both a Top 10 (+160) and Top 5 (+400). Also got Stricker (-130) head to head over Jason Dufner. My winning pick was Luke Donald at 33/1 playing on his home course, and he finished T4, enough to sneak into the Top 30 in points to qualify for the Tour Championship. I also recommended Donald and any head-to-head prop.

Johnson was 27th in points and jumped to 4th; Donald was 54th and jumped to 29th; Nick Watney moved from 34th to 12th. Donald and Watney were the only two outside the Top 30 to get inside. Those who were in and fell out were Harris English (28th to 31st) and Lee Westwood (30th to 41st). Westwood is among some big names who won't play this week. Bubba Watson finished 37th, Rickie Fowler 38th, Rory McIlroy 50th and Ernie Els 68th.

The Top 5 in points heading to East Lake in Atlanta are Tiger, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Johnson and Matt Kuchar. All you need to know about each of them is that a win guarantees the FedEx Cup. No one has repeated as FedEx Cup winner, and it would take Brandt Snedeker to win this tournament for the second year in a row and get some help from all the Top 5 -- for example, Tiger would have to finish fifth or worse -- to be the first. Snedeker is the first reigning Cup winner to even qualify for the following season's Tour Championship. Technically, all 30 players in the field can win the FedEx Cup with a victory in the tournament but it would take all but a miracle for guys past about 15th. Needless to say, there will be no cut this week.

The PGA Tour Player of the Year is on the line here as well between Tiger, Scott and to a lesser extent Phil Mickelson (No. 8 in points). If any of that trio wins the tournament and the Cup, he might win POY honors. Woods has won this tournament twice, including torching the course with a tournament-record 23-under in 2007. They toughened up East Lake after that, and the lowest score to win since was Snedeker's 10 under a year ago. Johnson holds the course record of 60 in 2007, but it would be a shocker if anyone approached that number this weekend.
 
Remember, this is the final event of the 2013 PGA Tour season, with the new wraparound season starting after the Presidents' Cup. Of course, I will preview those as normal.

Golf Odds: Tour Championship Favorites

Tiger is the 5/1 favorite to win this week at Bovada, which is nothing new. I think sites are just placing these low odds so Woods will take a ton of action and they can clean up. He hasn't won since early August but was a solid T11 last week. Tiger does love this course as his stroke average of 67.42 in the past six years is easily the best. Since 2000, his worst finish is eighth, which came last year.

Scott is 10/1. He won here in 2006 but has just one Top-15 since then at East Lake. The Aussie also hasn't played great since winning the playoff-opening Barclays. Mickelson (14/1) and then a trio of Stenson, Hunter Mahan and Justin Rose (16/1) round out the favorites. Lefty has an average finish of 35th in five events since his British Open win. Stenson has never played this tournament before. Mahan will become the only golfer to play in every tournament in FedEx Cup playoff history this week. He has three Top-10s in his past six trips to East Lake. Rose was runner-up here to Snedeker a year ago.

PGA Picks: Tour Championship Predictions

Americans have mostly dominated this tournament and have won the past four. I think that's a lock again with an American the -275 favorite among nationalities. I also like a playoff as the winning margin (+275) as two of the past five have gone that route.

With such a small field, Bovada is only offering Top 4 props. Go “yes” on Tiger (+110) and Furyk (+350). There isn't one on Mahan as of this writing (maybe other books), but I like him there as well. Head to head, take Tiger (-185) over Lefty (+145), Rose (-115) over Stenson (-115), Johnson (-115) over Donald (-115) and Furyk (-115) over Jason Day (-115).

I honestly am going to bet on two guys to win this week: Mahan and Furyk (18/1). Mahan has played better every week since withdrawing from the Canadian Open for the birth of his child. He was T4 last week. Furyk absolutely deserves this after flubbing yet another potential win last week. His last Tour victory remains the 2010 Tour Championship when he won the FedEx Cup. He always plays well at East Lake. I still think Woods wins the FedEx Cup because neither Furyk (11th in points) nor Mahan (No. 15) can without Tiger finishing outside the Top 5 at a minimum.

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