By Alex Lauzon from the “Course of Life” podcast
It’s the FedEx Cup finale, and the money is FLOWING at East Lake this week as the top 30 take aim at a Tour Championship.
30 LOTTERY WINNERS
If you played well enough to have your name in this week’s field, prepare to be handsomely paid for your hard work on the course this season. The FedEx Cup has certainly upped the ante in playoff prize money, especially with the birth of that other golf league that seems to give away a lot of money. The dollar figures are berserk as this week’s top finisher in the FedEx Cup takes home a whopping $18 million purse. How about $6.5 million to the runner-up, or $1.5 million for 8th place (the average winner’s purse on tour)? Even lowly 30th place (dead last) in Atlanta walks away with half a million in the year-ending money grab. Feast your eyes on the future of golf; it will include absurd prize pools for the world’s best.
KEEP YOUR MONEY (AND GOLF BALL) DRY AT EAST LAKE
East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta has become a familiar host for the Tour Championship for the better part of 25 years. It was the original home track of the great Bobby Jones, and is a fixture on the PGA Tour’s calendar. The course fits the mold of being “tough but fair” with extremely fast-paced greens, and some devilish par threes over water that need to be avoided at all costs this week. The par three 9th hole is drier but always plays over 200 yards and demands a long iron or hybrid. Overall, the par 70 route plays just over 7300 yards, and Georgia weather, as always, will factor into its speed and difficulty.
PICKING FOR THE FEDEX CUP FINALE
The Tour Championship is both loaded and exclusive simultaneously, like your favorite Vegas nightclub that got overran with popularity. With just a 30-man field, it presents a unique scenario where picking a handful or six-pack of players covers up to 20% of the field. You’ll also know clearly who has a chance to win and who doesn’t by earlier in the weekend than your average tour event. Recent champions like Patrick Cantlay, Dustin Johnson, Rory, and Tiger suggest that top-tier players emerge at East Lake, and you have to have the full arsenal to get it done here. Add in that the top 5 are all getting nice head starts on the rest of the field, and it’s hard to get too risky this week with performance picks.
MAKING YOUR PICKS
I’m prefacing my weekly picks based on precisely what I value the most. With every play I make, I’m always taking into account these factors, and for the FedEx Cup finale at East Lake, it’s time to go with the big guns when the money is on the line. With an adjusted leaderboard, it’s increasingly difficult for anyone starting more than five shots back to make noise.
1. Who’s hot and trending – recent high finishes, top 10 streaks, and consistent play are never a bad thing.
2. Horses for courses – players love specific courses, and course familiarity and experience are invaluable in a field of the world’s best.
3. What the numbers tell you this week – while I’m far from analytical, there’s always a tournament darling or two scattered across the golf talk stratosphere that stuns on paper.
4. Intangibles – while this allows for theater of the mind, there’s a mysterious optimism surrounding that feels “due” or if the price looks just suitable for buying.
Last week in Delaware, my Patrick Cantlay pick was clearly the leader on my roster, and others played their way into decent finishes. Cantlay got it done for my second winner in a row, so the picks this past week were another A-for that reason. Let’s make it a three-peat at the season finale.
THE SIX-PACK OF PICKS
(Wanna start a Pick-X pool with your friends? Learn more here! Or, if you’re looking to start your own PGA One-and-Done pool, check those out here) (Hint: the main difference between the two is how many players you’ll pick each week)
1: Patrick Cantlay – Last week’s winner, who is also last year’s winner, has all the makings of a repeat performance. He has two shots to make up on Scottie.
2: Xander Schauffele – Quietly coming into form, this past champion at East Lake hasn’t had his standout moment yet these playoffs.
3: Rory McIlroy – Wouldn’t it be fitting for the PGA Tour’s unofficial spokesman to make a historic run at the flagship playoff event with all eyes watching? His play last week intimated he’s up for the challenge, but he starts six shots back
4: Cameron Young – Going to ride one of my favorite horses one more time this season. He starts seven back but should fare well at this track where irons and fairway woods are at a premium.
5: Justin Thomas – It’s been a quiet playoffs for JT, but he’s got a couple of runner-up finishes at East Lake, and there’s enough of a pot to play well all week regardless of the board.
6: Viktor Hovland – If there’s one guy that could go crazy low and emerge from the back of the top 30 pack, it’s Hovland.
My RYP One-and-Done Pick: Xander Schauffele
Where to watch: Golf Channel and NBC all weekend – Dan Hicks and FedEx cup standings will be familiar sights all week.
Why watch: It’s the playoff finale big money grab to put a bow on the 2021-2022 season!
What to eat: I heard you’re supposed to get your peaches down in Georgia from a friend.
Purse: $75 million
Winner’s Share: $18 million