2020 TOUR Championship Early Betting Preview: Target Daniel Berger, Webb Simpson at East Lake
Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images. Pictured: Webb Simpson
Olympia Field CC proved to be tough, but Jon Rahm prevailed and has now moved into second place heading into the FedEx Cup (FEC) Playoff finale, the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club.
Located in Atlanta, Ga., the top 30 in FEC standings make their way to play this par-70, measuring 7,319 yards with Bermuda greens. Similar to last week, the TOUR Championship is a no-cut event. Past winners include Rory McIlroy (x2), Tiger Woods, Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth and Billy Horschel.
Scoring conditions at Olympia Fields CC were harsh, and East Lake has proven to be problematic in the past. With only 30 players in the field, the course still ranked 14th toughest in scoring relative to par last season, registering the same amount of bogeys as The Memorial at Muirfield Village. The rough isn’t as penal as Olympia Fields CC, but the greens should again play firm and fast.
The new scoring system, which the PGA TOUR refers to as a strokes-based bonus, correlates to the FEC standings heading into The TOUR Championship. With the most points, Dustin Johnson will start in first place at 10-under, with second place starting two back at eight-under and descending by a stroke to fifth place. For a full list of where the golfers will start, head on over to the FedEx Cup page on the PGA TOUR website.
Even though golfers like Rory and Tiger have won at East Lake GC multiple times, it doesn’t favor one type of golfer. Kevin Kisner, who ranks outside the top 30 over his previous two dozen rounds on Donald Ross courses, finished third here in 2017 and inside the top 10 last season. Golfers like Rory, Hideki Matsuyama and Xander Schauffele may have a slight advantage with their experience on Ross courses, ranking inside the top-5 in tee-to-green over the previous 24 rounds.
The new format might be challenging for golfers like Ryan Palmer (22nd) or Viktor Hovland (24th), but we shouldn’t be so quick to count anyone out. Chez Revie started in the 25th spot (1-under) last season and finished inside the top 8.
As for my early betting targets this week …
Daniel Berger (28-1)
Berger ended up gaining just under two strokes with his irons on the weekend after a terrible round 2 in which he lost 2.02 strokes with his approach — his second-worst round since the restart. We shouldn’t be worried about his irons at East Lake, as he ranks top-20 in approach since the restart. The course rewards those who can play every shot (as it should) in the bag, and Berger has been elite tee-to-green since the shutdown.
Berger’s campaign to get into the Masters this November may have no better case than if he wins the TOUR Championship.
Webb Simpson (9-1)
One of the overarching themes throughout the restart: the best have been winning. As obvious as it may sound, seven of the top 15 in OWGR have hoisted trophies since June, and Webb has as good a chance as any to win this week.
Webb has put together a spectacular season, with two wins, both of which came on Bermuda greens, and one on a par-70. Simpson elected to skip the BMW Championship to rest up for East Lake, and dropped only two spots, which could potentially end up paying dividends if he wins the TOUR Championship. Webb’s decision to forego Olympia Fields CC shouldn’t sway us away in the slightest and may result in some drift on his number in our favor.
Over the previous 50 rounds, Webb ranks first in Strokes Gained: Total on par-70s and inside the top 20 in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green over his last three tournaments.