2021 TOUR Championship Picks, Buys & Fades: Tony Finau & Justin Thomas Fit Mold to Win FedExCup Playoffs Finale
Tom Pennington/Getty Images. Pictured: Tony Finau
It was another epic playoff finish at the BMW Championship, and Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Cantlay went toe to toe down the stretch in Baltimore. They pulled five shots clear of the field and really turned it into a two-way match, even before things got wild and went into playoff holes.
Bryson got to 27-under for the week with a 10-foot putt on the 16th hole and put himself a shot ahead of Cantlay. They would go to the 17th tee with that margin, and DeChambeau hit a very average shot to the rough, just short of the green, but Cantlay did one worse and dunk his tee shot in the pond. It seemed at that point the tournament was all but over, until Bryson duffed his chip and missed the par putt while Cantlay drained an eight footer for par.
The scene at the 17th was a common theme, as a long birdie putt for Cantlay at 18 sent them into a playoff. Bryson had the edge in most of those holes, but he simply couldn’t get a putt to drop for the win. Then, he put a tee shot of his own in the water and had to to scramble to tie. Eventually, Cantlay would put a final dagger in things on the sixth playoff hole with a 21-foot birdie putt, which DeChambeau was unable to match from inside of 10 feet.
Now, the super season has its final tournament in sights as the top 30 make their annual trip to East Lake for the TOUR Championship. It is a unique setup as Cantlay will start the event at 10-under, two shots better than Tony Finau, with scores all down the line from there, before the bottom of that top 30 start at even par and 10 shots back before they tee it up.
We will have a few different markets to bet in this week, as there will be both a tournament winner set and a lowest four-round score set without the pre-tournament strokes. Either way, we want the hot golfer, and there are plenty to choose from this week.
3 Buys for the TOUR Championship
We know what Cantlay did, and I could go there this week, but I actually think I will prefer Tony Finau (+700 at DraftKings in aggregate scoring; he trails Cantlay by two strokes). Finau really shook off the hangover from his first win in five years on Sunday as he had the low round of the day with a 9-under 63.
He gained more than two strokes on the field with his irons, nearly matching his opening round in that aspect. Finau’s game certainly fell off on Friday and Saturday, but I love the resolve he showed to finish strong on Sunday and I think he’ll take that momentum into the following week. Tony will get an up front look of Cantlay as they will tee off together on Thursday with the biggest advantages of the field. If we can get a third consecutive fast start for Finau, he should be in the mix to capture the big prize.
I’ll admit, I have no idea what is going on with Justin Thomas (+1400 at DraftKings). He just simply can’t put a full week together, and even with a top 5 last week at the Northern Trust, he has had a disappointing summer of golf. His performance at Liberty National was his only top 10 dating back to his win at The Players, which is just shocking for the No. 2-ranked player in the world.
Still, here I am ready to buy back in on JT. My buy is in part because I know he hasn’t finished worse than seventh at East Lake in the last five years, but also because he once again flashed some form. His Sunday at Caves Valley was a more familiar Justin Thomas, as he went low with a 6-under 66 to finish inside the top 25. I’ll buy in on the momentum from the final round at the BMW, along with the good vibes of going back to a course he loves.
The best player in the field this week in strokes gained tee to green was not DeChambeau or Cantlay, instead it was the red-hot South African, Erik Van Rooyen. EVR charged his way to a fifth-place finish to make his way to Atlanta for the first time in his career and lock up his entry into some big events to come over the next few years.
He had very little margin for error as he needed a top finish just to have a chance to sneak his way into the top 30, and he was able to make it happen. He’ll definitely be riding high off of a stretch of golf that also includes his first career win, and he makes for an interesting buy for DFS and finishing position markets this week.
3 Fades for the TOUR Championship
Here we are once again, Cantlay. I really don’t have anything against the guy, but looking at these Strokes Gained numbers week in and week out, his performance merited a fade throughout the BMW and even going into Atlanta.
Cantlay finished 28th in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green this week, in a field of just 69 players. He lost more than a stroke to the field in that metric in half of his rounds, but his unconscious putting gained more than 14 strokes on the field throughout the week. The crazy thing is that the putts he drained throughout the playoff holes do not even factor into that Strokes Gained: Putting number.
I’ll add to my fade with the fact that Cantlay hasn’t finished inside of the top 20 in any of his last three trips to East Lake. It seems to be a course that he struggles with, as he’s lost more than two strokes off the tee in two of those three tournaments, and he twice lost more than six strokes to the field on the greens. He may carry that hot flat stick with him throughout the week, but it seems to me he is more likely to struggle once again on the putting surfaces at the TOUR Championship.
I know I am likely to regret this one, but the weekend play of Jon Rahm has me concerned about his game heading to East Lake. He really fell apart in the third and fourth rounds at the BMW Championship, losing more than two strokes to the field tee to green in both rounds.
I expect that most will see and go to his name as one that can quickly make up the deficit he will face starting on Thursday. They certainly are right on the surface, but the way things fell off, I have my doubts about his bounce-back abilities in a week when he will start from behind.
I put this fade in last week, and I will once again as there is clearly something going on with Collin Morikawa. It could simply be the back issues from the Olympics, and that is certainly enough for me to make the fade. I am to the point of a wait-and-see on the Champion Golfer of the Year, as even though he found his irons a bit this weekend, he had nothing else.
Morikawa finished T63 in the 69-man field and continued to be off in his game all week. He will start his week in Atlanta in the 11th position and have a bit of a hill to climb to contend. I just don’t see a reason to go back here this week, when we know he is off and in need of playing much better than the 10 guys ahead of him to even get in the conversation.