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Odds and Ends

TOUR Championship: All Signs Point to Sungjae at East Lake

by Patrick McDonald
Updated On: August 31, 2021, 7:18 pm ET

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We are down to 30 for the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club as players will attempt to capture the year’s grand prize. With $15 million at stake, a staggered start is presented in Atlanta, leading to numerous angles through which to attack from a betting perspective. 

One of which is the head-to-head matchup market which is up at PointsBet Sportsbook. Not only are the matchups primarily focused on those players starting from the same position on the leaderboard, but one, maybe even two-strokes apart. 

This could provide for some tasty prices as 72-holes are guaranteed at East Lake for these players. With everyone not named Patrick Cantlay needing to make up some sort of ground, aggressiveness will likely be a common theme in the Peach State. 

Yet players should be cautious as those who find fairways on a regular basis will likely find themselves near the top of the leaderboard by week’s end. That combined with strong iron-play and the ability to handle firm, fast Bermuda greens – despite the recent weather that came through - are the bones of our operation for the TOUR Championship and should provide a strong baseline for which players we will be targeting in head-to-head matchups. 

Head-to-Head Matchups (Odds Via PointsBet):

Sungjae Im (-108) vs. Louis Oosthuizen 

Talk about two players heading in two opposite directions. Coming off a strong summer laced with impressive outings, Oosthuizen withdrew before the Wyndham Championship. It didn’t stop there as the South African chose to forgo the first postseason event in The Northern Trust. Finally making his return to play last week in Baltimore, he didn’t quite inspire confidence in his pre-tournament press conference.  

Still dealing with injury, Oosthuizen struggled at Caves Valley, finishing in a tie for 38th. With his entire bag regressing, tee-to-green and putting, I don’t expect Oosthuizen to put up too much of a fight at East Lake. Instead, it is Im who I believe is in for a big week, as he shot 6-under in last year’s TOUR Championship and should surely improve on that effort. 

As the tee-to-green play has been strong for the better half of a month, having gained more than +5.5 strokes in that department in every start in the month of August. With his game in such a comfortable spot, his chances will likely come down to the flat stick which finally showed some signs of life last week at the BMW Championship. 

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Rory McIlroy (+105) vs. Dustin Johnson 

With a one-stroke deficit to begin the week, McIlroy starts at 2-under while the defending champion, Johnson, sits at 3-under. Yet it is McIlroy who I will turn to in this matchup as he seems to be on the cusp of playing his best golf. An uneasy prospect for Americans in a few short weeks, McIlroy will look to continue his good play at East Lake, a course that has been kind to him in the past. 

Looking to become the first three-time FedEx Cup champion, I reckon eight-strokes may be too much for the Northern Irishman. However, given the state of his game, if his irons come around to a fraction of his early summer production, then he will shoot up the leaderboard. Narrowly losing strokes on approach in Baltimore, McIlroy was still able to capture a top-5 finish relying on other aspects of his game. 

A strong driver of the golf ball, it is the putter that has me excited about McIlroy’s prospects this week. Gaining eight combined strokes in the first two postseason events, the club that hindered him for most of the season appears to finally be an ally. 

It seems like ages ago that Johnson won the TOUR Championship as worlds separate the stretch of golf he was enjoying a year ago compared to now. In what was a memorable run of play, Johnson arrives in Atlanta this year in the midst of some struggles. With inconsistencies riddling his game, I’ll side with McIlroy who not only is in better form, but has performed better on this Donald Ross design. 

Tony Finau (+150) vs. Patrick Cantlay 

I think two-strokes over the course of 72-hole is doable especially when considering a player like Finau who possesses ample firepower. Starting at 8-under, the winner of the first postseason event of the year is seemingly finding his form after a tough summer stretch. With his off-the-tee prowess secured, the irons and putter have now taken shape.

Over the past two months, it is Finau who is second to Cantlay in Strokes Gained: Putting. Take out Cantlay’s historic putting performance from the BMW Championship and Finau possesses the top-spot. Regardless, for a man who has made a career from striking the golf ball, it is extremely encouraging to see a recent putter switch provide so much upside potential. 

Gaining 10-strokes on the greens during the postseason, I believe Finau will be able to leapfrog Cantlay by week’s end as the BMW Champion will in all likelihood have some trouble relative to last week’s performance. Not only that, but Cantlay actually regressed tee-to-green, barely gaining a stroke on the field in Baltimore. 

Combine this with his lack of history at East Lake and with only one way to go on the leaderboard and I expect Cantlay to head in the wrong direction. As it was only two years ago that he came to the TOUR Championship at 8-under before shooting 9-over over the course of 72-holes and finished outside the top-20. While I don’t expect such a poor performance this time, we have seen Cantlay struggle on this Donald Ross design before and wouldn’t be surprised if he does so again. 

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Patrick McDonald

Patrick McDonald joined NBC Sports EDGE in the spring of 2021. When he’s not chasing longshots, he’s chasing his golf ball around the local muni. You can find Patrick on Twitter @AmateurStatus.