Careful, Jordan Spieth. Disappointing golf careers tend to sneak up on the players having them.
Greg Norman, a 1990s/2000s poster-boy for underachievement on the links, famously said he went to the beach at had a “long good cry” after Larry Mize made a miracle bunker shot to beat him at Augusta National. Then he hit the parade again, again, and again…and never got past the second line.
Norman was a fine competitor at the British Open, winning 2 times at the Royal & Ancient Club’s marquee event. But each time, he would be a tight-odds favorite for the PGA Championship or other upcoming American majors…none of which he ever won. Few realized it in any one specific season early in his career…but the Shark would go down in history as lacking big-tourney bite.
Spieth has won the U.S. Masters and the U.S. Open, and won the FedEx Cup in 2015. He has spent more-than-ample time as World #1. However, not only has the 25-year-old Texan failed to win a major tournament in 2018, he hasn’t finished 1st once even at a garden-variety Tour stop. By making an over-confident choice to minimize his overall playing commitment, he has played his way into a costly embarrassment while other PGA pros flourish.
For the first time in his career, Spieth will miss the Tour Championship and the final FedEx Cup playoff. Worse, he faces a fine and possible suspension for no reason except a faulty season-strategy.
Can the PGA Tour really suspend a top player for not winning? We’re about to find out.
Tour Championship: Easy Draw, Tough Field…and High Stakes
The Tour maintains a rule that its qualified linksmen must play at least 25 tournaments by September. Having won the tournament and the FedEx Cup before, Spieth never imagined that he wouldn’t be playing at East Lake in Atlanta this weekend. So he scheduled only 24 other PGA appearances.
But he now sits 31st in the FedEx Cup Standings following a 3-over 73 in the final round at the BMW Championship. Spieth has failed to finish in the top 10 in his last 5 outings. Spieth will have to regain his form heading into the Ryder Cup since he will watch the Tour Championship from the sideline, but he may be fined as much as $20,000 and punished with a brief suspension for not making enough tee boxes.
That could help leave the door open for other FedEx Cup hopefuls in 2018. It’s technically easier to win the Tour Championship than almost any other PGA Tour stop, since there are only 30 men in the field. A draw like that beats a typical Thursday scenario where other 100 golfers are vying to play better. But what a star-studded field of 29 each professional must compete against.
Let’s look at Tiger, Rory, D.J. and a few other likely Sunday winners headed into this year’s showdown.
Tour Championship and FedEx Cup Odds
It’s easy to get confused trying to wager on the PGA Tour’s climactic event. Odds-to-win are often posted for merely the Cup, or merely the Tour Championship, leaving bettors to puzzle out which of the 2-in-1 competitions they’re putting cash on.
Thankfully, the best golf betting sites do an excellent job of delineating between the 2 markets. Many sites have chosen to pause their Cup markets and focus on the tournament itself, including our friends at BetOnline. However, odds for FedEx winner should show up online again by Thursday.
Also, remember that having a great chance to win the stand-alone tournament doesn’t necessarily amount to a solid opportunity to win the FedEx Cup. The PGA Tour uses a NASCAR-like system (the current differences between the formats are discussed here) in which a Tour Championship entrant needs to either have a top spot in the FedEx standings headed into East Lake (making a clinch of both trophies easy with a win) or hope for a tournament win plus a whole lot of help – “help” as defined by other golfers atop the standings finishing 15th, 20th or worse over 4 rounds in Georgia.
This isn’t a comprehensive list of everyone atop the futures board, but a closer look at several players whom I think have the best chances to win.
Dustin Johnson (+800 Odds-to-Win Tour Championship at BetOnline)
Dustin Johnson is in prime position as he enters the Tour Championship ranked 4th in the FedEx Cup standings. He will attempt to take home his first FedEx Cup after finishing 2nd place in 2016. Johnson has performed well at East Lake, finishing 5th in 2013, tied for 5th in 2015, and tied for 6th in 2016.
As usual, D.J.’s putting isn’t world class all the time, but he’s so powerful off the tee and accurate on short approaches that it doesn’t matter. Other golfers must often scramble for pars, but The Cheetah makes easy pars on the holes he doesn’t birdie.
A win at the Tour Championship would ensure a FedEx Cup title for D.J. no matter what the other golfers do. Johnson can also potentially take home the Cup with a 2nd place finish. Johnson has had an excellent 2018 on the PGA Tour, winning 3 times.
Justin Rose (+800)
Justin Rose was my upset pick to win the Open Championship and fell short despite a thrilling back 9 on Sunday at Carnoustie. He is currently ranked World #1 but backed-into the honor after losing to Keegan Bradley in a playoff at the BMW Championship. Rose also came in 2nd behind enigmatic Bryson DeChambeau at the Dell Technologies tourney in Boston and is #2 in the FedEx standings.
A win this week would result in the accurate-hitting 38-year-old Englishman winning the FedEx Cup and a $10 million bonus. Players value major championships above all else, but they can’t say winning the FedEx title isn’t lucrative.
Rory McIlroy (+900)
Rory finds himself in 17th place in the FedEx Cup Standings as he enters the Tour Championship. He still clings to a long-odds shot of winning the Cup, but he must prevail at East Lake and get some help across the board from multiple players near the top of the FedEx Cup standings.
McIlroy’s swing has been consistent throughout the course of the playoffs. He came in 5th in the BMW Championship and tied for 12th at the Dell Technologies Championship. Rory won the FedEx Cup in 2016.
Justin Thomas (+1100)
The defending FedEx Cup champion seeks to become the 1st player to win back-to-back FedEx Cups and only the 2nd to claim multiple Cups. He currently sits 5th in the standings heading into the Tour Championship, but a win would still clinch the season trophy.
Thomas nearly repeated last year, finishing 2nd at East Lake. Thomas has matched Johnson with 3 PGA Tour trophies during the season and won the Bridgestone Invitational. His confidence should be trending upward, always a key factor on Tour courses where golfers must pile-up birdies when they can.
Tiger Woods (+1200)
Tiger’s 2018 season demonstrated the limitations of golf media and sportsbook handicapping, as well as his enduring popularity and massive online following. He was given short odds to win The Masters Championship at Augusta and failed to, leading to his betting lines lengthening as the season went on and pundits wrote him off yet again. He almost egg-faced them all (and cost casino bosses a lot of money) with a near-win at the PGA Championship, for which his futures line was 28-to-1.
Woods can win the FedEx Cup, but it would take a miracle. He’s a much better bet to win the stand-alone tournament over 4 rounds of stroke play.
Jason Day (+2200)
Day was on top of his game early in the season after taking-home the title at the Farmers Insurance Open and the Wells Fargo Championship. It has been a different story in the FedEx Cup Playoffs as he has not cracked the top 20 and was cut at the Dell Technologies Championship. He enters the Tour Championship placed 12th in the FedEx Cup standings and has a chance to best his personal mark of 3rd rank for a playoff season, but winning the Cup would take a 1st place finish plus a lot of help. Day has played well at East Lake but has a hard time making enough birdies on the weekend to rise above the “clumps” that form on the low end of the leaderboard.
Bryson DeChambeau (+1800)
Bryson DeChambeau has been on an unfathomable hot streak during the FedEx Cup playoffs. It has catapulted him to 1st place in the FedEx Cup standings and made his line-to-win the 10M bonus far shorter than usual at sportsbooks and exchanges.
An up-and-down player who has suffered from distractions in the past, DeChambeau took home the trophies at the 2018 Northern Trust and Dell Technologies Championships with amazing streaks of under-par play and a putter that drains sand saves like it’s a day on the beach. Another playoff win at the Tour Championship obviously gives him the title, but he could still realistically win with merely a top-6 finish. He is only 24 years old and could be golf’s next rising superstar.
2018 Tour Championship: My Picks
You have to like DeChambeau to win at East Lake. An older golfer might be content with a 2nd-place finish so long as he wins the FedEx Cup and the money – Justin Rose admitted as much after coming off the course last week.
But the 24 year old front-runner may turn out to be like a Moe Norman or a Gary Player type – someone whose downs are way down and whose ups are sky-high. He might turn around and win the Tour Championship just for the hell of it, even if it is apparent that he doesn’t need an outright win to earn the $10,000,000 by Sunday.
For a FedEx Cup winner, look for markets with decent potential payoffs on Justin Thomas or Dustin Johnson at your favorite betting site or exchange.