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2014 Tour Championship Preview

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The first wrap around season comes to a close this weekend as 30 golfers will vie for the $10M check awarded to the overall winner. It’s been a hell of a season and it should wrap up nicely at East Lake. Last year Henrik Stenson continued his hot streak to win this thing as well as the European Tour’s version of the FedEx Cup Championship. This year we should be in for a wild tournament and one hell of a Sunday.

The points have reset so Chris Kirk has 2500, Billy Horschel has 2250 on down to Gary Woodland who will be starting with 210 points. If anyone inside the top five wins this event at East Lake they will be ensured the $10M check and crown of Tour Champion however each of the 30 golfers will have an opportunity to win it all if things fall their way.

Going Out

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Hole 1 Par 4 424 yards

The opening hole is a scoring hole but of course accuracy, a good game plan and the right mindset is needed. The best opportunity to score is to get off the tee on the left side of the fairway to set up an approach shot into a green guarded by two bunkers on the right, one is quite deep, and one on the left. It’s not the most difficult hole but any errant shots will require a very difficult up and down to save par.

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Hole 2 Par 3 214 yards

This par three plays a bit shorter than the yardage since it is slightly downhill. The common theme at East Lake is that you need to hit the ball past the hole to make it stick on the green as most, including this one, slope dramatically from back to front. Toss in a bunker short of the green and it becomes of the utmost importance that you strike the ball well and trust the yardage.  


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Hole 3 Par 4 390 yards

This short par four will see most players hit fairway wood off the tee leading into an approach shot with a short iron. But again players will need to fly the green to avoid some bunkers short and give themselves a shot at birdie. However this one isn’t all that easy given the numerous slope changes on the green that makes it very difficult to read.


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Hole 4 Par 4 440 yards

Getting off the tee to the left side of the fairway is very important on this hole as it is guarded by two fairway bunkers on the right side. But this is tough fairway to hit given how tight it is. Depending on where the pin placement is this can be a scoring hole despite how long it is but the green slopes from left to right so a left pin placement is very difficult to score on while a right pin placement allows players to hit a fade and chase it down towards the pin. 


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Hole 5 Par 4 520 yards

Traditionally this hole plays as a par 4 but for the Tour Championship it has been made into a par four. While it will play a bit downhill and shorter than the posted yardage the approach shot will require a long iron off of a downhill lie making it very difficult to keep on the green allowing a bid for a birdie.


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Hole 6 Par 3 209 yards

What a terrifying hole. This green is basically an island green that will have the wind pushing balls out to the right over the water. The lone bailout is into a left greenside bunker but that just leaves another terrifying shot back to the wind towards the water.


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Hole 7 Par 4 434 yards

The par 4 seventh is a swooping right to left dogleg that has a fairway bunker on the right side, punishing any drive that stays straight. An accurate drive won’t let players off the hook just yet since the elevated two tiered green is fronted by a mass of bunkers and is blind to players hitting their approach shots.

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Hole 8 Par 4 405 yards

While it may be thought of a birdie hole this dogleg left often deters players from cutting the corner with tall trees and fairway bunkers. Then the approach shot is into a small, firm green fronted by bunkers and surrounded by thick rough.

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Hole 9 Par 5 600 yards

This long par 5 can be reached in two but there are hazards galore to watch out for. The likely route will be a fairway wood off the tee and then a layup short of a long fairway bunker to allow an easy wedge shot over the deep bunkers fronting the green and that will also take away the chance of going long into the deep rough which is a really difficult up and down. Most players should play this one safe and head to the back nine with a birdie and their chin up.

Coming Home

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Hole 10 Par 4 469 yards

This is the second par five that has been cut down to a par four for this tournament. The ideal place off the tee is on the left side of the fairway to allow players to see the putting surface from their approach shot. This green slopes severely from back right to front left so getting hung up on the high side of the pin makes for one hell of a tough lag putt.


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Hole 11 Par 3 197 yards

While most players should be able to hit the middle of the green, they shouldn’t be able to really challenge the flagstick since there is a large oak tree guarding the right and a bunker that cuts into the green on the left. It is a very deep green and the back side isn’t visible from the tee but most players should be looking to hit the middle of the green and hope to make a difficult swooping putt for birdie, if not escape with par.


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Hole 12 Par 4 391 yards

This short par four should be attacked off the tee with a fairway wood to provide accuracy to avoid the overhanging tree on the left side and the fairway bunker on the right. Once clear from there a short iron will be required for the approach shot. Birdie should be expected from all of these guys on this one.

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Hole 13 Par 4 476 yards

We should see some bombs off this tee. It is set up for a fade from right to left off the tee but will punish any players that turn over too much since there are bunkers on the left side of the fairway. There are bunkers on either side of the front of the green that will need to be navigated on this long hole but ultimately birdie is very obtainable.


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Hole 14 Par 4 442 yards

This is just a straightforward driving hole. It is dead straight from tee to green but the green itself is the tricky part. It is two tiered and slopes from back to front, like most here, so the pin placement will determine how to approach this green. Either way birdie is what is expected out of these guys on this hole.


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Hole 15 Par 5 525 yards

While this is a rather large dogleg right this remains one of the easiest holes on the course, so easy that par should drop a shot to the field.

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Hole 16 Par 4 481 yards

This is another straight away driving hole. The issue with this is that the fairway narrows to just 25 yards in the landing zone. There are some greenside bunkers that can gobble up errant approach shots, but birdies should be dropping on this hole.


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Hole 17 Par 4 455 yards

With water out to the left the winds should be pushing the ball from right to left, but the fairway is large enough to handle a slight mishit. The tricky part of this hole is the green that has a distinctive ridge cut into the middle of the green that will make it very difficult to get the ball to the back pin positions.


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Hole 18: Par 5 551yds

What an exciting finish this is going to be. This hole is another monster dogleg, from left to right, with out of bounds down the entire right side of the fairway and heavy rough on the left. Then there is the green which sits down underneath three giant bunkers on the left side, two on the right side and more heavy rough behind the green. I think there may have been just two or three guys that have had leads big enough that I would be confident enough heading to the 18th tee here. We could actually see a three or four shot swing on the final hole Sunday afternoon.




Stay Away From

Webb Simpson 32-1

I’m not a fan of his game. I feel like he gets too much praise for a guy that has one big win and that came in the 2012 US Open in which he got in early and the rest of the field gagged away a lead allowing for him to win. I just can’t imagine he would win this tournament once every 32 or even once every 64 for that matter.

Chris Kirk 35-1

Kirk gathered a ton of pub after earning his first career victory and the top overall seed for the Tour Championship. Some people were even surprised he didn’t make the Ryder Cup… not this guy. There is no way he follows up his only win on tour with a win at the Tour Championship. Even if he heads into Sunday with a lead, which he won’t, there is just far too much pressure for him to be able to handle with such little experience in big events.

Best Bets

Rory McIlroy +350

Why wouldn’t he be the favorite? Even when Rory seems to be out of it or off his game he seems to turn it on and start to hunt flags for stretches of holes at a time. Sure he is capable of unraveling a bit, like four putting the same hole on back to back days, but he is even more proven to take on the toughest pin positions and make that ball just stick. While I don’t think he will, Rory is the only one capable of running away from the field this week.

Jim Furyk 12-1  

Simply because he has done it before. He won this thing in 2010 and this course just sets up nicely for his game. If he can get his putter going he should be near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday.

Matt Kuchar 25-1

This guy is far too due to win something big and despite suffering through back issues this year, this could be it for Kuchar. He has the game to win tournaments with the best in the world but he hasn’t done it on golfs biggest stages.

Best Value Bets

Jimmy Walker 35-1

It would be rather fitting for the guy that started the season off as the hottest golfer in the world to cap it off with the crown of Tour Champion.

Geoff Ogilvy 45-1

After suffering through such a long stretch in which he struggled, Ogilvy has really bounced back the past few months. He had a chance to win a few weeks back after being the final golfer to qualify at the Deutsche Bank. But he has rode his hot streak all the way to East Lake and if he can remain hot he can win this thing.

My Pick

Rick Fowler 12-1

Fowler has had arguably the best season of any golfer on tour this year. He competed for the win in every major championship but came up empty. This young kid has learned the hard way what it really takes to get the job done on Sunday. Now that he has suffered through it it is time that he rises to the occasion and grabs that first big time win in the PGA.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

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