WHY WE’LL WATCH: Because when $18M is on the line, we can’t turn away. An $18 putt makes us nervous. Will Scottie Scheffler’s 2-shot lead in the staggered start hold up? He’s two clear of Patrick Cantlay, four of Xander Schauffele.
COURSE INFO: East Lake is no joke. Start with length – a par-70 north of 7,400 yards featuring four par-3s over 200 yards. Add in slick greens, cross winds on tight fairways and intense bunkering.
THE FAVS: The betting beauty is that there are two tournaments in one. Scheffler (+200) and Cantlay (+400) are favored to win the FedEx Cup, while Rory McIlroy (+650) and Jon Rahm (+800) top our Outrights board for 72-hole low score.
INSIGHT: Scheffler leads in bets placed. But McIlroy (+1000), despite starting six shots back, is getting the most handle.
TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS – From RTL
You need a certain kind of course to host the Tour Championship.
The course should be demanding off the tee. East Lake has the tightest fairways on tour. It annually ranks in the Top 5 for the penalty of hitting from the rough. Twelve of the fourteen driver holes have fairway bunkers to navigate. Each year, the best drivers of the golf ball excel here. Rahm and Rory have both made their mark at Jones’s haven because they are the best in the game off the tee.
Once you find the fairway, it should test your approach aptitude. East Lake’s length brings out the long irons. More than 50% of approach shots are from 175 yards or more. Nearly 40% of approaches come in from over 200 yards. When it comes to long irons, I love players like Hovland or Morikawa and so does this course. Striking a four iron doesn’t happen often on tour and at ELGC it takes place all the time.
Due to the severity of the two tests, we just listed, players miss many greens throughout a round at East Lake. Getting up and down isn’t easy with targets surrounded by unpredictable Bermudagrass rough. Combine that challenge with surfaces which routinely are difficult on putts under five feet. East Lake causes players like Schauffele to use his scrambling skills on every short shot. If you want to win the Superbowl, short game skill is a must.
The prevailing wind at East Lake comes out of the southwest. Fourteen of the holes run from east to west or vice versa. The point is, with a south wind, all those holes have a cross wind. Hitting fairways and greens is hard enough unless you can control trajectory like Joaquin Niemann. Keep it low and controlled to avoid this test.
We don’t think of Atlanta as having a hilly landscape, but it does. Many of the holes play either uphill or downhill for the players. Uneven lies are everywhere on the property. The best ball strikers like last year’s Champion Cantlay or 2022’s leader Scheffler play well here because they can both hit the center of the clubface no matter what.