Tour Championship: Who's going to bag the $18 million?

Words by
Dan Davies
Tour Championship: Who's going to bag the $18 million?

It's the finale to the 2021/22 PGA Tour season and thanks to the controversial handicapping system in place for the TOUR Championship, the players at the top of the FedEx Cup rankings have a big advantage at East Lake CC in Atlanta. Here, we look at what Clippd tells us about those in contention for the $18 million first prize.

After reclaiming the top spot in the rankings last week, World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler starts the tournament at -10 with Patrick Cantlay beginning two back on -8. They are followed by Xander Schauffele on -6 (Will Zalatoris, who was in 3rd place on the rankings has been forced to pull out with injury) and Sam Burns on -5. Five players begin on -4: Cameron Smith, Rory McIlroy, Tony Finau, Sepp Straka and Sungjae Im.

East Lake is a tight course with Bermuda greens, which means driving accuracy and scrambling have been identified as key skills this week. We have also looked at APP play from 140-180 yards.

Scottie Scheffler

The Masters champion finished T3 last week at the BMW Championship after missing the cut at the FedEx St Jude the week before. His Player Quality for APP is at 111, which is equalled only by Rory McIlroy of the players on this list, and he is trending up at all the APP distances Clippd measures. He is particularly strong from 140-180 yards and in ARG shots from rough (Average Shot Quality for both: 117). The latter could be a key strength at East Lake.

Patrick Cantlay

Fresh off his successful defence of the BMW Championship, Cantlay is bidding to go one better by becoming the first man to defend his FedEx Cup title. His Overall Player Quality is 104, which is higher than anyone on this list bar McIlroy and he is trending up at both ARG from sand (Average Shot Quality: 117) and ARG from rough (Average Shot Quality: 113). His OTT play is also trending up.

Xander Schauffele

The 28-year-old Californian is something of an East Lake specialist. He won the TOUR Championship in 2017 and in his last three appearances at this course he has finished 2nd, 1st and 3rd for the lowest 72-hole score. He has three wins and eight top-10s in his last 10 tournaments, thanks to vastly improved putting, which has been on a strong upward trend since June. He needs to make up four shots on Scheffler and two on Cantlay if is he to land the main prize.

Sam Burns

A three-time winner this season, Burns is a Bermuda greens specialist, a fact underscored by his victories at both the Sanderson Farms and Valspar Championships. Although his APP game is trending down slightly, his short game was very sharp last week at the BMW Championship. He is also one of 10 players in the field to be trending up in the combined data for OTT and ARG (from the rough and sand), Cantlay being another.

Cameron Smith

Many are predicting this will be the Open champion's final appearance on the PGA Tour. He pulled out last week with an injury so it's hard to say what shape he's in. An ominous sign for the competition is that in his last outing his putting, which was electric at St Andrews, got better as the week went on – and that was at TPC Southwind, another course with Bermuda greens. Like Cantlay and Burns, he is trending up in the combined skills of OTT, ARG (rough) and ARG (sand). His Player Quality for OTT is also 108, the highest of any player on this list.

Rory McIlroy

The Ulsterman hasn't pulled up any trees in the playoff events but he has a good track record at East Lake, where he won in both 2016 and 2019. His APP play has been on a strong upward trend all year and he's currently at 113 for APP Player Quality. He has also made big gains this season in his ARG play. What continues to let him down is his putting, which is still below tour average (Player Quality: 97). In his final round of the BMW Championship last week, McIlroy played beautifully from tee to green but had 33 putts, with the longest he holed being from 13 feet.

Tony Finau

After back-to-back wins and then a T5 at the FedEx St Jude Championship, Finau seemed to hit a wall in round one last week. But he then roared back with rounds of 67, 68, 67 to suggest he's primed for a come from behind tilt at the title in Atlanta. He's trending up in the combined skills we've identified, plus his PUTT Player Quality is at 103, higher than anyone here bar Cam Smith.

Other names to watch

We've looked at the last eight rounds for ARG play (from rough and sand) and OTT play. The other names that are trending up in this combined skillset are Sepp Straka, Viktor Hovland, Hideki Matsuyama, Sahith Theegala, Corey Connors and Joaquin Niemann. We identified Niemann last week (T8) and were he to win the TOUR Championship, which is unlikely given how far back he is starting, it would continue a run of Clippd picking players a week early!