PGA Tour Championship, September 23rd-26th at East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta, Georiga

The culmination of the PGA Golf FedEx Cup will arise next week, as the last thirty players left in the completion make for the final shoot out at East Lake CC in Atlanta for The Tour Championship. Some of the top names in golf have fallen by the wayside already during the playoffs including current champion Tiger Woods. You can add to that list Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter and Vijay Singh (who is the only other winner of the title along with Woods) as well, and they fell at the culmination of the third play off tournament, the Deutsche Open. The FedEx Cup is the grand finale of the PGA Tour for the year. All through the golf calendar, players earn points for performances on the Tour throughout the year, and the Top 125 ranked players go forth into the Play Offs. The FedEx Cup play offs are held over four tournaments, The Barclays, the Deutsche Bank Championship, the BMW Championship and the big season ender, The Tour Championship. After the Barclays, twenty five players are cut, after the Deutsche Bank Championship, another thirty players are cut from the play offs, and after the BMW Championship only the top thirty players left in the FedEx rankings will go forward to win the chance of golf glory and a mammoth pay out. That bonus? A cool $10 million, and the winner of each of the play off tournaments will earn $1,350,000.

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With the points accumulated over the season, the Top 125 ranked players go into the FedEx Cup play-offs. Typically, around 500 points can be earned for a win on Tour, but points varied from tournament to tournament depending on things like the class of field. Ernie Els was the leader at the end of the Regular Season points standing, his two Tour wins and six top ten finishes just enough to hold on to top spot ahead of Steve Stricker. Jim Furyk came in third, big Phil Mickelson fourth, and England’s Justin Rose 5th. Any points won in the FedEx Cup play off, are then added to the total points earned from the regular season, and players are cut from the play offs if they fall outside the cut line in the rankings after each play off. Points in the FedEx Cup play off are worth five times as much as regular tournament points, which means that players back down the rankings really can catch up if they have a good play off. However, at the end of the third play off tournament, all points are reset for the final thirty heading into the Tour Championship. This is so that all thirty players will stand a chance of winning the FedExCup in the final event. Basically what happens, is the top ranked player going into the Tour Championship is given 2500 points, the second ranked player has 2250 and so on, right down to the thirtieth ranked player, who starts the tournament with 210 points.

What all this means, is that the 30th player, with the 2500 Play Off win points available in the final event, can win the tournament. While this makes things exciting, realistically, the top five ranked players going into the final event of the FedEx Cup has the best opportunity of winning the title. This is because if any of the top five win the Tour Championship, they will be guaranteed to win the FedEx Cup, as no one behind them will be able to catch them. For the thirtieth ranked player to win it, they could win the Tournament, but because of points distribution throughout the rest of the field, they would need the top five for example to all finish right at the back of the field. So when it comes to golf betting on the FedEx Cup, you really should be looking at the top five players going into the tournament. Anyone outside of that needs other results to go their way, even if they win the tournament. Who are those players? Well, lets take a look at the top five, and their reset points going into the Tour Championship.

1st Matt Kuchar 2,5000
2nd Dustin Johnson 2,250
3rd Charley Hoffman 2,000
4th Steve Stricker 1,800
5th Paul Casey 1,600

Next, let’s take a look at the FedEx Cup Play Off winners for 2010 and you will see the huge importance of picking up a win in the play offs.

The Barclays: Matt Kuchar
BMW Championships: Dustin Johnson
Deutsche Bank Championship: Charley Hoffman

Hoffman, for example, with his surprise win, moved up from the ranking of 77th at the end of the regular season to put himself in with an enormous chance of winning the FedEx Cup from nowhere. He will be the outsider though of the top five, as that was his first victory on Tour all season, and when you stand him up against the other four, you really wouldn’t look to back him too strongly. Let’s take a quick golf betting preview of the top five players going into the Tour Championship, plus a couple more of the players on the outside fringes, who will need some help, but are in with a great chance of winning the Tour Championship. Odds in brackets are for FedExCup winner outright odds.

Matt Kuchar (2/1 at ExtraBet)
Has been playing really well all season, and has been greatly consistent. That consistency has carried over into the Play Offs where he has a win, a third place and an 11th place finish to keep him at the head of the FedEx Cup rankings. The win at the Barclays was his first win of the season, but he is a worthy challenger after coming close a few times this season. Well worth a punt as he is in the driving seat an should be strongly confident on what could be considered his home course.

Dustin Johnson (7/2 at BetFair)
Was one of the first players to really shine at the start of the season and his win at the BMW Championship was his second tour win of the season. Winning tournaments on the PGA Tour takes a lot with such huge fields, so consistency is all important throughout the long season. Lost his way in the middle part of the season, but recovered strongly with some good finishes to put himself back into contention. Slipped badly to finish down in 57th at the Deutsche Bank Championship though. Johnson has made some big mistakes at crucial times during the season. Will the pressure of the occasion get to him again?

Charley Hoffman (21/1 at BetFair)
Has actually been gaining some good momentum going through to the FedExCup play offs. With his surprise win at the Deutsche Bank Championship, that secured his fourth top ten finish out of his previous six starts. Up until then, he really had not threatened that much during the season. That was indicative of his performance at the BMW Championship where he lost a lot of his momentum and had a very poor tournament. An outside chance at best.

Steve Stricker (6/1 at ExtraBet)
More than capable of picking up a win at the Tour Championship. Has two wins under his belt for the PGA Tour season, and three top ten finishes in the play offs, including a third place finish, shows just how strong he can be. In good form, and could well end up as the player of the year and deservedly so. Another very consistent player and that is why he is where he is here in the position which he is. Makes for a strong bet sitting in one of the top five positions.

Paul Casey (10/1 at ExtraBet)
Hasn’t won a tournament on the Tour this year, but has looked pretty good at times. There have just been small glitches which have upset his tournament runs, like the three consecutive bogeys he picked up when in a strong position at the BMW Championship. He should have won really, but his final back nine was a huge disappointment and left him in second. Casey was left out of the Ryder Cup team by Colin Montgomerie, but if he wins here, the World Number eight would prove a big point that he should have been considered a little more. Again, there are signs that he just finding the consistency needed to pick up what would be his first and most important win of the season so far.

Ernie Els (26/1 at BetFair)
Had been leading the FedEx Cup rankings for most of the season. Looks to have lost his way a little bit after a good run at the US Open where he finished third. Top quality player of course, but once momentum is gone, it is hard to get it back. He has finished in the top take at East Lake for the past two years, and with a little push could be in the reckoning. Two wins on the Tour this year, but finishes of 71, 30th and 13th in the play offs have left him lingering down in eighth.

Phil Mickelson (12/1 at ExtraBet)
One of the top players in the world and winner of the Masters this year, who has had several chances to knock Tiger Woods off the top of the Official World Golf Ranking charts, and has missed them all. Has been struggling a bit with health, but the big leftie could round off a great season if things go his way here. A shocking missed cut at the Barclays, the first play off tournament has really cost him dearly though, picking up no points. His subsequent finishes of 25th and the 8th showed a big more perhaps to come from Mickelson, but has maybe left things just a little to late to grab the FedEx Cup title.

Luke Donald (20/1 at ExtraBet)
Unlucky not to win the Deutsche Bank Championship really, as Hoffman’s amazing performance there was all that stood between Donald and him pushing for a win. Donald came in second then and a 15th finish at The Barclays has kept him in the hunt, as he starts from the rank of seven for the Tour Championship. Has had a decent year but is without a win, but has five top ten finishes to his name. Still has a chance at the FedEx Cup but needs his most clinical performance of the season.

The Tour Championship Winner Outright Odds
Phil Mickelson: 15/2 at SportingBet
Steve Stricker: 9/1 at Bwin
Dustin Johnson: 10/1 at SkyBet
Matt Kuchar: 11/1 at Stan James
Paul Casey: 16/1 at Totesport
Adam Scott: 18/1 at Bwin
Ernie Els: 20/1 at Bet365
Luke Donald: 25/1 at Victor Chandler