Sport : Golf

Tiger to hit the jackpot

18th September 2012, 03:03pm

Tiger Woods: Can take victory at East Lake

Tiger Woods: Can take victory at East Lake

Tiger Woods can win the FedEx Cup finale, says Dave Tindall, who also has three R1 leader bets lined up.

5pts win Tiger Woods 'enhanced win only' at 28/5 (Stan James).

1pt e.w. Keegan Bradley to be first round leader at 33/1 (General, 1/4 1,2,3,4).

1pt e.w. Zach Johnson to be first round leader at 33/1 (Ladbrokes, 1/4 1,2,3,4).

1pt e.w. Ryan Moore to be first round leader at 45/1 (Stan James, 1/4 1,2,3,4).

The goal is a common one - to win the $10m FedEx Cup jackpot.

But it's certainly possible to break the field down into categories for this week's play-off finale - the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.

For 17 of the field - all 12 of the American team and five Europeans - it's the week before the Ryder Cup so a morale-winning send-off is an added motivation.

The Internationals - Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Ernie Els and John Senden - might see it as a chance to cash in whilst the Medinah-bound stars have split focus.

Others, like Hunter Mahan and Rickie Fowler, have a point to prove after being overlooked for a wildcard.

And some, such as Ryan Moore and Scott Piercy, may just be glad to make it into the final 30 who contest the Tour Championship. They have a free, and perhaps unexpected, shot at the jackpot.

Since the Tour Championship became the FedEx finale, Tiger Woods has a first and a second and boasts the best scoring average of 66.38.

And after a three-win season and strong run in the play-offs, it's Woods who I like best here.

The par 70 East Lake was modified again by Rees Jones after Woods shot 23-under here in 2007 when it was first used as a play-off event and since then the winners have all triumphed with single-digits under par.

However, if there's one man who shouldn't mind the tougher challenge it's Woods himself.

Between 2005 and 2009, Tiger's record on Rees Jones re-designs was extraordinary. A total of 16 starts on these revamped tracks produced 10 wins, three second places, a fourth and two sixths.

His only start on the new East Lake in that study period produced a second place in 2009 - not quite the win we wanted but the runners-up finish is still pretty encouraging.

Woods, of course, didn't qualify for the Tour Championship during his wilderness years of 2010 and 2011, but Tiger has returned to many of his old habits in 2012. So it's no surprise that his latest win - in the AT&T at Congressional at the start of July - came on another Rees Jones redesign.

Tiger's only obvious failing at the moment is an inability to win majors - a result of probably putting too much pressure on himself to re-write history and take his tally of 14 to the top of the mountain and pass Jack Nicklaus' Mount Everest of 18.

But outside of the Masters, US Open, Open and USPGA, there's a man doing a pretty passable impression of the old Tiger Woods. He's won three of the last 10 non-majors and, most recently, has posted back-to-back top four finishes in the play-offs.

Two of those wins came in his last starts before majors so he's able to hit the heights ahead of huge weeks on the golf calendar.

The freely available 11/2 is fair and Stan James' 'enhanced win only' market slightly betters that.

With just four each-way places on offer and Tiger very likely to occupy one of them, I can't see too much mileage in the outrights - especially with all that pressure over the final holes when the jackpot is up for grabs.

So instead I'm going to turn to the first round leader market which makes particular appeal with just 30 in the field. The reduced numbers obviously lessens the chances of a complete outsider having his 18 holes in the sun while Tiger may not have worked his way into the top four by the end of day one.

There are three I like.

First up is Keegan Bradley, who has the ability to go really low.

He didn't play well in the BMW last time out but in the previous week's Deutsche Bank Championship he threw in a third round 63 on the way to a tied 13th place.

Last month he closed with a 64 to win the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

As for bursting out of the gate, he did just that in this event 12 months ago.

Despite it being Bradley's debut at East Lake he opened with a six-under 64 to hold a two-shot lead after Thursday's opening round.

Two starts later he also topped the day one standings in another class but reduced-sized field in the HSBC Champions in Shanghai.

This year he sits eighth in the round one scoring average stats, being one of just 15 men to average in the 60s.

Having won the 2011 USPGA on a tough course in Georgia he should enjoy that same challenge here and the 33/1 for R1 leader is a solid bet.

One place below Bradley in the 2012 round one scoring stats is Zach Johnson.

Notable Thursday performances from Zach include the 64 which paved the way for his May victory at Colonial and an opening 65 in The Open Championship at Lytham.

Relevant stats include his eighth spot in Strokes Gained - Putting, 16th in Birdie Average and 6th in Birdie or Better Conversion Percentage. Bradley is 5th and 8th in the latter two categories incidentally.

Since the Tour Championship became the climax of the play-offs, Johnson boasts the third best Scoring Average at East Lake - 68.83 for his 12 rounds - and famously he shot an amazing 60 here in 2007.

Johnson, who won The Masters that same year, loves playing in Georgia and can fly out of the traps on his return. He's also 33s for R1 leader.

Finally, I'll have an each-way R1 play on Ryan Moore - a man capable of some amazing bursts of scoring.

Moore has been one of the form horses in the play-offs and has posted back-to-back T10th finishes.

The basis for those two strong performances was quick starts. He opened with a 64 at the Deutsche Bank whilst he posted a round one 66 in the BMW at Crooked Stick.

Moore, who also signed for a 65 on the first day at Quail Hollow, is 25th in R1 scoring average this year and further encouragement comes from his ninth place at East Lake on debut in 2010.

By the way, his other R1 scores in the play-off events in 2010 were 64, 65, 64!

So while Tiger may emerge as the last man standing on Sunday, the door is open for Bradley, Johnson and Moore to get us off to a flyer on Thursday.

  • Preview posted at 1505 BST on 18/09/2012.

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