And now for something completely different…
The TOUR Championship isn’t a flying circus, of course, but explaining how Starting Strokes works to your uninformed neighbor could be a silly walk into comedy.
As it pertains to PGA TOUR Pick ‘Em Live, the To Win, Top 5 and Top 10 bets are influenced by Starting Strokes, so pay attention only to overall score in relation to par and you’ll be doing it right. (Note that Top 5 has supplanted Top 20 as the weeklong. With only 30 golfers in the field and no cut, even if there was a Top 20 market, it’d have no impact on your performance.)
When Will Zalatoris withdrew on Tuesday, Starting Strokes were not reallocated. This means that no one will move up to replace him at 7-under. However, and this could be significant, all 27 golfers below him on the opening leaderboard shifted up one position on the leaderboard. This contributes to our advice and selections below.
Unless you find the holy grail of long odds for the eventual winner at a moment’s notice early in the tournament – remember Tom Kim at Sedgefield and Zalatoris at TPC Southwind – you’re going to make your most hay betting on ties in 2-balls.
Even if there’s another withdrawal before or during the tournament, it’d be just a flash wound as we’d still be poised for 14 2-balls in each of the first three rounds. (Of course, what Low6 actually makes available is always TBD, but there should be enough of a sample size to generate churn in the ranks.)
With only six 2-balls expected per usual for the finale, and with weeklong odds shortening on the weekend, if you’re not sitting on a lottery ticket found in that aforementioned moment’s notice, you’ll want to position yourself strongly by the conclusion of R3, and you’re not going to be able to do that picking one guy in 2-balls. The narrative hasn’t changed since the beginning: take the ties every time.
Who cares if you’re luckier than good, you can celebrate that, too.
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Glass … John Rahm (+1400)
I’m looking for VALUE here over four rounds, so keep that in mind.
He’s 23-under over the last two years at East Lake and the co-medalist in 2021. Bogey-free on the weekend at Wilmington Country Club provides the evidence that he’s in proper GRIND mode. Read Horses for Courses oath Statistically Speaking if you need more evidence on why he won’t be bothered coming off the pace this week.
Rob … Sam Burns (+2200)
In the three years that Starting Strokes has determined the opening position, two eventual champions opened atop the leaderboard – Dustin Johnson (2020) and Patrick Cantlay (2021). The other was Rory McIlroy in 2019. He was 5-seed and started at 5-under, so he’s five back. That’s where you’ll find Burns this week.
Burns can be aggravating in any short-term situation, but he can also be extremely rewarding, so his explosiveness is worth the early call in PGA TOUR Pick ‘Em Live.
With rain softening East Lake, scoring should be low on the par 70, so it’s going to be more difficult to come from way back and prevail. When McIlroy took the title in ’19, the field averaged 70.03. That’s the high-water mark in recent history and more of the kind of challenge that caters to a special talent in a small field getting white-hot. Keep this in mind when you’re thinking about swinging for the fence. You’ll likely have better success with a guy nearer the lead, thus my attraction to Burns.
Rob … Justin Thomas (+290)
It’s fun to play with this bet one time, but if it was a weekly fixture, its impact might be too strong for the natural elegance of the structure. Of course, we’d all be playing the same game, but the dispersion of coins would separate the gamers who connect even more from those who don’t.
JT starts at T10 and is just one stroke back of the top five, so this is a no-brainer for the guy who hung up 11-under 269s in the last two years at East Lake. As noted in my Power Rankings in which he’s slotted at No. 6, his career scoring average in six appearances is 68.08.
Sure, the form has been sketchy at times, but these odds are not going to get any longer. And even if they do, there’s no guarantee that this bet will unlock.
Glass … Collin Morikawa (+800)
Been a bit of hit and miss recently so I get why the odds are long.
If he decides to figure it out all the way this week, it will be off the tee and into the greens. He SHOULD be challenged sitting nine strokes off the lead before the first round begins, but once the switch flips, it flips. One hole killed him last week, not multiple hiccups. With a limited field and condensed tee times, I’ll have no problem reconsidering another selection if the tee to green doesn’t fire.
Glass … Adam Scott (+440)
T5-T5 entering the week doesn’t suggest I’ll need to have his form kick into gear. He’s played this routing plenty of times and shouldn’t be surprised around any doglegs or green complexes. I get that he’s 10 back but to find an outsider here points in his direction. He’s worked too hard to get here to mail in these final 72 holes. My only concern is he’ll need all four rounds to cash this ticket. I hope he embraces the pressure and continues his fine run. If not, yes, I’ll change it up when necessary!
Rob … Same as Glass, deal with it
I don’t even care if I’m not awake if this window opens, the Aussie has earned the reach.
Through zero holes, he’s only three back of T10. I’m positive that I’ve pivoted to a couple of guys after 54 holes who were that far back for a top 10 in a full-field event, and while I can’t remember if anyone converted, the reality occurs almost every week .
When this bet has unlocked after R3, I almost always pluck a guy either just inside or just outside the bubble, so that we get four rounds for Scott to finish the job in these Playoffs is like taking candy from an unattended porch on Halloween.
Glass … Rory McIlroy (+2000)
There’s nobody more notorious for hopping on the first tee and blasting away. I’m hoping he’s in the mood for 62 as he sits six back. That’s probably the minimum of what it takes. I’m ready to pivot if necessary but if anyone is going to torch the place it’s him.
Rob … Xander Schauffele (+800)
In full disclosure, I like Patrick Cantlay much, much more. He gets a two-stroke head start on Schauffele, but he’s +250. So, when we get to play with live odds, there’s no reason to start with a value that low.
It’s possible that Cantlay could slide higher once the guys ahead of him start posting scores, but he’s probably not going to hit Schauffele’s kickback, and even if he did, it means that Schauffele’s value will rise as well because they go out in successive pairings, so I’d probably cancel and reselect, anyway.
The bigger narrative here is that there are no waves in a 30-man field and the tee times are determined by opening position, so there’s zero benefit in circling an early starter like we have all season. A guy at the bottom of the leaderboard will have too much ground to gain in too short a period of time. Think of it as picking the winner entering any final round. There are only so many guys who realistically have a chance to prevail, especially in a field as strong as this one, so plan on accepting shorter odds and building your bank elsewhere.
NOTE: While Glass and Rob typically stick with their selections as detailed in Pick ‘Em Preview, they are allowed the right to make changes at any time.