With or Without You - The Bearded Talisman's FEDEX Cup Championship Picks
The Bearded Talisman called Rory McIlroy's stunning upset in the 2022 FEDEX Cup Championship. Below are BT’s best bets for The 2023 FEDEX Cup Championship this week in Atlanta, Georgia.
NOTE: This is the ONLY tournament all season in which each of the golfers start the tournament with starting strokes based on how many FEDEX points were accumulated over the course of the season. The golfer who accumulated the most points was Scottie Scheffler. He starts the tournament at -10. The remaining 29 golfers start behind him beginning with Victor Hovland in 2nd place at -8, all the way down to the 30th golfer at even par. Most sportsbooks including Draftkings give you the option of betting with or without the starting strokes.
1. Rory McIlroy (+330 to WIN WITH the starting strokes) – Rory has 9 straight Top 10s heading into East Lake, and he’s won 3 of the last 7 FEDEX Cups, including last year. He OWNS this course. He’s had the best overall 72 hole score at East Lake 3 times (2016, 2019 and 2022), and he’s playing better right now than he was last year when he won. Last year, he started 6 strokes behind Scottie Scheffler and rallied to win in spite of a triple bogey on Thursday. This year Rory only starts 3 strokes back of Scheffler, and unlike Scottie, Rory enters the Championship putting well. Bottom line, while Scottie has made over $21 million in prize money this year and is currently the number one ranked player in the world, he is 145th out of 185 golfers on Tour in Strokes Gained Putting. His struggles on the green have cost him first place finishes the entire season, and I believe it will cost him again this week.
I give Victor Hovland, who begins the Championship in 2nd place at -8, gobs of respect, but it’s tough to repeat what he did last week. While he’s had modest success at East Lake, it’s nowhere even close to what Rory has accomplished here; and, if Hovland were a horse, he’d be a deep closer, not the pacesetter he is this week.
Given Rory’s history at East Lake and his stellar play over the last 3 months, I expect him to win on Sunday and collect the $18 million first place payout; and, to overtake Scheffler as the world’s number 1 ranked golfer.
2. Xander Schauffele (+900 to WIN WITHOUT the starting strokes) – Xander owns this course too. He’s had the best 72 hole score at East Lake twice (2017, 2020) – tied for the 2nd best 72 hole score in 2019 – and had the 3rd best 72 hole score in 2021. He finished tied for the 6th best 72 hole score last year. X-Man is also PLAYING WELL NOW. Last week at Olympia Fields he finished tied for 8th, and was 3rd in Strokes Gained off the tee for the tournament. I walked with him for his entire 3rd round. He hit 1 bad shot out of 67. Virtually every tee shot was just him striking the ball, watching it for 1 second, and then picking up the tee. Not only is he driving the ball well, he’s also putting well. He’s ranked 4th on Tour in SG Putting and he’s the highest ranked golfer in SG Putting in this week’s field. Moreover, he locked in the 6th and final automatic qualifying spot for the American Ryder Cup team, so any pressure to impress in that regard is off. Given the starting strokes this week start him at -3 and tied for 11th it’s probably a stretch to take him at 28-1 to win outright with the starting strokes. But given his strong track record at East Lake and strong recent play, I like him at 9-1 to WIN WITHOUT the starting strokes.
3. Patrick Cantlay (12-1 to WIN WITHOUT the starting strokes) – Of all the variables impacting the tournament this week, the weather stands out more than anything else. Temperatures for ALL FOUR ROUNDS are expected to be in the mid to upper 90s and even triple digits, with the heat index well over 100 each day. No golfer, I mean no golfer, plays better in the extreme heat than Patrick Cantlay. The Long Beach native has earned most of his $65 million in career earnings in 2 places: #1) tournaments in deserts and #2) on any course in late August and very early September when temperatures are high. Look back only 2 weeks ago in Memphis, he was 5 shots back when the final round started with temperatures in the 90s. While others wilted in the Memphis heat and humidity, Cantlay rallied to take the lead and probably should have won if not for 2 miraculous putting saves by Lucas Glover to force a playoff. Cantlay settled for a $2 million 2nd place check. Colder conditions are like Kryptonite for Cantlay. I walked his first round at Waste Management earlier this year when conditions were so unusually cold it forced a weather delay prior to the start of the round. When the round finally started it was still cold and Cantlay looked like a fish out of water and he played so badly he missed the cut. But in the extreme heat, Cantlay is like an ostrich or camel – he thrives in it. He’s made tens of millions of dollars in it. At 16-1 to win WITH the starting strokes, he’s probably a stretch given that he starts 6 strokes back. But at 12-1 WITHOUT the starting strokes, I'm going to play it.