Jon Rahm (+400 to Win)
This may be my favorite play of the entire season. Rahm is exactly where I wanted him to be going into the playoff finale, starting off at -6, four strokes behind leader Patrick Cantlay, which allows us to bet him to win at a reasonable price. I like this pick for four main reasons:
First, it is Jon Rahm. He has been the best player on the planet this year, and I would argue there hasn’t even been a close second. In his 16 events in 2021, the Spaniard has a staggering 12 Top 10 finishes. His run of form is T9-3-T3-7-Win since returning from his first COVID layoff which cost him what would have been a win at The Memorial. There is simply no one in better form at the moment.
Second, I don’t love the three guys who start their tournament ahead of Rahm this week. Patrick Cantlay’s performance last week is simply not sustainable, and it almost unheard of to lose strokes on approach and win a golf tournament, a testament to his unfathomable performance putting at Cave’s Valley. Cantlay has never finished better than T20 in three appearances at East Lake, and I always look to fade golfers after a win. I also believe starting off the tournament with the pressure of going wire-to-wire has the potential to be more of a curse than a blessing.
In second is Tony Finau who I don’t hate, but I simply think that Rahm will run him down. Finau is a decent fit here and has a scoring average of 68.88 in 16 rounds at East Lake, and I may play him in a matchup setting against Bryson. I am not sold that Tony has what it takes to win twice in three weeks against this caliber of a field.
In third is Bryson DeChambeau who I absolutely hate this week. He has never finished inside the Top 10 at East Lake, and has more rounds over par than under par in his three appearances. More importantly, I question his mental state after last week’s playoff loss, where he nearly fought a fan after the round. He has allowed chants of “Brooksy” to rattle him to the point it has now been banned at tournaments, and it is a coin flip as to how he responds at East Lake. Additionally, Cave’s Valley was tailored specifically to Bryson’s skillset, allowing him to bomb off the tee without regard for punishment. He actually lost strokes on approach but was bailed out by his extreme length and hot putter. Like Cantlay, his putting is not sustainable, and faces much tougher greens to hit this week, which is problematic because he looked extremely uncomfortable around the greens chipping last week, most notably including a duffed chip on the 71st hole.
My third reason for supporting Rahm is that East Lake is built for Jon Rahm. In his 16 rounds at East Lake, he boasts a scoring average of 68.75, with three rounds of 66 or lower at last year’s edition. Rahm is the best tee-to-green player on TOUR, the best total driver on TOUR, and is fourth in the field on approach. If his putter contributes to the cause, Rahm should win this week.
Lastly, Rahm has a massive chip on his shoulder. He was robbed of a win at The Memorial and then had to skip the Olympics due to COVID. Never underestimate a hungry dog, even if they happen to be the #1 ranked golfer in the world. At a 4-1 payoff, Rambo is a no-brainer.
Justin Thomas (+215 to Top 5)
Candidly, I am not the biggest Justin Thomas fan but he makes a ton of sense this week. In five appearances at East Lake, JT has never finished worse than 7th, and boasts consecutive podium finishes. This endorsement assumes his putter is able to contribute to the cause, which is factored into his price, but if that is the case, he may just win this thing. JT starts at -4, only six strokes back, and will be able to use his elite tee-to-green game to his advantage. Thomas is 3rd in strokes gained tee-to-green, T4 in Par 4 scoring average, and 12th in scrambling. There is a reason he plays well here.
I am also encouraged by how he played two weeks ago at the BMW, and thought last week was not suited to his game, as Cave’s Valley was a birdie fest tailored to long-hitters, in which he still managed to finish T22. At +215, this price screams value
Xander Schauffele (+125 to Top 10)
The X-Man is coming off a disappointing week at a course that I greatly overestimated. His game is not one suited for a birdie fest necessarily, and that was reflected in his performance. I will chalk it up as a one-week outlier, especially considering his lack of motivation after being out of contention going into the weekend.
Xander loves East Lake and has finished T2-2-T7-Win in his four appearances here, boasting a best in the field 67.4 scoring average, including the low four-round score last year. His game is as complete as any on TOUR, and I love him this week at a tournament that is more suited to his strengths.
He begins the week at -2, only two shots outside the Top 10, in the same position he began last year. His experience in this position is a great benefit, and I expect more of the same this week. At plus money, this is an auto-play for me.
Scottie Scheffler (Top 10 +225)
Scheffler went 71-66-66-65 last year to finish 5th in his debut at East Lake. He has an elite tee-to-green game and is worth a dart to have a good week. He begins at -1, three shots outside the Top 10. If his infuriating putter can just be average this week, we could see some deja vu from The Texas Flood.
Na has played here six times and never shot under par or finished inside the Top 15. His last three trips here have resulted in finishes of T27-25-29. His game is not suited to East Lake, where an elite tee to green game is required. He is 29/30 in strokes gained tee-to-green and 29/30 in strokes gained approach. I think it is clear that this place is just not suited to his style of play. His run of form has been quite nice with five straight Top 25 finishes, but all good things must come to an end. Fade Kevin Na this week
To Win Outright
1.5U to win 6U
Parlayed with Conners/Scheffler over Na…total risk 1U to win 1.45U
To Top 10
0.7U to win 0.5U
To Top 5
0.5U to win 1.15U
To Top 10
1.2U to win 1.5U
Fade of Kevin Na
Scottie Scheffler and Corey Conners over Na (-170 each) parlayed with Rahm over DeChambeau…total risk 1U to win 1.45U