Viktor Hovland favored but betting value lies with Scottie Scheffler at East Lake
4 Min Read
Written by Will Gray @GolfBet
Viktor Hovland has taken advantage of a wobbly start from Scottie Scheffler, and he heads into the weekend at East Lake as the man to beat in the eyes of oddsmakers. But the competition is far from over.
Hovland stormed home to take last week’s BMW Championship, and he has added to that form by playing his first 36 holes in 8 under at the TOUR Championship. Combined with his FedExCup Starting Strokes, he’s sitting at 16 under, sharing the lead alongside Collin Morikawa who has made up seven shots against the Norwegian in the course of just two rounds.
Hovland is reaching full flight at just the right time, having averaged 65.8 over his last nine rounds including a 61 to win Sunday at Olympia Fields and a second-round 64 in Atlanta. Not to be outdone, Morikawa just polished off an other-worldly score of 125 for two trips around East Lake to vault from T21 to co-leader after starting the week nine shots off the pace. Scheffler lurks just off the pace, having avoided the big numbers that derailed his opening round.
Updated odds to win TOUR Championship (via BetMGM Sportsbook)
+180: Viktor Hovland (-16)
+250: Collin Morikawa (-16)
+350: Scottie Scheffler (-14)
+1100: Jon Rahm (-12)
+1200: Xander Schauffele (-12)
+2200: Rory McIlroy (-10), Keegan Bradley (-13)
But as Scheffler can attest, this leaderboard can transform in an instant – even with just 30 players in the field. Scheffler appeared in position to run from the field midway through his opening round, and just last year he coughed up a six-shot lead in the final round. So the three players listed below +1000 should each be approached with caution, even if it’s easy to envision their name etched on the season-long trophy in two days’ time.
Here are my in-play angles heading into the third round, with odds via BetMGM:
Scottie Scheffler (+350)
Perhaps revenge is a dish best served amid a 105-degree heat index in metro Atlanta. Scheffler couldn’t do much to stop Hovland down the stretch at Olympia Fields, and he bobbled just long enough this week to lose his hard-earned advantage in the opening round. But Friday marked a potential turnaround, as he put together a bogey-free 65 while Hovland and Morikawa got more of the attention. The big shift came, unsurprisingly, on the greens: after ranking dead last in SG: Putting Thursday, he was fifth in the field Friday while picking up +1.729 shots on the field.
It's just enough of a glimmer of hope to believe that Scheffler’s ball-striking will lead him to a title befitting his season-long credentials. After starting the week two shots clear, he’s now two shots back – hardly an insurmountable deficit around these parts. But the circumstances have essentially tripled the price available on Scheffler, who teed off less than +150 from his starting perch. I think this is a prime opportunity to buy in on a player who had one hand on the trophy last year and has clearly been the most consistent player this season.
Jon Rahm (+1100)
Xander Schauffele is going to draw plenty of attention among the twosome at 12 under, given his longstanding affinity for East Lake and the fact that he paced the field Friday with a 6-under 64. But I’ll happily take the Spaniard at nearly the same price.
Yes, Rahm has seemed out of sorts all postseason and has yet to flash the form that earned him four early-season wins including the Masters. But he’s not exactly slumping, either. Rahm sits fifth in SG: Approach at the halfway point, fifth in SG: Tee-to-Green and third in proximity. Like Scheffler, he’s struggling to convert birdie chances – but that could change in a hurry at East Lake.
Rahm has more than enough firepower to put together a round like Schauffele had Friday, or like the ones that Morikawa and Keegan Bradley fired in the opening round. He’s essentially in the same spot he started on Thursday – four shots back – and while there are four players ahead of him instead of three, the chase pack behind him has thinned considerably and his price is on the rise. I’ll take it.
Viktor Hovland (+180)
Yes it’s me, the crazy guy, fading the player who has essentially been unstoppable since he made the turn Sunday at Olympia Fields. But as is often the case in this section when discussing a top-tier talent, this is more a fade of the price than the player.
Hovland leads the field in SG: Off-the-Tee, proximity and SG: Putting. It’s a combination that will surely yield a trophy should he keep it up. But even at this stage he’s having a tough time keeping Morikawa at bay, and there are six players within four shots of the lead – each with a realistic shot at winning this thing. Throw in Rory McIlroy at 10 under, playing injured but always a threat at East Lake, and there’s just too much talent around him to back Hovland below +200 with 36 holes to go.