Experienced campaigner set to see off debutant
Garcia should know too much for Schauffele
Starts 4.40pm Thursday
Live on Sky Sports Golf from 6.30pm
Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas have been playing a lot of golf together this year and the good friends lock horns again in the final first-round twoball of the Tour Championship.
Spieth and Thomas, first and second in the FedEx Cup standings, are scheduled to tee off at 7pm UK and Ireland time at East Lake, Georgia.
Both men, as well as Dustin Johnson, Marc Leishman and Jon Rahm, know that victory in the Tour Championship would also deliver FedEx Cup glory.
Spieth, who scooped both prizes in 2015, can be fancied to edge Thomas in their Thursday duel, but a safer bet may be Sergio Garcia to outscore Xander Schauffele in the 5pm contest.
Garcia took an age debating with a rules official on the 18th green of the BMW Championship on Sunday, earning a controversial free drop from the water hazard, but it showed how seriously the Spaniard is taking the FedEx Cup. The Masters champion is clearly eager to finish his US Tour campaign on a high and his experience makes him a dangerman at East Lake.
Garcia made his East Lake debut in 2002 and has competed in the Tour Championship eight times. He was runner-up in 2008 and is well suited to the extreme ball-striking test. After four tidy rounds for 12th spot in the BMW, he can approach the Stateside finale with confidence, while his playing partner is likely to be anxious.
Schauffele has rapidly risen from 352nd in the world rankings to 66th in the space of three months, claiming a maiden US Tour title in the process, but an East Lake debut is a fresh challenge for the youngster. This demanding layout, which requires sound course management, could easily bring an abrupt halt to the purple patch.
Kevin Kisner failed to sparkle in the BMW last week, but that was perhaps to be expected coming so soon after the birth of his first son. Kisner was not in top gear in Illinois, but should give a better account of himself now the dust has settled. East Lake plays to his strengths and Kisner can account for Jhonnatan Vegas in the 5.40pm match.
Another appealing twoball wager is Kyle Stanley to defeat Adam Hadwin (5.20pm). Both are East Lake debutants, but Stanley possesses much more control from tee to green, so should avoid serious strife.
Pick of the 72-hole matches are Charley Hoffman to beat Tony Finau, and Hideki Matsuyama to account for Brooks Koepka. Hoffman was sixth on his Tour Championship debut in 2010, while Finau is making his debut and has admitted to nerves in the playoffs. This is the sort of track where world number three Matsuyama, fifth at East Lake last year, must be respected.
S Garcia to win twoball
3pts 4-5 BoyleSports, SkyBet
K Kisner to win twoball
2pts Evens bet365, Betway, Hills
K Stanley to win twoball
2pts 15-13 188Bet
C Hoffman to beat T Finau
2pts 10-11 bet365, Coral, Ladbrokes
H Matsuyama to beat B Koepka
2pts 5-6 Betway
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