The Cheat Sheet provides DraftKings fantasy golf players with course info, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.
This is the final event of the 2023 PGA season. The field is only 30 golfers and is comprised of the top 30 players from the FedEx Cup point standings. This week, there is a game within the game. While the old version of the TOUR Championship used to simply operate like a regular tournament with FedEx Cup positions changing throughout the week, the new format is quite different. A player’s starting “score” will be determined by their FedEx Cup position. The winner after 72 holes of play will then not only win the tournament but also win the FedEx Cup (and the $15 million prize).
The starting positions for this week’s field can be found here. The field will be 30 players (no alternates). Note for DraftKings scoring purposes: starting strokes will be incorporated in the fantasy points awarded for the finishing position.
There are no injury concerns to note for now, but stay tuned to DKLive for any breaking field updates this week.
East Lake Golf Club—Atlanta, Georgia
Par 70, 7319 yards; Greens: Bermuda
East Lake Golf Club is a Donald Ross design that has undergone some renovations in the past five to 10 years. The course used to be very good for scoring (Tiger Woods won at -23 one year), but after the redesign, where the greens were changed to Bermuda grass, it now plays much tougher. The course has yielded winning scores in the -8 to -13 range for the most part since the change. In 2019, Rory McIlroy shot 13-under-par over four days to win — his final score was 18-under-par, starting at 5-under, under the new FedEx playing format. In 2020, Dustin Johnson won at 21-under-par but started the event at 10-under. So, he effectively shot 11-under for the week. Last year, Rory McIlroy started the week at 4 under in T6 and won the event at -21.
The venue plays tough for a lot of reasons, but length is certainly a factor. At over 7,300 yards, it’s one of the longest par 70 venues on the PGA Tour and really emphasizes good driving of the golf ball. Driving accuracy at East Lake is typically about 10% lower than the PGA TOUR average, while the average driving distance for the week is also about 10% higher. That means the setup demands that players use driver on a lot of the longer holes, so anyone who can hit it far and straight will have a bigger advantage than usual at this venue.
While there are a few easier holes on the course (a drivable par 4 and a very reachable par 5) there are also some very intimidating ones. Long par 3s are a trademark of Ross designs, and this course features four of them in total. Three of them measure between 200-235 yards and play to island-style greens. The par 4s also play long — six of the par 4s play over 450 yards, with a couple of these holes actually being shortened par 5s. The two par 5s that remain on the course will yield birdies, although the finishing 18th hole measures in at around 600 yards on the scorecard, so two great shots will be needed to get near the green in two.
As far as player styles go, long hitters are certainly to be emphasized but being wild off the tee can get you into trouble fast, given the water on the course. Emphasizing recent strokes gained off the tee stats — which track power and placement — is a good place to start. Also, players who have shown good three-putt avoidance and are trending well on the greens should be favored. Donald Ross greens are some of the biggest on the PGA TOUR and players will likely have a ton of lag putts to deal with as the event wears on. If you’re looking for correlation, some of the other Donald Ross designs we’ve seen on the PGA TOUR over the last decade include Sedgefield, Plainfield, Aronimink Golf Club, Oak Hill, and Pinehurst #2.
2023 Weather Outlook: The weather this week will be hot. Highs are set to reach 95-97 F for at least a couple days of the event, so we’ll likely see some very firm and very fast greens. The good news for the players is that the wind isn’t expected to get up much, so it should keep conditions civil. If the greens get receptive, you may still be able to shoot low scores but overall, the heat should favor the supreme ball-strikers as poor shots will certainly bounce or roll off greens this week.
Last Five Winners
2022—Rory McIlroy -21 — started at 4-under-par (over Scottie Scheffler and Sungjae Im -20)
2021 — Patrick Cantlay -21 — started at 10-under-par (over Jon Rahm -20)
2020 — Dustin Johnson -21 — started at 10-under-par (over Justin Thomas -18)
2019 — Rory McIlroy -18 — started at 5-under-par (over Xander Schauffele -14)
2018 — Tiger Woods -11 (over Billy Horschel -9)
- Nobody from a starting position of -1 or even has ever finished the week inside the top five
- Every season, AT LEAST one player from the -2 starting position (T16) has ended up inside the top five
- The worst the leader (-10) has finished in 4yrs was T3 in 2019
- In the last 3 yrs, the leader (-10) has finished on top or within a shot of the eventual winner
- The second-place starter (-8) has only finished inside the top 5 ONCE in 4 years
- The top 3 have included at least one player who started between -2 to -4 every single yr
Winners Stats and Course Overview
2022: Rory McIlroy (21-under — started at 4-under for the week)
SG: OTT 2.2
SG: APP 0.7
SG: TTG 2.0
SG: ATG -0.9
SG: PUTT 6.6
- Fairways at East Lake have been tough to find. The field averages around a 55% Driving Accuracy rate — that’s about seven percent lower than the PGA TOUR average.
- On the flip side, this does profile as something of a driver-heavy course — the field averaged 302 yards per drive last year, which was about nine yards more than the PGA TOUR average in that stat.
- Patrick Cantlay was one of the leaders in strokes gained off-the-tee stats in 2021 when he won and McIlroy had a great week off the tee last year as well.
- The last four winners of this event have all gained 2.0 strokes or more OTT and last year’s runner-up (Jon Rahm) gained 3.0 strokes OTT himself.
- Scrambling around these tricky green complexes is tough as the field averaged about a two to three percent lower up-and-down rate than the PGA TOUR average.
Finding Values (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value compared to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.
- Brian Harman +4500 and $9,500
- Lucas Glover +4000 and $9,700
- Wyndham Clark +4500 and $9,100
odds by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
Horses for Courses
1. Rory McIlroy ($10,800; best finishes: win-2016, 2019, 2022): McIlroy has now won this event three times, coming back from a five-stroke starting deficit in 2019 and a six-stroke deficit in 2022. He’s also landed two other finishes of T7 and T2 at East Lake since 2014. McIlroy comes in off a T4 finish at the BMW and will start in third at 7-under par this week.
2. Xander Schauffele ($12,300; best finishes: win-2017, 2nd-2019): Schauffele won at East Lake on his first visit back in 2017 when he was still a rookie. In 2019, he finished solo second, and he again rallied to finish in a group at T2 in 2020. Now in his seventh full season on the PGA Tour, he’ll again go hunting for a top-five finishing position. Schauffele will start at 3-under-par but has made up big deficits at this event before.
3. Jordan Spieth ($6,900; best finishes: win-2015, 2nd-2013): Spieth has played this venue seven times in the past and won this event on his third go-round at East Lake back in 2015. He’s been a little uneven since that win but shot four rounds of 68 or better at this event last season and still has great course history to rely on.
1. Viktor Hovland ($12,500; win-T13-T13): Hovland blacked out and shot 28 on the back nine last week to win the BMW. When you combine his ball-striking with a hot putter, magic things can happen. He’s peaking at the right time for the Tour Championship.
2. Rory McIlroy ($13,000; T4-T3-T6): McIlroy failed to win again last week but it was his eighth top-10 finish in a row. The venue is a huge positive for him this week as his driver tends to help him a bunch at this tougher off-the-tee setup.
3. Brian Harman ($9,100; T5-T31-win): Harman stood resilient despite the course last week not favoring shorter hitters. He did gain 10 strokes around the greens + putting last week and will likely need those clubs to stay hot to get in contention again as well.
DraftKings DFS Strategy
Cash Games: Scheffler, hard to sway from
If history tells us anything, it’s very likely that Scottie Scheffler ($13,400) will be in the mix at this event on Sunday. While the leader at East Lake hasn’t prevailed every season, we’ve also not seen any precipitous drop-offs from the pre-event leader, with the first-place starter finishing 2nd or 1st the last three seasons. Last year’s runner-up Sungjae Im ($8,500) has solid course history and has been playing better of late, while Keegan Bradley ($8,100) is good value considering he’s starting the event at -3. Both make for solid mid-tier DFS targets.
Tournaments: Fleetwood and Henley can be movers
In an event where the leaders have a huge advantage and everyone else is forced into chase mode early, there is no harm in going after aggressive ball-strikers who can go low if the putts start to fall. Russell Henley ($8,300) has been playing great golf of late and ranks 3rd in the field in strokes gained approach stats over the last 24 rounds. He’s also been solid off the tee, which should be a huge advantage this week. Tommy Fleetwood ($8,800) feels a little less safe due to his poor course history but the same kind of considerations apply to him as well. He’s been solid off the tee of late and can always spike for a monster week with his irons or putter. Sam Burns ($6,100) and Adam Schenk ($5,100) are a couple of low-price punts to consider when building out GPP lineups.
MY PICK: Patrick Cantlay ($10,800)
Cantlay has been all over leaderboards most of the season. He ranks top five in ball striking and strokes gained off the tee stats over the last 50 rounds and has five top-five finishes since February. While we’re all looking for the Scottie Scheffler ($13,400) breakthrough win this week, Cantlay comes in with somewhat similar results and has some great playoff experience at East Lake to fall back on. He fended off Jon Rahm ($11,600) in tough conditions as the leader back in 2021 and, overall, has shot 67 or better in five of his past eight rounds at East Lake.
The long game is there for Cantlay and if we’re being honest, he’s likely got a better shot of getting hot with his putter this week than Scheffler, who has lost over 1.5 strokes putting in each of his last two starts. As a contrarian DFS target, he makes a lot of sense — regardless of whether you’re fading Scheffler or not, and has appeal in the top 5 markets this week, or the winner without starting strokes, on DraftKings Sportsbook.
MY SLEEPER: Sam Burns ($6,100)
From a DFS perspective, Burns could be a pivotal player this week. Despite ranking out with the fifth lowest salary this week, Burns comes in ranked seventh in DraftKings points gained over the last 50 rounds. The American is a great scorer and even if he does produce the odd mishap, having his elite birdie rate on your team for four rounds is a monumental edge in DraftKings scoring.
Recent-form wise, we also have to be happy with his progression of late. T14 at the Wyndham was based on a solid week on approach and putting, as he gained over 4.0 strokes in both areas. His off-the-tee game was also solid last week and carried him to a T15 finish at the BMW. His record at East Lake isn’t great but it’s worth noting that he’s gained over 3.0 strokes on the greens both seasons he’s made the Tour Championship. With his tee-to-green game trending well, he’ll make for a great stars and scrubs target with this week’s handicap scoring format and has some appeal at +500 in the overall top 10 market as well.
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