This is the final event of the 2020 PGA TOUR season. The field is only 30 golfers and it is comprised of the top-30 players from the FedExCup 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 FedExCup positions changing throughout the week, this year’s event is quite different. Players starting “scores” are determined by their FedExCup positions. The winner after 72 holes of play will then not only win the tournament, but also win the FedExCup (and the $15 million prize).
The starting positions for this week’s field are below. Note for DraftKings scoring purposes: starting strokes will be incorporated in the fantasy points awarded for finishing position.
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 ten 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, and the course has yielded winning scores in the -8 to -13 range for the most part since the change. Last year Rory McIlroy shot 13-under par over four days to win—his final score was 18-under par as he started at 5-under under the new FedExCup playing format.
While there’s a few easier holes on the course (a driveable par 4 and a very reachable par 5) there’s also some very intimidating ones. Long par 3’s are a trademark of Ross designs and this course features four of them in total, with three measuring in between 200-235 yards and playing to island style greens guarded by water. The par 4’s also play long as six will measure in at over 450 yards most days. The two par 5’s that remain on the course will yield birdies, although the finishing 18th measures in at 600 yards on the scorecard, so two great shots will be needed there to get near or on the green in two. In 2018 East Lake played as the 24th toughest, and last year it ranked as the 14th toughest, so a complete birdie-fest isn’t likely to break out.
As far as player styles go, ball placement off the tee and into the greens will generally be as important as sheer power this week as the already discussed Bermuda green complexes will give the players fits if they don’t hit it to the right spots. Longer hitters do have an advantage though as the driver heavy nature of this course allows plenty of opportunity for success with that club. As East Lake is a Donald Ross design it is also worth looking at who has had success at some of his other venues on the PGA TOUR (Sedgefield, Plainfield, Aronimink Golf Club, Oak Hill, Pinehurst #2).
2020 Weather Outlook: The weather here won’t be a huge factor for roster building in DFS as we’re dealing with a small 30-man field that will have condensed tee times. It is expected to be quite pleasant at East Lake early this week with temperatures expected to be in the high 90’s for the first two days with mostly sunny skies. It is expected to cool off a bit for the last two days with some scattered thunderstorms possible for Sunday, with highs in the mid-80’s expected for the finale on Labor Day Monday. Wind isn’t expected to get much above 8 mph all week though so don’t expect the weather to influence scoring much, if at all.
LAST FIVE WINNERS
2019—Rory McIlroy -18—*started at 5-under par (over Xander Schauffele -14)
2018—Tiger Woods -11 (over Billy Horschel -9)
2017—Xander Schauffele -12 (over Justin Thomas -11)
2016—Rory McIlroy -12 (over Kevin Chappell and Ryan Moore playoff)
2015—Jordan Spieth -9 (over three players at -5)
- Nine of the 10 past winners have ranked 15th or better in par 4 scoring in the year of their victory
- Eight of the 10 past winners had scored a victory on the PGA TOUR already in the year they won the TOUR Championship (Bill Haas hadn’t in 2012 but he did have two T2’s; Tiger Woods didn’t in 2018)
- Nine of the past 10 winners had not missed a cut in any playoff event coming into East Lake.
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful of 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.
Xander Schauffele +2200 and $8,900
Rory McIlroy +2200 and $9,700
Bryson DeChambeau +2200 and $10,100
Tony Finau +5000 and $8,200
Patrick Reed +6600 and $8,500
Harris English +6600 and $8,700
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
HORSES FOR COURSES
1. Rory McIlroy ($9,700; best finishes: win-2016, 2019): Rory has now won this event twice, last year and back in 2016. He’s also landed two other finishes of T7 and T2 at East Lake since 2014. He’s gone through a rough patch of late but looked more consistent throughout the bag at Olympia Fields. A big week at one of his favorite venues to end this tumultuous season wouldn’t be shocking.
2. Xander Schauffele ($8,900; best finishes: win-2017, 2nd-2019): Schauffele won at East Lake on his first visit here back in 2017 when he was still a rookie on the PGA TOUR. Last year he nearly won again despite starting the event six strokes off the pace—he finished solo 2nd. Now in his fourth full season he’ll start this year’s event at three under par and again be looking to shoot himself into the mix.
3. Webb Simpson ($11,000; best finishes: T4-2012, 2018): Simpson has finished inside the Top-5 at this event three-times in his last six appearances. The veteran will be making his fourth appearance in a row at this event after finishing T16 and T4 here the last two years. He’s won on a Donald Ross designed course before at Sedgefield and will better rested than the others after taking last week off.
WINNERS STATISTICS AND COURSE NOTES
2019: Rory McIlroy (18-under—started at 5-under for the week)
- Fairways at East Lake have been tough to find as the field only averaged a 55% Driving Accuracy rate last season, which is about 7% lower than the PGA TOUR average
- On the flip side, this does profile as something of a driver heavy course as the field here averaged 302 yards per drive last year which was about 9-yards more than the PGA TOUR average in that stat for 2019
- Scrambling around these tricky green complexes was also tough as the field averaged about 2-3% less in scrambling-rate than the PGA TOUR average
Cash Games: Starting lineups here with Jon Rahm ($12,700) offers far more flexibility than using Dustin Johnson ($15,200), who certainly has the ability to walk away with this—given his two-shot starting position—but offers little room for error due to his price. Last year we saw two players who started at four and five-under par finish 1st and 2nd so in-form players like Daniel Berger ($9,100) and Tony Finau ($8,200) should be mixed in. I also like Brendon Todd’s ($7,600) and Sebastian Munoz’s ($5,900) salaries here as they’re the cheapest plays in the 3-under range by far and have shown solid form the last few events.
Tournaments: Going with a full fade of the top-two players this week should be a solid way to go about creating some unique lineups. Both Webb Simpson ($11,000) and Bryson DeChambeau ($10,100) should garner some lower ownership due to price and recent play. Simpson took last week off to rest but has produced two top-5 finishes at East Lake over his career while Bryson has put together two poor events in a row and really struggled with his irons lately. He should benefit from the driver heavy nature of this course though. Other GPP plays to consider here include the likes of Cameron Smith ($5,100-see below), Mackenzie Hughes ($5,200) and Kevin Kisner ($6,800).
1. Dustin Johnson ($15,200, Recent finishes: 2nd-win-T2): Johnson put in yet another sterling performance last week, ultimately losing in a playoff at the second playoff event to Jon Rahm. Johnson’s now gained three or more strokes putting in his last three starts. Starting at 10-under, he’ll be a hard target to chase down this week.
2. Jon Rahm ($12,700, Recent finishes: win-T6): Rahm put in a weekend for the ages last week, shooting 66-64 on an insanely tough course. The Spaniard has produced improved finishing positions in each of his last four starts and should be a huge factor this week at East Lake where he finished T12 last year.
3. Hideki Matsuyama ($9,300, Recent finishes: T3-T29): Matsuyama produced some of the best golf we’ve seen from him in a while last week, landing a T3 finish against a quality field. He did gain +6.1 strokes around the green last week so any kind of regression in that area could see a dip in performance at East Lake.
My Pick: Daniel Berger ($9,100)
Berger’s coming into this week ranked 6th in the FedExCup point standings and will start the event at 4-under par and six shots back. It sounds like an insurmountable lead but last year we saw two players who started at 4 and 5 under par finish one-two in the standings. The winner of the first event after the restart at Colonial, he struggled a bit on the tougher Olympia Fields last week but should find the Par 70 setup and Bermuda Greens at East Lake more to his liking.
Over his career, Berger is a far bigger net positive putter on Bermuda than he is on Bent or Poa, and he’s posted most of his best results at tougher Par 70’s—like TPC Southwind and PGA National—that compare favorably to East Lake. From a value perspective, he also stands out here as he’s only the third most expensive player at the 4-under range and saves you $1,300 off Collin Morikawa ($10,400), who will start the event just one shot ahead of him. Ranked 5th in Par 4 scoring and 12th in Par 4 birdie or better %, I fully expect Berger to come out attacking here and potentially challenge for the overall win, as he tries to put a bookend on a massive comeback season that has seen rise back into the top-20 players in the OWGR.
My Sleeper: Cameron Smith ($5,100)
Smith occupied this spot in last week’s column and gets a return visit after he finished strongly with rounds of 68-69 on the weekend to move himself into a T20 position. The Aussie has enjoyed a return to form late in the year which enabled him to reach East Lake for just the second time in his career. Smith is no stranger to big events though as the 27-year-old has already recorded two top-5 finishes in major championships during his career and will undoubtedly be swinging freely this week after making such a solid turnaround.
Smith has now gained strokes on approach in three straight events and has again started to showcase an all-world around the green game, which allowed him to pick up +4.1 strokes on the field in that area last week. If his putter starts to heat up here, a bigger week could be ahead. There’s also still plenty of bonus money for players to ladder up to here, so motivation shouldn’t be a factor. Despite the solid play of late, he’s listed as the second cheapest option on DraftKings this week, a price which will allow you to go hard after the top-5 players. He seems underpriced for how well his play has progressed over the last three or four events.
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