It’s the final tournament of the PGA TOUR season this week at East Lake Golf Club, as the top 30 in the FedExCup standings participate in the 2021 TOUR Championship. As has been the case the past few years, this tournament has a unique setup with players getting “starting strokes” based on their current FedExCup standings and beginning the week with a head start or a deficit to make up.
With all of the top 30 expected to at least tee it up and try to play, there are 30 players in the field. Patrick Reed ($5,700) is going to give it a go even after being hospitalized for double pneumonia and also dealing with an ankle injury. Even with all 30 players in action, this week is always a tough one to find low ownership numbers since the field is so much smaller than usual. Trying to find contrarian plays is a little challenging, but there are some players that are going relatively overlooked due to other popular plays in their price range.
After last week’s debut of a brand new course to the PGA TOUR, this week’s course is a well-known and well-respected par-72. It’s a classic Donald Ross design with a few easy holes, including one drivable par 4, along with some difficult setups, including some signature log par 3s and some fairly long par 4s as well. Despite the length, this isn’t a “grip and rip” style event since being in the right places on the fairways and on the greens will be more important than brute strength. On-point approaches from the right angles are critical, so ball-strikers tend to do well here. Shots Gained: Putting has been the most predictive stat for success in the past, and most top players have a good amount of course history to evaluate as well.
Game theory will be even more important than usual this week as you try to make your lineups stand out, so if you’re playing in GPPs, do all you can to find the lowest ownerships possible. The focus of this post is to find solid alternatives that can be good options with lower ownerships, especially in GPPs on DraftKings, where you are looking to differentiate your lineups from the chalk.
Projected Popular Golfer: Jon Rahm ($13,000)
Pivot: Tony Finau ($11,800)
It’s easy to see why paying up for Rahm is attractive. His outstandingly consistent form has resulted in a major championship and seven top-10 finishes since The Masters. He’s going to be super chalky, though, in such a small field, and it was just two weeks ago that he was out-dueled down the stretch by Finau at THE NORTHERN TRUST. Rahm bogeyed two of his final four holes and finished solo third, two strokes out of the playoff, which Finau won over Cameron Smith ($10,100), who is also an interesting five-figure pivot. The problem with Smith is that he hasn’t shown he can close big tournaments with a win, while Finau just won two weeks ago. Granted, that was only his second career win, but he seems to live near the top of leaderboards, posting 32 top-10 finishes over the past five seasons. Finau only managed a T15 last week at the BMW Championship, but he finished with the lowest Final Round of the tournament, shooting a sizzling nine-under Sunday. Two weeks ago in New Jersey, he gained four shots on the green and was even better at the BMW with 6.0 SG: Putting. If he can stay hot with the flat stick, there’s no reason he can’t take home the top prize since he only starts two shots back of Patrick Cantlay ($13,400), which puts him two strokes up on Rahm when play begins.
$8,000 to $10,000 Range
Projected Popular Golfer: Rory McIlroy ($9,300)
Pivot: Harris English ($8,700)
Rory is a much more well-known name than English and comes in with excellent form and good course history. English comes in off of two unremarkable playoff finishes, a T31 at THE NORTHERN TRUST and T26 at the BMW Championship. However, before the playoffs, he had a nice summer with a T4 at the WGC-St. Jude, a T3 at the U.S. Open and a win at the Travelers Championship. He just missed out on the playoff at St. Jude and seemed to carry that with him at the start of the playoffs at Liberty National. He regained his form off the tee last week at Caves Valley Golf Club, but he struggled putting for the first three rounds of the week after gaining over 1.0 strokes per round on the greens for four straight events. He turned things around with a great Sunday, though, shooting a bogey-free seven-under and gaining over 2.5 shots putting. He’ll look to carry that momentum with him to East Lake, where he shot in the 60s in each of his three most recent rounds, finishing T12 last season.
$5,000 to $8,000 Range
Projected Popular Golfer: Sungjae Im ($7,300)
Pivot: Billy Horschel ($5,100)
Especially if you’re cramming a couple of big names into your lineup, you’re going to have to go to the cheap side of the salary structure this week. Most people seem to be focused on Im, Scottie Scheffler ($6,800) and Daniel Berger ($5,800), though, and overlooking the even-cheaper play in Horschel. Horschel hasn’t been making headlines lately and comes in with disappointing recent form since he struggled at the BMW Championship. Horschel’s strength is never the events with extremely low scores relative to par, though, and he’s now returning to a course where he has some history and has shown he can compete with elite fields. Horschel took down the WGC-Match Play for his first WGC win earlier this year and made the cut in 12 of 14 events. Before he finished 30th in this tournament last season, Horschel finished in the top 10 in each of his three previous appearances at the TOUR Championship, including a FedExCup win in 2014 and a runner-up finish in 2018. He’s definitely a long shot, but there is a lot of upside for a player whose salary is so low and looks to be coming in under the radar.
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