This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
Course: East Lake Golf Club (7,346 yards, par 70)
Winner: $15,000,000 and FedExCup
Well, it all comes down to this. After a season unlike any other that had 50 tournaments – including six major championships – the top 30 in points will battle it out for the 15th FedExCup title and the $15 million bonus that comes along with it. This will be the third edition of the TOUR Championship that features starting strokes based on points position. After the best statistical putting performance since strokes gained became available in last week's playoff victory at the BMW Championship, Patrick Cantlay will start the tournament as the leader at 10-under-par. He will have a two-shot lead on the No. 2 seed Tony Finau, who won the opening playoff event at Liberty National. Bryson DeChambeau comes in as the No. 3 seed and starts at 7-under-par after his frustrating playoff defeat last week. World No. 1 Jon Rahm will look to finalize his case for Player of the Year at East Lake and begins the event at 6-under, while Northern Trust runner-up Cameron Smith will round out the top five seeds at 5-under-par. From there seeds 6-10 will begin at 4-under, 11-15 at 3-under, 16-20 and 2-under, 21-25 at 1-under and 26-30 at even-par.
No matter your opinion on the points system used at the TOUR Championship, one thing you can't argue is that it makes it much easier to determine who will win the FedEx Cup. In all honesty, throughout the season the FedExCup points are something difficult to understand and follow. We just believe what all the Tour's projections tell us and go forward. Now it is simple, everyone knows where they stand heading into the finals and what is needed to take home the biggest prize in all of golf. Finishing with the lowest total adding in starting strokes and 72-hole score will constitute an official PGA Tour victory, but OWGR points will only be awarded based on 72-hole scores at the TOUR Championship. Last year for example Dustin Johnson won the FedExCup at 21-under-par after entering as the No. 1 seed, but Xander Schauffele posted the lowest 72-hole score at 15-under-par and took home the most OWGR points.
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We should see another soft golf course this week with a fair amount of precipitation on Tuesday and Wednesday of tournament week. That combined with little wind and high humidity should keep the greens receptive. The good news is that it is unlikely we see any storms during the four tournament rounds. There will be five former FedExCup Champions in the field this week with Rory McIlroy looking to become the first player to ever win three. Tiger Woods is the only other player to have won the FedEx Cup more than once.
2020 – Dustin Johnson (-21)
2019 – Rory McIlroy (-18)
2018 – Tiger Woods (-11)
2017 – Xander Schauffele (-12)
2016 – Rory McIlroy (-12)
2015 – Jordan Spieth (-9)
2014 – Billy Horschel (-11)
2013 – Henrik Stenson (-13)
2012 – Brandt Snedeker (-10)
2011 – Bill Haas (-8)
2010 – Jim Furyk (-8)
Key Stats to Victory
- SG: Approach
- GIR Percentage
- SG: Putting
- SG: Off-the-Tee
East Lake has hosted the TOUR Championship every year since 2004, so most of the field is quite familiar with its layout. In fact, only Sam Burns and Erik van Rooyen are the only players that have never played East Lake in competition before. Bermudagrass is all over the property and can make players that aren't ready for it look foolish at times. The rough will only be around 2.5 inches this week, but the challenge from missing these narrow fairways lies more in judging the lies. East Lake rough is notorious for flyers that can leave you in a very difficult position to try to get the ball up and down. The name of the game here is usually hitting the most greens. The putting surfaces are a little below average in size and even with the 30-best players in the field that particular season, East Lake routinely comes up as one of the lowest GIR percentage figures of any tournament. Unlike last week at Caves Valley that features four par-5's and a number of other short par-4's, East Lake offers very few easy birdie opportunities. The two par-5's on this par 70 layout will be crucial to take advantage of. Other than that, players will have a fair amount of mid-to-long irons into many of the par-4's and par-3's, so approach play should take precedent this week. These greens will roll up to 13 on the Stimpmeter and are some of the most pure surfaces players will see all season. Given the soft conditions, you're going to have to hole a lot of putts as we saw from Patrick Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau last week if you want to be hoisting the FedExCup trophy on Sunday afternoon.
FanDuel Value Picks
Tony Finau ($12,300)
Finau is coming off his breakthrough win at The Northern Trust followed up by a solid top-15 at Caves Valley, which included a final-round 63. His putting just continues to improve, as evidence by ranking sixth in SG: Putting at the BMW Championship. Finau is also 15th in SG: Around-the-Green and SG: Tee-to-Green. The Utah native has a pair of top-7 finishes in four starts at East Lake and has never turned in a round worse than 72. As noted, Finau will start the week at 8-under-par.
Justin Thomas ($11,500)
Thomas has as good of a game as anyone for East Lake, which is why his record here is so impressive. In five starts he has yet to finish worse than T7, which includes a pair of runner-ups. Thomas has his game rounding back into form after a T4 at The Northern Trust and a T22 at the BMW Championship. The 2017 FedExCup Champion ranks third in SG: Approach, third in SG: Tee-to-Green, and seventh in putts per GIR. Thomas begins the week at 4-under-par.
Rory McIlroy ($10,900)
McIlroy looked fantastic last week en route to a 22-under-par total and a solo fourth place finish at the BMW Championship. That was his fourth top-12 finish in his last six starts. McIlroy has an excellent record at East Lake, finishing in the top-10 in six of his seven trips, including a pair of victories. The Northern Irishman ranks top-10 on Tour in SG: Off-the-Tee, SG: Tee-to-Green, SG: Total, and birdie average. McIlroy will begin the tournament at 2-under-par.
Xander Schauffele ($10,500)
Schauffele has tailed off a bit since his gold medal win at the Olympics, but he is coming to arguably his best course this week. Schauffele has twice posted the lowest 72-hole score at East Lake in 2017 and 2020, then scored a T7 in 2018 and a runner-up in 2019 in just four career starts. His scoring average in those 16 rounds is 67.38. Schauffele has no weaknesses and ranks top-20 in both SG: Putting and SG: Tee-to-Green this season. He will begin the week at 2-under-par.
Longer Shots with Value
Sam Burns ($9,900)
Burns reminds me a lot of how Dustin Johnson played last year to a FedExCup title. He has massive power, a red hot putter, and is improving with his irons and wedges. That is a formula for success around a long and soft East Lake. Burns ranks 18th in SG: Approach, 12th in SG: Putting, and third in birdie average on the season. This is his first look at East Lake, but he has been a quick study. Burns finished top-25 in four of his last five starts and will start the tournament at 4-under-par.
Sungjae Im ($9,200)
Im is coming in off a 23-under-par showing last week at the BMW Championship that got him a solo third. It was his third straight top-25 finish as well. The 23-year-old has already gotten two looks at East Lake, including a T11 last season. Im ranks top-30 this season in driving accuracy, SG: Off-the-Tee, GIR percentage, scrambling, birdie average, and scoring average. He will begin his quest for a FedExCup title at 3-under-par.
Jason Kokrak ($8,200)
Kokrak plays a similar game to Sam Burns with his combination of length, iron play, and putting. The veteran ranks 24th in SG: Off-the-Tee, 27th in GIR percentage, and fourth in SG: Putting. The two-time winner this season has had a career year and is hoping to cap it off with a strong showing at East Lake where he has one other start in 2019 when he went T14. After seven straight rounds on the PGA Tour without breaking 70, Kokrak closed at Caves Valley by going 68-65-66. He will begin at 2-under-par.
Corey Conners ($7,700)
Conners has gained more strokes from tee to green through the first two playoff events than anyone. He racked up his 18th top-25 of the season last week at the BMW Championship. Conners is top-12 on the PGA Tour this season in SG: Off-the-Tee, SG: Approach, SG: Tee-to-Green, driving accuracy, and GIR percentage. The Canadian has only played East Lake one other time back in 2019 en route to a 26th place finish, but he is light years ahead as a player now. Conners will start the week at 1-under-par.
Strategy Tips This Week
Based on a Standard $60K Salary Cap
The starting strokes throw a whole new wrinkle into trying to pick a lineup this week. Obviously the players that are starting further under-par are going to get a boost in value this week. Typically we only see one player over $12,000, but this week the top-four seeds are all well over that number. I think the best way to play it this week is to not overly concern yourself with starting strokes. Pick players that make a lot of birdies and who either have a strong record at East Lake or have shown strong recent form. By the time we get to the weekend the leaderboard will likely look drastically different from where it is starting now.