PGA DFS Primer: Tour Championship (2021)
Perhaps the most memorable playoff in recent years took place on Sunday evening at Caves Valley Golf Club. Amidst all of the intense, high-stake playoff matches we’ve seen throughout the 2020-21 PGA Tour season, the six-hole sudden-death duel between Patrick Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau rewarded us with arguably the most pressure-packed playoff in the history of the sport. Alternating between Holes 17 and 18, Cantlay managed to sink a lengthy birdie putt on the sixth playoff hole, taking advantage of DeChambeau’s misses on the green. Cantlay enters the Tour Championship ranked first in the FedExCup standings, while DeChambeau sits at third overall.
A few of my recommendations fared well during the BMW Championship at Caves Valley, including South Korea’s Sungjae Im (3rd/-23) and Spain’s Jon Rahm (T9/-18), who both finished within the top ten. Rahm faltered in his last two rounds, sliding him down from second to fourth in the FedExCup standings. Harris English (T26/-13) and Louis Oosthuizen (T38/-10) had a couple of decent rounds but fell into the middle of the pack, while Collin Morikawa (T63/-2) and Kevin Kisner (T66/-1) rounded out the bottom due to multiple rounds finishing over-par or even.
The culmination of the 2020-21 PGA Tour season will occur at the Tour Championship hosted at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia this weekend. Players who finished last week within the top 30 of the FedExCup standings will travel south from Maryland to Georgia, returning to a familiar course after traversing the foreign fairways and greens at Caves Valley. The final playoff event is unique in that it rewards Starting Strokes based on a player’s rank in the FedExCup standings, meaning Patrick Cantlay starts at 10-under-par and still has the ability to score lower based on his 72-hole aggregate. In comparison, veteran Sergio Garcia is on the fringe and ranked 28th, meaning he will start at even-par and doesn’t get the advantage of Starting Strokes rewarded to higher-ranking players.
Let’s take a look at the East Lake course to see which golfers are worth rostering based on their skill set and Starting Strokes advantage heading into the final event of the PGA Tour.
- 2020: Dustin Johnson (-21)
- 2019: Rory McIlroy (-18)
- 2018: Tiger Woods (-11)
East Lake Golf Club is the site for the final playoff event of the 2020-21 PGA Tour this weekend. Situated in Atlanta, Georgia, the course has been the host of the Tour Championship numerous times over the last few decades, including three consecutive years dating back to 2018. Its familiarity is shared by the majority of the 30 players competing, who will likely produce low scores throughout the weekend. This places an emphasis on the Starting Strokes advantage awarded to the top-ranked players, as they are able to play with less pressure and adversity on their shoulders.
East Lake GC is shorter in its distance and par than Caves Valley, spanning 7,346 yards as a par 70. It emphasizes accuracy and finesse, whether swinging a driver or an iron. The bermudagrass greens measure 13 feet, with a short, two-inch rough that will be easier to recover from than some of the longer and thicker rough deployed throughout the season. The challenge is three-fold, starting with narrow fairways and inconvenient sand bunkers guarding the greens. Beginning at Hole 8, water hazards are introduced, adding a layer of difficulty that proceeds into the back nine. Even when a shot finds its way onto the green, most of them are tiered, meaning they slope and discard errant approach shots.
Rostering players with elite Greens in Regulation percentage (GIR) is a must to remain competitive when constructing your DFS lineups. Strokes gained tee-to-green and sand save percentage are two other statistics that will be useful to avoid bogeys or worse at East Lake GC this weekend. Putting has historically not been an issue at the course, while the navigation of fairways tends to make or break a player’s chances of winning the Tour Championship and its lucrative $15 million purse.
Relevant Betting Stats
- Greens in Regulation (GIR) percentage
- Sand save percentage
- Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green
- Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee
- Driving accuracy
Recommended Plays: DraftKings
Jon Rahm ($13,000)
Once again I’m confident with inserting Jon Rahm into lineups despite the premium salary required to roster him. He’s arguably the best greens in regulation golfer at East Lake and starts off six-under-par thanks to ranking fourth in the FedExCup standings. It’s an immense advantage and Rahm finished fourth at East Lake last season, so your lineup will get flooded with points. He’s my favorite blue-chip prospect and will return enough value with his first ranked birdie average (4.51) even if he fades down the stretch again. However, I predict Rahm will finish within the top three on the leaderboard, as he is listed at 4-1 odds alongside Patrick Cantlay.
Sam Burns ($8,500)
Sam Burns is one of the better values to tap in your lineups this weekend, as he is under $9,000 and has two finishes inside the top-eight across his last three events. The 25-year old American is phenomenal in nearly all strokes gained categories, most notably tee-to-green (32nd), approaching the green (18th), and putting (12th). His top-three birdie average (4.49) is an absolute steal at this price, so invest in Burns as a salary-saver with the potential to climb the leaderboards at East Lake GC. Did I mention he starts Thursday at four-under-par? Get Burns into your lineups and reap the rewards.
Cameron Smith ($10,1o0)
One of the highest-ranked in the FedExCup standings, 28-year old Aussie Cameron Smith enters East Lake five-under-par. This will allow Smith to overcome some of the disappointing even-par finishes he’s strung together at East Lake. He’s a bit expensive to roster but makes up for his greens in regulation inefficiency with a second-ranked birdie average (4.50) and third-ranked sand save percentage (63.70%), as these facets of his game allow for continuous scrambling to counter stray swings. A T34 finish at the BMW Championship hides the previous T10, T5, and second overall finishes that Smith produced earlier in August. He’s fifth in the standings for a reason and will use the Starting Strokes edge to his advantage.
Recommended Plays: FanDuel
Patrick Cantlay ($12,800)
I went back and forth on whether or not to spend the premium price tag on FedExCup’s top-ranked player, Patrick Cantlay. In the end, I cannot deny the momentum the 29-year old American has created for himself entering East Lake this weekend. Winning the duel against DeChambeau at Caves Valley bumped Cantlay into first overall, yielding a -10-under-par start on Thursday. He’s a phenomenal greens in regulation golfer, ranking 14th (69.82%), and possesses a hot putter. Cantlay is the other blue-chip prospect to target in lineups outside of Jon Rahm.
Sungjae Im ($9,200)
Sungjae Im should be targeted for any lineup that wants a high-floor, high-ceiling player. The 23-year old South Korean has improved in each of the last four events he’s participated in, climbing from 25th to 12th with a top-three finish at the BMW Championship this past weekend. Im ranks 26th in greens in regulation percentage (69.07%) and 15th in strokes gained off-the-tee (.546), meaning his skill set is a great fit at East Lake. In 2020, Im finished 11th overall (-10) and he will certainly be prepared to deliver four consecutive days of under-par performances, something that he failed to maintain in the final two rounds last year. At $9,200, Im is a player to get into lineups due to his floor, momentum, and past success at East Lake GC.
Dustin Johnson ($11,300)
I have stayed away from the 2020 FedExCup winner for most events this season, however, I want pieces of past success and Dustin Johnson certainly meets that criteria. He won with an impressive -21-under-par at East Lake last year and placed third (-7) in 2018. He gets a boost with three-under-par to start on Thursday, thanks to climbing to 15th in the FedExCup standings with a T6 (-20) finish at Caves Valley GC this past weekend. He averages 4.26 birdies (15th) per round, so your lineup will gain enough points to justify rostering the seventh-most expensive player on FanDuel. As long as you pair Johnson with Jon Rahm or Patrick Cantlay, you’ll find yourself on the winning side of every contest entered this weekend.
Whether you’re new to daily fantasy golf or a seasoned professional, be sure to check out our Daily Fantasy Golf Glossary. You can get started with The Stats That Matter Most or head to a more advanced strategy — like How To Use Vegas Odds To Generate Your Lineup — to learn more.