East Lake Key Fantasy Stats

Tour Championship

September 4th – 7th, 2020

East Lake G.C.

Atlanta, GA

Par: 70 / Yardage: 7,346

Purse: No Purse

Defending Champion:
Rory McIlroy

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:

This is based on the most vital stats from East Lake G.C., based on data from last year’s Tour Championship and using data from all the players with stats from 2020.

This is a classic Tom Bendelow design that Donald Ross completely reworked, a course that favors the shot maker and one that hits lots of greens. The course was considered one of the best in America in the 20s and 30s, but with changes in the community in the 50s and 60s, things changed. The course held the 1963 Ryder Cup on it, and George Cobb made some changes. The club fell into some tough times in the 70s and 80s, and it took Tom Cousin, an important real estate developer in Atlanta, to bring the course back from its low point. Ress Jones did the restoration in 1994, but the goal was to get it back to the changes that Donald Ross made, which he did correctly.
What makes the course a gem is that each hole is tree-lined, so you have to drive it reasonably straight. The most crucial aspect is hitting greens, in the 19 times the course has held the Tour Championship, only two champions have been out of the top-ten in greens hit (Bill Haas in 2011 and Tiger Woods in 2018), and seven of the winners led that stat. The greens are also hard to putt, and since most of the greens are built up, you miss a green, so scrambling becomes key. The bottom line this isn’t a course for the power hitter, short hitters have as much chance of doing well as long hitters.

Now we have to spend a moment to talk about the new format. In previous years it seemed as if there were two events in one, which created confusion. In the 12 years of the FedExCup, only 8 times the FedExCup winner and the Tour Championship winner were the same. So the PGA Tour decided to try a new format, one in which the Tour Championship will represent the final FedExCup standings. To do that, points for the year ended at last weeks’ BMW Championship and recognizing those that did well in the year-long point race, there will be a staggered start to the Tour Championship. The leaders in the FedExCup race will get a head start at East Lake. So the FedExCup leader, which is Dustin Johnson, will begin on Friday at 10 under par. Jon Rahm, who finished 2nd, will start at 8 under. Justin Thomas, who finished 3rd, will start the Tour Championship 7 under while Webb Simpson, who finished 4th will begin at 6 under. Collin Erika was5th and will begin the week at 5 under or 5 shots back of Dustin Johnson. Going down the list, the start goes down so that those that finished between 26th and 30th in the FedExCup will start at even par on Friday, ten shots back of Dustin Johnson. So statically, it’s like entering the Indy 500 in a Prius. It’s not possible to cover ten shots over any player, let alone the number one player in the world.
Last year Justin Thomas started at 10 under but was caught and passed by three other players. The winner was Rory McIlroy, who shot 267, which was ten shots better than Thomas. So despite having a 5 shot lead over McIlroy, he only was 3 under par, so he finished 13 under par. McIlroy, who shot 13 under, started the week at 5 under so he was 18 under. Xander Schauffele began the week at 4 under par, and with his 270 score was 14 under and took 2nd. Brooks Koepka started the week at 7 under and, with his 274 total, ended at 12 under to tie for 3rd with Thomas.

So it may seem like the Tour Championship, but it isn’t. We will miss having two races in which there is a tournament at stake along with the FedEx Cup money, and I will tell you there will be hell to pay if a non-winner on the PGA Tour like Sebastian Munoz or a Scottie Scheffler has the low 72 hole score and aren’t credited with the victory. For those playing DraftKings, this new format will present added problems, which we will go into on my Preview. One hint for those in Draftkings, look at the birdie average and par breakers list to help make picks.

So in looking at our four categories for this week, we see how much driving and getting the ball on the green makes a difference. So we pick Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green because at East Lake putting the ball in play off the tee is very important, probably one of the essential items on this Donald Ross course. Last year East Lake was 9th in Driving Accuracy. In looking at Rory McIlroy, who won last year, he was 1st in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green, while he was T-3rd in Driving Accuracy. The year before, Tiger Woods won, and he was T-3rd in Driving Accuracy and 7th in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green. Then getting the ball on the greens is essential, and we all know how hard it is to hit a Donald Ross greens. Last year East Lake ranked 17th in this stat, and last year’s winner McIlroy was T-5th in Greens in Regulation. In 2018 Tiger Woods won and was T-14th in Greens in Regulation, which was the worst finish in any East Lake Champion stat. Still, it shows that anything can happen. That is why next up is scrambling because the greens are hard to hit when you miss the green, you have to get it up and down to win. Last year East Lake was ranked 18th in scrambling, and in winning last year, McIlroy was 5th as he got it up and down in 68.18% of the time. The previous year Tiger was 1st in scrambling, getting it up and down 70.83% of the time. Last and a vital stat for those playing a Donald Ross golf course is putting, last year, the course ranked 28th on the PGA Tour. In Strokes Gained Putting, last year McIlroy was 11th and in 2018 Tiger Woods was 2nd

One last thing, this week’s format will make it hard to judge who could win as half the field has been eliminated. But if Dustin Johnson, Jone Rahm, and Justin Thomas falter early, it will open up many more players’ chances and make the event very interesting. The one thing about this format, on paper, it looks great, and many think that we can put Dustin Johnson’s name on the trophy. But after seeing what happened to Justin Thomas last year, having the lead for 72 holes is a challenging proposition. It’s also going to be hot and muggy early, and the course could dry up and play very fast, making for more excitement.

*Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green: Looks at the combination of length off the tee and accuracy, then getting the ball on the green so it determines who is best at all of these items.

*Greens in Regulation: Players that hit the most greens in regulation

*Scrambler: Who gets it up and down after missing a green.

*Strokes Gained Putting: The number of putts a player takes from a specific distance is measured against a statistical baseline to determine the player’s strokes gained or lost on a hole.

Of the 30 players in the field, 30 have stats on the PGA Tour for 2020:

Click any column title in the table header to sort columns.

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