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BlogTour Champ. Preview and Picks

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:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

The field has all 30 players in the top-80 with the highest rank being 80th by Sebastian Munoz. There are 24 of the top 50 in the latest Official World Rankings, with eight of top-ten players in the field (#7 Brooks Koepka and #10 Adam Scott didn’t make it): #1 Dustin Johnson, #2 Jon Rahm, #3 Justin Thomas, #4 Rory McIlroy, #5 Collin Morikawa, #6 Webb Simpson, #8 Bryson DeChambeau, #9 Patrick Reed, #11 Xander Schauffele, #13 Daniel Berger, #14 Tony Finau, #15 Tyrrell Hatton, #20 Hideki Matsuyama, #23 Marc Leishman, #26 Abraham Ancer, #27 Sungjae Im, #29 Kevin Kisner, #31 Viktor Hovland, #32 Billy Horschel, #33 Kevin Na, #34 Ryan Palmer, #36 Scottie Scheffler, #39 Brendon Todd and #48 Cameron Smith

Those missing from the top-50 include:  #51 Harris English, #52 Joaquin Niemann, #65 Mackenzie Hughes, #73 Lanto Griffin, #75 Cameron Champ, and #80 Sebastian Munoz.

Last year there were 25 players from the top-50.

The field includes all 30 of the top-30 from the FedEx Cup rankings.

The field includes only three past champions: Rory McIlroy (2019 & ’16), Xander Schauffele (2017), and Billy Horschel (2014).

A perfect way for fantasy golfers to check on the past performance of all the players in the Tour Championship field is our performance chart listed by the average finish.  Another way to check who is the best is through a special formula worked out in Golfstats that gives us the best average performances at the Tour Championship field in the last five years or check out our sortable 8-year glance at the Tour Championship field.

A good cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmakers in England.

Another cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmaker in Las Vegas.

Time to look at our who’s hot and who isn’t:

Who’s Hot in the field for the Tour Championship

Player BMW Champ. Northern Trust Charles Schwab PGA Champ. WGC FedEx St. Jude 3M Open Memorial Workday Charity Open Rocket Mortgage Travelers Champ. RBC Heritage Wyndham Champ.
Dustin Johnson
(564.33 pts)
2
(150)
Win
(198)
CUT
(-3.33)
T2
(133.33)
T12
(38)
WD
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP Win
(44)
T17
(11)
DNP
Jon Rahm
(395.67 pts)
Win
(198)
T6
(90)
CUT
(-3.33)
T13
(49.33)
T52
(0)
DNP Win
(44)
T27
(7.67)
DNP T37
(4.33)
T33
(5.67)
DNP
Daniel Berger
(392.5 pts)
T25
(37.5)
3
(135)
Win
(44)
T13
(49.33)
T2
(100)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP T3
(30)
DNP
Kevin Kisner
(340.83 pts)
T25
(37.5)
T4
(120)
T29
(7)
T19
(41.33)
T25
(25)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP 3
(30)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
T3
(90)
Collin Morikawa
(310.67 pts)
T20
(45)
CUT
(-15)
2
(33.33)
Win
(176)
T20
(30)
DNP T48
(0.67)
Win
(44)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T64
(0)
DNP
Scottie Scheffler
(306 pts)
T20
(45)
T4
(120)
T55
(0)
T4
(106.67)
T15
(35)
DNP T22
(9.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Webb Simpson
(289.33 pts)
DNP T6
(90)
CUT
(-3.33)
T37
(17.33)
T12
(38)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T8
(16.67)
DNP Win
(44)
T3
(90)
Tony Finau
(284.67 pts)
5
(105)
CUT
(-15)
T23
(9)
T4
(106.67)
T65
(0)
T3
(60)
8
(16.67)
DNP T53
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
T33
(5.67)
DNP
Harris English
(274.67 pts)
T40
(15)
2
(150)
CUT
(-3.33)
T19
(41.33)
DNP T18
(21.33)
T13
(12.33)
DNP DNP DNP T17
(11)
T23
(27)
Justin Thomas
(259 pts)
T25
(37.5)
T49
(1.5)
T10
(13.33)
T37
(17.33)
Win
(132)
DNP T18
(10.67)
2
(33.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T8
(16.67)
DNP
Xander Schauffele
(252.67 pts)
T25
(37.5)
T25
(37.5)
T3
(30)
T10
(53.33)
T6
(60)
DNP T13
(12.33)
T14
(12)
DNP T20
(10)
T64
(0)
DNP
Hideki Matsuyama
(246.17 pts)
T3
(135)
T29
(31.5)
DNP T22
(37.33)
T20
(30)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T22
(9.33)
T21
(9.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Bryson DeChambeau
(220.5 pts)
50
(1.5)
CUT
(-15)
T3
(30)
T4
(106.67)
T30
(20)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP Win
(44)
T6
(20)
T8
(16.67)
DNP
Ryan Palmer
(174.33 pts)
T40
(15)
T8
(75)
CUT
(-3.33)
T43
(9.33)
T15
(35)
DNP 2
(33.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T8
(16.67)
DNP
Billy Horschel
(172.83 pts)
T33
(25.5)
CUT
(-15)
T38
(4)
T43
(9.33)
T25
(25)
DNP T13
(12.33)
T7
(18.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
2
(100)
Mackenzie Hughes
(168.83 pts)
T10
(60)
T13
(55.5)
CUT
(-3.33)
T58
(0)
T44
(6)
DNP T6
(20)
T48
(0.67)
DNP T3
(30)
T70
(0)
DNP
Viktor Hovland
(160.67 pts)
T40
(15)
T18
(48)
T23
(9)
T33
(22.67)
T59
(0)
DNP T48
(0.67)
3
(30)
T12
(12.67)
T11
(13)
T21
(9.67)
DNP
Brendon Todd
(159.67 pts)
T8
(75)
64
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
T17
(44)
T15
(35)
DNP T22
(9.33)
DNP T57
(0)
T11
(13)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-10)
Patrick Reed
(151.17 pts)
T40
(15)
T49
(1.5)
T7
(18.33)
T13
(49.33)
T47
(3)
DNP T10
(13.33)
T39
(3.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
T24
(8.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
T9
(45)
Joaquin Niemann
(147 pts)
T3
(135)
CUT
(-15)
T32
(6)
CUT
(-13.33)
T52
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T31
(6.33)
DNP 63
(0)
T5
(23.33)
T42
(8)
Tyrrell Hatton
(131.83 pts)
T16
(51)
T25
(37.5)
DNP CUT
(-13.33)
T69
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
DNP T3
(30)
DNP
Abraham Ancer
(113.17 pts)
T33
(25.5)
CUT
(-15)
T14
(12)
T43
(9.33)
T15
(35)
DNP T58
(0)
DNP DNP T11
(13)
2
(33.33)
DNP
Lanto Griffin
(111.67 pts)
T10
(60)
T58
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
T19
(41.33)
DNP DNP T44
(2)
CUT
(-3.33)
T21
(9.67)
T24
(8.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Rory McIlroy
(110.67 pts)
T12
(57)
T65
(0)
T32
(6)
T33
(22.67)
T47
(3)
DNP T32
(6)
DNP DNP T11
(13)
T41
(3)
DNP
Sebastian Munoz
(104.33 pts)
T8
(75)
T18
(48)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-13.33)
DNP DNP T48
(0.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
T28
(7.33)
T74
(0)

How Player Rankings are Computed

Who’s Not Hot in the field for the Tour Championship

Player BMW Champ. Northern Trust Charles Schwab PGA Champ. WGC FedEx St. Jude 3M Open Memorial Workday Charity Open Rocket Mortgage Travelers Champ. RBC Heritage Wyndham Champ.
Marc Leishman
(-31.67 pts)
69
(0)
CUT
(-15)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-13.33)
T52
(0)
DNP T40
(3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T58
(0)
DNP DNP
Sungjae Im
(38.33 pts)
T56
(0)
CUT
(-15)
T10
(13.33)
CUT
(-13.33)
T35
(15)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
63
(0)
T53
(0)
T58
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
T9
(45)
Kevin Na
(51.5 pts)
T51
(0)
T39
(16.5)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-13.33)
T35
(15)
DNP 9
(15)
DNP WD
(-1.67)
5
(23.33)
DNP DNP
Cameron Champ
(84.67 pts)
T65
(0)
CUT
(-15)
T14
(12)
T10
(53.33)
T25
(25)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
67
(0)
T12
(12.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Cameron Smith
(92.33 pts)
T20
(45)
T18
(48)
CUT
(-3.33)
T43
(9.33)
T59
(0)
DNP T68
(0)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz:

So we have gotten to the last event of the 2019-20 season.  Hard to believe the year has gone by so fast, between the break for the shutdown due to Coronavirus and getting the FedExCup playoffs done before football.  Starting last year the PGA Tour made some major changes to reduce the playoffs from four events to three along with big changes to the Tour Championship.  Since it became the last leg of the FedExCup playoffs in 2007, there was never a great way of having a tournament that would produce a winner of the tournament and at the same time the necessary points to determine the winner of the season-long FedExCup race.  In past years it seemed as if there were two events in one which created a little confusion.  In the 12 years of the FedExCup, there were only 8 times that the FedExCup winner and the Tour Championship winner were the same. The last time that happened was in 2016 when Rory McIlroy captured both titles.  So with some serious thoughts, the PGA Tour decided to try a new format last year. What the Tour decided to do was try a new format, one in which the Tour Championship will represent the final FedExCup standings.  In order to do that, points for the year ended at the BMW Championship, and to recognize those that did well in the year-long point race there created a staggered start to the Tour Championship.  The leaders in the FedExCup race got a head start at the Tour Championship.  So the FedExCup leader, which last year was Justin Thomas started the first round 10 under par.  Patrick Cantlay, who finished 2nd started at 8 under.  Brooks Koepka who finished 3rd, started the Tour Championship 7 under.  Patrick Reed started at 6 under and Rory McIlroy started at 5 under.  Going down the list, the start goes down so that those that finished between 26th and 30th in the FedExCup started at even par on Thursday.

The format created a lot of buzz as leader Justin Thomas spent the week talking to media about what he was going to do.  On the surface, the lead looked big, but after the first round, it was gone.  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 started the week at 4 under par, and with his 270 scores were 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.  Just like that Rory won the first-place prize of $15 million, as there was no purse to the tournament, just the money for the FedExPlayoffs.  So this year the winner gets $15 million,  2nd gets $5 million and 3rd gets $4 million.  The player in the 30th spot will get $395,000 so there is going to be a lot of money on the table.  Once we get over the fact of the staggered start and get to the final round, it will seem like a regular tournament, but with the difference of $10 million between first and second, we could see one of the most expensive putts on the 72nd green ever.

What’s great about this format

We saw last year that the format created a lot of excitement and got rid of the confusion of trying to see who was going to win the FedExCup.  Of course for Federal Express who foots the bill, they will get top billing and get more for their buck with this format.  The hope is to elevate the FedExCup playoffs and standings, along with crowning just one champion on Sunday.  More important, the PGA Tour has given the leading players a better chance at winning, but at the same time didn’t forget that player who starts on Thursday ten shots back of Dustin Johnson, if they put on a record four days of golf there is a possibility of winning the FedExCup playoffs.  So it’s just what the PGA Tour and Federal Express want, just one World Series or Super Bowl for golf to end the season and crown a FedExCup champion.

UPDATE: Seems that Rory McIlroy’s wife Erica had their baby daughter on Monday afternoon and with it, McIlroy will play on Friday after all.  There was a lot of speculation that McIlroy wasn’t going to play, but now it looks like he will tee it up on Friday at 1:30 alongside Brendon Todd.  No one seems to know if McIlroy will show up on Thursday to play a practice round.

2nd UPDATE: Bob Harig of ESPN in a story reported that McIlroy was at East Lake on Thursday and will play on Friday.

The importance of making it into the Tour Championship

In the last couple of years, the PGA Tour has made getting into the top-30 an important feat.  An example of this was Sunday at the BMW Championship when Mackenzie Hughes had a five-footer on the 72nd hole for par.  It’s hard to calculate the true financial windfall of the putt, but if Hughes made the putt he jumped to 28th in the FedExCup race and got a trip to play in the Tour Championship.  A miss and he would finish the year 32nd in the FedExCup race and win $195,000 in bonus money and Adam Long would get into the Tour Championship.  Hughes made the putt.  Here is the big deal and how much this putt was really worth.  Here is the easy part, with the par putt Hughes got the final spot at the Tour Championship.  Even if he plays terrible and finishes dead last, Hughes will earn $395,000 or $200,000 more than finishing in 32nd place.  But let’s say that Hughes has a decent week and finishes 20th, he wins $505,000.  If he has the week of his life who knows what could happen, if he finishes 10th he gets $830,00.  A 5th place finish earns him $2,500,000 so you can see that putt at BMW was important.  But forget what happens to Hughes at the Tour Championship, being in the top-30 brings on a lot of great things.  You get to play in every tournament in 2021, so Hughes now gets a pass to the World Golf Championships and all four majors.  But he also will get to play in Invitationals, like the Arnold Palmer Invitational or the Memorial.  He also in the top-30 will get invited in October to the CJ Cup@Shadow Creek and the Zozo Championship.  Both events have a field of only 78 and last place money pays about $17,000.  For 2021 the Sentry Tournament of Champions is inviting those that make the top-30 and that perk is not only a trip to Maui but at worst a last place check of $60,000.  So you can see that at the minimum that putts at BMW earned Hughes close to a half a million dollars.  Not bad for a day’s work.

Course information:
  • East Lake Golf Club
  • Atlanta, Ga.
  • 7,346 yards     Par 35-35–70

Tom Bendelow around 1905 designed East Lake and in 1913 Donald Ross completely reworked the course, and even though the layout is the same today, it was altered by George Cobb before the 1963 Ryder Cup matches.

East Lake has had a somewhat tumultuous existence. From its inception until the early 1960s, East Lake was one of the top courses in the entire country. It was Bobby Jones’s home golf course, he learned to play the game on this course. The Ryder Cup was held at East Lake in 1963. However, problems began to arise at the Atlanta Country Club as the area got seedy, and higher-income people began emigrating to the suburbs, leaving only lower-income households to inhabit the area surrounding the once storied Country Club. In the ’60s, the membership decided to abandon the site and move to what is presently Atlanta Athletic Club, with East Lake becoming a public course.

For the next 30 years, the golf course, along with the community itself, floundered, as the area became the most dangerous part of Atlanta. Police often referred to the area in the 70s & 80s surrounding East Lake as “Little Vietnam.”

In 1993, Tom Cousins, an esteemed real-estate developer, and East Lake resident joined with a charitable foundation to restore the East Lake Golf Club and the surrounding community to its previously leviathan stature. The two-phase plan included restoration on all housing and an overhaul of the old golf course. Rees Jones was hired to do the restoration in 1994.

Jones revamped the grass, changed many tees, and completely changed the landscaping. Unfortunately, when Jones did all of the work, it wasn’t thought that the event would be played in September, weeks after the hot summer season.  Everyone was caught by surprise in 2007 when the greens were stressed by a combination of drought and 28 days in August of heat over 90 degrees.  With these conditions, there was not enough time for the bentgrass greens to adequately recover from Atlanta’s hottest summer on record in the midst of a drought. And it was determined that in the best interest that the Crenshaw creep bentgrass would be replaced with Bermudagrass.  In making the changes to the greens, Jones also changed some of the contours of the greens and created some roll-off areas on greens.

Also, the green on No. 7 was changed and pushed back 43 yards, extending the par-4 hole to 394 yards. The fairway and green on No. 17 were repositioned left, closer to East Lake’s shoreline, and new tees were added on No. 13, 15, and 16. New fairways bunkers were added on the left side of No. 3, 7, and 16, and to the right side of No. 15. Bunkers were reconfigured on the green at No. 16 and expanded on the right side of the green on No. 14, as well as the left side of No. 4 green. New hole locations were created on various greens and low-cut, roll-off areas were installed off of greens on No. 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 10, and 17.

Today, the course plays as a 7,346 yard, par 70. It features Meyer Zoysia grass on both the tees and fairways while the rough is Tifway Bermuda Grass.  The greens are also Bermudagrass. Thus it can tolerate the hot days of August and be in great shape for this week.

The signature hole at East Lake is the Par 3, 15th. The hole plays at around 211 yards, but the downhill shot eliminates some of the distance. The tee was expanded, and if officials want, they can stretch the hole to 225 yards.  The green itself provides the challenge of the hole. Golfers must attack a peninsula green with water left, right, and in front of the green, as well as part of the backside. Adding to the difficulty, is a small bunker on the front left and the green, effectively making this an island green.  One other change, the tee at 8 was expanded, and the hole can play to 470 yards even though the “official” yardage on the hole is 455.  Since the 2019 Tour Championship trees have been removed on 15 and with a new tee it makes that hole seem bigger.

In 2015 the course played to a 70.38 average and was the 17th hardest course on tour.  For years the course played with a par 3 finish.  The hole was very hard, and this created terrible finishes.  So for 2016, the nines at East Lake was reversed as the PGA Tour was hoping to create a more exciting finish.  They got that as the new par 5 18th hole created a lot more drama as the par 3, the ninth hole was, who in previous 15 years was the final hole.  in 2016 Rory McIlroy birdied the 72nd hole to get into the playoff, it was the first time in the history of East Lake at the Tour Championship that the winner birdied the 72nd hole.  That year the course played a lot easier, to a 69.61 average, and was the 27th hardest course on Tour.  In 2017 the course played to a 69.38 average and was the 31st hardest course on tour.  In 2018 it played to a 69.62 average and was the 24th hardest course on tour year.  Last year East Lake played to a 70.03 average and was ranked 14th hardest course on tour.

Let’s take a look at vital stats that are important for those playing at East Lake this week

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.

Here is the link for all 30 players stats for the Tour Championship

DraftKings tips

Of the 30 in the field, 19 have played at least once at East Lake between 2015 and 2019 for the Tour Championship:
  • Rory McIlroy is -29 under in 16 rounds, playing 4 years
  • Xander Schauffele is -27 under in 12 rounds, playing 3 years
  • Justin Thomas is -24 under in 16 rounds, playing 4 years
  • Tony Finau is -14 under in 12 rounds, playing 3 years
  • Jon Rahm is -11 under in 12 rounds, playing 3 years
  • Billy Horschel is -9 under in 4 rounds, playing 1 year
  • Hideki Matsuyama is -8 under in 20 rounds, playing 5 years
  • Webb Simpson is -8 under in 12 rounds, playing 3 years
  • Bryson DeChambeau is -5 under in 8 rounds, playing 2 years
  • Daniel Berger is -5 under in 12 rounds, playing 3 years
  • Dustin Johnson is -5 under in 20 rounds, playing 5 years
  • Cameron Smith is 0 under in 4 rounds, playing 1 year
  • Sungjae Im is 1 under in 4 rounds, playing 1 year
  • Abraham Ancer is 5 under in 4 rounds, playing 1 year
  • Harris English is 5 under in 4 rounds, playing 1 year
  • Marc Leishman is 7 under in 12 rounds, playing 3 years
  • Kevin Kisner is 9 under in 16 rounds, playing 4 years
  • Kevin Na is 17 under in 12 rounds, playing 3 years
  • Patrick Reed is 22 under in 20 rounds, playing 5 years
*Here are the ones with the best under par totals averaging it per years played (2 or more starts)
  • Xander Schauffele is -27 under, playing 3 years (-9.0)
  • Rory McIlroy is -29 under, playing 4 years (-7.3)
  • Justin Thomas is -24 under, playing 4 years (-6.0)
  • Tony Finau is -14 under, playing 3 years (-4.7)
  • Jon Rahm is -11 under, playing 3 years (-3.7)
  • Webb Simpson is -8 under, playing 3 years (-2.7)
  • Bryson DeChambeau is -5 under, playing 2 years (-2.5)
  • Daniel Berger is -5 under, playing 3 years (-1.7)
  • Hideki Matsuyama is -8 under, playing 5 years (-1.6)
  • Dustin Johnson is -5 under, playing 5 years (-1.0)
  • Marc Leishman is 7 under, playing 3 years (2.3)
  • Kevin Kisner is 9 under, playing 4 years (2.3)
  • Patrick Reed is 22 under, playing 5 years (4.4)
  • Kevin Na is 17 under, playing 3 years (5.7)
Historical ParBreakers

Here is a look at those playing this week and who has made the most eagles and birdies at East Lake since 2015:

 

So it makes sense that the top players on this list are guys that will make lot’s of points this week

DraftKings tips

*Here are the guys that cost the most on DraftKings this week:

  • Dustin Johnson – $15,200
  • Jon Rahm – $12,700
  • Justin Thomas – $11,900
  • Webb Simpson – $11,000
  • Collin Morikawa – $10,400
  • Bryce DeChambeau – $10,100
  • Rory McIlroy – $9,700
  • Hideki Matsuyama – $9,300
  • Daniel Berger – $9,100
  • Xander Schauffele – $8,900

So with the staggered start, the thinking for this week’s Tour Championship will be drastically different.  There are two players over $12,700 which is a staggering figure, yes there are nine players under $5,900 so it does work out.  But there has to be some strategy put in place.  The importance of picking players is not only getting the winner and those in the top-five, but the players that make the most eagles and birdies, plus not making many bogeys or double bogeys.  So a decision has to be made, do you think the staggered starts of Dustin Johnson at 10 under, Jon Rahm at 8 under, Justin Thomas at 7 under, Webb Simpson at 6 under, and Collin Morikawa at 5 under has a big advantage?  Of course, they do, but as we see week in and week outgoing wire to wire is very tough.  Last year we saw what the pressure did to Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay, who were in the lead.  Things were so bad for Cantlay that by shooting 70-71-75-73 he fell from 2nd to T-21st.  With second place paying $5 million it was a costly fall in which he made just $478,000.  But will Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, and Justin Thomas have the same problems this year?  The pressure is still pressure and to be sitting knowing that your in the lead on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday is hard.  There will be a lot fewer media people so maybe that will help, still, it’s a lot to think about.  One thing that does make Dustin Johnson very undesirable is the fact that if you pick him for $15,200 that leaves you with just $34,800 for the other five players.  So that means you can spend an average of only 6,960 for those five picks.  So that leaves you with 13 guys that are $6,800 or under.

So the strategy which is important is picking guys that will make lots of birdies and eagles.  So it’s important to look at a key stat which is birdies and par-breaker to see how they stand.

Look at the field to see who has made the most birdies and breaks par the most in 2020:

 

So in looking at the top players, again is it worth taking Dustin Johnson at $15,200?  He has a lot going for him, his birdie rank of 9th and par breaker rank of 5 is a bit wrong, remember Johnson didn’t play well until he won at Travelers.  Since then he has made a lot of birdies and his rank is a bit off.  Despite all of that I can’t recommend Johnson the price is just too high.  Now Jon Rahm at $12,700 is also high but he has ranked as high as Johnson and is a lot cheaper.  Still, I am not picking him, again the price is too dear.  Justin Thomas at $11,900 is getting us back to reality and I would say that despite his problems last year, has a great record at East Lake and makes a lot of low numbers.  But his game has not been great since his WGC-FedEx St. Jude win and I don’t think he will get it back.  So your next question to me, is there anyone that I like?  Yes, and it’s Webb Simpson at $11,000 I like that he took last week off to relax and work on his game.  Also, like that he is first in Birdie Average and Par Breaker plus he is only four back and can win this.  Collin Morikawa at $10,400 is a no, not playing that well plus the course needs to have some good putting which he is weak out, so take a pace on him.  Bryce DeChambeau at $10,100 is a yes despite not playing well of late.  He has the fire-power to make lots of birdies and his length and go for broke attitude may help him.  Rory McIlroy at $9,700 is a no just because he has said that if his wife is going to have the baby he will withdraw in a heartbeat.  Update: McIlroy’s wife Erica delivered a baby girl on Monday and he will be able to play on Friday after all.  As of Thursday morning, when McIlroy announced the birth on twitter, he didn’t indicate any real plans but he hasn’t indicated he wasn’t coming so the thinking is he will play on Friday.  The big question will be if your willing to bet on Rory this week?  Yes with the burden of this going away maybe that will help, his record at East Lake is solid, despite being seven back of Johnson, McIlroy won last year starting five down, but that was last year and McIlroy does have the family to think about every time he plays now.  Still, we don’t know what kind of shape he is in, has he been able to sleep and have some sort of normalcy?  Think he is still priced a bit high for my blood so will just pass and see how he is this week.   Hideki Matsuyama at $9,300 is a good possibility. He has played well at East Lake, played well at the BMW Championship, and makes a good amount of birdies.  Daniel Berger at $9,100 is also a good buy, yes he hasn’t played great at East Lake but he hasn’t played bad, like that he ranks 5th in birdie average.  My really great pick is Xander Schauffele at $8,900, he isn’t a birdie machine but does good, but what I like is how well he has done in this event with a win in 2017, 2nd last year, and T-7th in 2018.  Yes, he is starting seven shots back, but he made up a lot of ground last year when he was six back to start to finish 2nd.

*Players in that $7,000 to $8,900 price range, which ones are worth the money?:
  • Patrick Reed – $8,500
  • Tony Finau – $8,200
  • Scottie Scheffler – $7,900
  • Tyrrell Hatton – $7,000

Patrick Reed at $8,500 is a good buy, first he never played well in this event but did finish T-9th last year.  I like that he is 9th in birdie average so he will get you a lot of points. The same with Tony Finau at $8,200, he was 7th last year at East Lake, T-7th in 2017, and T-15th in 2018.  But I like that he can be around the lead and will pick up some points.  Scottie Scheffler at $7,900 is also a key pick, never played in the event but has the stats to do well at East Lake and is 7th in both Birdie Average and Par Breaker.  Last is Tyrrell Hatton at $7,000, the price is a lot when you consider that he is 2nd in Birdie Average and 4th in Par Breaker, yes he will get you a lot of points.

*Some of the “bargains” this week at the Tour Championship, those under $7,000
  • Kevin Kisner – $6,800
  • Joaquin Niemann – $6,300
  • Billy Horschel – $5,700
  • Cameron Champ – $5,300

Have to say there is nobody under $7,000 that makes a lot of birdies with the exception of Viktor Hovland and Cameron Champ and they aren’t that great, you will have to take a couple of players in this price range so we have picked the ones that have done the best lately.

Like Kevin Kisner at $6,800 and the reasons are two-fold. Last year he was T-9th at the Tour Championship and T-3rd in 2017.  Also like that he was T-3rd at the Wyndham, T-4th at Northern Trust, and T-25th last week at BMW Championship.  Next is Joaquin Niemann at $6,300 he will be playing at East Lake for the first time, but like that he was T-3rd at the BMW.  Billy Horschel at $5,700 is one to pick based on always playing well at East Lake, only played it three times and was T-7th in 2013, winner in 2014, and 2nd in 2018.  Horschel played well at Wyndham finishing 2nd and T-33rd last week at the BMW Championship.  Cameron Champ is $5,300 and you need a cheap player he is the best.  Was T-10th at the PGA Championship and is 30th in Birdie Average.  Playing for the first time at East Lake.

Here are some of the secrets to playing well at East Lake:

The key stat for the winner:
  • Let’s be frank on this, of the 30 players in the field only about 8 of them have a chance of winning.  If you’re at 4 under you have a chance of winning if you play well.  But even those guys have a long slash as they need to go low.  So frankly I see this as a four-man race between Johnson, Rahm, Thomas, and Simpson.  All of these players have done great things in 2020 and I can see them do well.  Most importantly they are close to Johnson.  Many will say that Collin Morikawa will do well.  He starts five shots back but I haven’t seen him play well since winning the PGA Championship and his putting is not that great for a course he is playing for the first time  As for Daniel Berger who is playing well, he is six back the same as Harris English, Bryson DeChambeau, Sungjae Im, and Hideki Matsuyama.  After that, the rest of the field would need a miracle.  Yes, Xander Schauffele, Scottie Scheffler, and Tony Finau have the firepower, but frankly, they are running in the Indy 500 race driving a Prius.
  • As was proven in past Tour Championships played at East Lake it favors those that hit lots of greens.  Just look at the 19 winners of previous Tour Championships at East Lake. Hal Sutton in 1998 was 1st while in 2000 Phil Mickelson was T4th in greens hit, Vijay Singh was T8th in 2002, Retief Goosen was first in 2004 and Bart Bryant first in 2005, Adam Scott was T6th in 2006 while in 2007 Tiger Woods led, in 2008 Camilo Villegas was T3rd while in 2009 Phil Mickelson was T8th.  in 2010 Jim Furyk led the greens hit, but Bill Haas slacked off to T-11th in ’11, Brandt Snedeker was T-7th in 2012. In 2013 Henrik Stenson proved the importance of hitting greens as he led that stat, the same in 2014 with Billy Horschel.  In 2015 Jordan Speith was T-9th in greens hit, while 2016 Rory McIlroy was 2nd in greens hit.  In 2017 Xander Schauffele was 2nd hitting 56 of the 72 greens.  Now Tiger Woods in 2018 went against the grain when he hit only 48 greens and ranked T-14th. But as you can see hitting greens are essential because if you miss a green at East Lake, it will be challenging to get up and down for par.  Last year Rory McIlroy hit 50 of the 72 greens and ranked T-5th
  • Another key is holding the lead going into the final round.  Since 1987, the player who either led or had a share of the lead through 54 holes has gone on to win 19 out of 21 times – Tom Watson (1987), Curtis Strange (’88), Jodie Mudd (’90), Craig Stadler (’91), Paul Azinger (’92), Billy Mayfair (’95), Tom Lehman (’96), David Duval (’97), Tiger Woods (’99), Vijay Singh (2002), Chad Campbell in 2003, Bart Bryant in 2005, Adam Scott in 2006, Tiger Woods in 2007, Jim Furyk in 2010, Brandt Snedeker in 2012, Henrik Stenson in 2013, Billy Horschel in 2014 and Jordan Spieth in 2015.

Check it out at GolfStats.Com.  

  • 2016 winner Rory McIlroy broke the streak as he was T-3rd, 4 shots back, and shot a final round 64 to tie for the lead before winning in a playoff.  In 2017 Xander Schauffele was T-2nd, 2 shots back, and shot a final round 68 to win by a shot, while Tiger was co-leader in 2018.  Last year Rory McIlroy went into the final round T-2nd and won.
  • Experience and having a good year especially coming into the event is also a factor. Just look at the winners over the years.  Rory McIlroy last year and in 2016, Tiger Woods in 2018, Jordan Spieth in 2015, Henrik Stenson in 2013, Brandt Snedeker in 2012, Jim Furyk in 2010, Phil Mickelson the year before, Tiger Woods in 2007, Adam Scott the year before that.  Bart Bryant in 2005 and Retief Goosen in 2004 were examples of this. Scott finished either 2nd or 3rd six times going into the event, Bryant had won the Memorial early in the year while Goosen won the U.S. Open and then capped off with the Tour Championship.  All of them won capping off great years, so I feel that this year’s victor will be one of the top-five, Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, or Rory McIlroy.  Now Xander Schauffele broke this up a bit in 2017, but still, the experience is essential.
  • One last thing to look for. Yes, the course is demanding, but as it goes into the year being played for the 20th time and the 17th year in a row as the host course, the pros are starting to learn it better and shoot lower scores.  Yes, it’s going to take four rounds in the 60s to win, but other than Bart Bryant’s brilliant 17 under par performance in 2005 and Tiger Woods 23 underperformance in 2007 it’s rarely been taken apart.  Look for that trend to get broken this year because those players’ way behind will have to go low and will be looking to go low.
  • Lastly, the weather in Atlanta.  Yes it will be hot and muggy, with temperates in the mid-80s but there won’t be any rain and the winds won’t be that bad.

Who to watch for at the Tour Championship

Best Bets:

Dustin Johnson

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T29 3 T17 T6 T5 5 T10 T23 T22 27

Will be the leader starting at 10 under and I think he can hold on to this. But we know that Johnson has booted away more events than he has won. But I feel this will be a good week for him, was runner-up last week at the BMW, won at Northern Trust, runner-up at the PGA Championship, won the Travelers. His record at East Lake isn’t the greatest, but he was that way going into the Northern Trust and won that. He begins the week with the lead and with his game will be very hard to beat.

Webb Simpson

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T16 T4 T13 T23 4 T5 22

Will start off at 6 under, four back of Dustin. I like the fact that he took last week off to relax and get ready. Was T-4th at East Lake in 2018, 4th in 2013, and T-5th in 2012. His key stats are good, 12th in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green, 6th in Greens in Regulation, 7th in scrambling, and 12th in Strokes Gained Putting all of these show that Simpson is good for East Lake and yes can make up the four shots on Dustin.

Jon Rahm

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T12 T11 T7

Will Start off at 8 under, two back of Dustin. Won last week at BMW and the Memorial, T-6th at Northern Trust, T-13th at PGA Championship, his game has been improving as he continues to play well. 5th in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green, 18th in Greens in Regulation, T-22nd in scrambling, and 20th in Strokes Gained Putting all of these show that Rahm is can handle East Lake. The way he is playing, two shots can be made up before he makes the turn on Friday, look for him to play well and catch Johnson.

Those that aren’t that far back:

Justin Thomas

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T3 T7 2 T6

He will start the event at 7 under, three back of Dustin. A great record at East Lake, 2nd in 2017, T-6th in 2016, T-7th in 2018 but his T-3rd last year was a disappointment as he led the FedExCup race but wasn’t able to hold his lead. Hasn’t played great since his WGC-FedEx St. Jude win. His stats are good, 1st in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green, 40th in Greens in Regulation, 19th in scrambling and T-114th in Strokes Gained Putting, he has the game and the course is good for him to make up the three shots on Dustin. He would love to do what he couldn’t do last year, win.

Xander Schauffele

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
2 T7 Win

He will start the event at 3 under, seven shots back of Dustin. Of anyone has the best record at East Lake, won in 2017, 2nd last year, and T-7th in 2018. Seven shots is a lot of ground to pick up on Dustin, but with his record on this course, that is possible.

Daniel Berger

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
15 T15 T12

He will start the event at 4 under, six shots back of Dustin. Not a great record at East Lake, in three starts best was T-12th in 2015. Over his last four starts was T-2nd at WGC-FedEx St.Jude, T-13th at PGA Championship, 3rd at Northern Trust, and T-25th at the BMW. 29 under in those 12 rounds.

Hideki Matsuyama

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T9 T4 T26 5 T12 22

He will start the event at 4 under, six shots back of Dustin. Was T-9th last year at East Lake, T-4th in 2018, and 5th in 2016. The course is perfect for his tee-to-green game. T-3rd at BMW Championship was his best finish in a year, has struggled since the break but he found something at Olympia Fields. His only chance is he needs to have the putting week of his life.

Solid contenders but probably too far back

Bryson DeChambeau

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T12 19

He will start the event at 4 under, six shots back of Dustin. At East Lake was T-12th last year and 19th in 2018. Has the length to come out and make something happen, still a long order to catch Johnson, but has played poorly of late.

Collin Morikawa

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
First time playing in this event

He will start the event at 5 under, five shots back of Dustin. Has never played at East Lake, but the course is perfect for his tee-to-green game. Has two wins since the break including the PGA Championship victory, also loss a playoff at the Charles Schwab. Was T-20th at Olympia Fields after missing cut at Northern Trust. Still will be a tall order making up five shots on Dustin Johnson, will have to putt his best this week.

Be a great pick if he wasn’t starting so far back of Dustin:

Tony Finau

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
7 T15 T7

He will start the event at 2 under, 8 shots back of Dustin. Was 7th last year at East Lake, T-7th in 2017 and T-15th in 2018. 5th at BMW and T-4th at the PGA Championship, has the power to post a low score unfortunately he is starting Friday 8 shots back and it’s like entering the Indy 500 in a Prius, just not enough to catch Johnson.

May not play this week:

Rory McIlroy

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
Win T7 Win T16 T2 T10

He will start the event at 3 under, 7 shots back of Dustin. Won at East Lake last year and in 2016, was T-2nd in 2014 he plays well on this course. Has really struggled since the break, maybe the reason for him if he can’t play this week. His wife is due to give the couple first child this week which would sideline him and give him time to think about Winged Foot.  UPDATE: The baby came on Monday and it seems that Rory will tee it up.  Again he is a powerhouse at East Lake and if he can make up a five-shot lead last year, he could make up a seven-shot lead.  Still think it will be a tall order, yes his mind will be free of having to worry about the childbirth, things seem to be ok.  Still, we don’t know the physical toll the last four days will have and if lack of practice and sleep will affect his game on Friday or over the weekend.  I don’t think he will win so leave it at that.

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