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BlogTour Championship Preview and Picks

Tour Championship

September 2nd – 5th, 2021

East Lake G.C.

Atlanta, GA

Par: 70 / Yardage: 7,346

Purse: No Purse

Defending Champion:
Dustin Johnson

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-55 with the highest rank being 55th by Erik van Rooyen. There are 29 of the top 50 in the latest Official World Rankings, with ten of top-ten players in the field #1 Jon Rahm, #2 Dustin Johnson, #3 Collin Morikawa, #4 Patrick Cantlay, #5 Xander Schauffele, #6 Justin Thomas, #7 Bryson DeChambeau, #8 Louis Oosthuizen, #9 Tony Finau, #10 Brooks Koepka, #11 Harris English, #12 Abraham Ancer, #13 Rory McIlroy, #14 Jordan Spieth, #15 Viktor Hovland, #17 Hideki Matsuyama, #18 Daniel Berger, #19 Patrick Reed, #21 Scottie Scheffler, #23 Cameron Smith, #25 Sam Burns, #26 Jason Kokrak, #27 Sungjae Im, #28 Billy Horschel, #29 Joaquin Niemann, #30 Kevin Na, #33 Corey Conners, #46 Stewart Cink, #48 Sergio Garcia, #55 Erik van Rooyen.

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

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

The field includes five past champions: Dustin Johnson (2020), Rory McIlroy (2019 & ’16), Xander Schauffele (2017), Jordan Spieth (2015) 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 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 Wyndham Champ, WGC FedEx St. Jude Barracuda Champ. Olympics 3M Open British Open Barbasol Champ. John Deere Scottish Open Rocket Mortgage Travelers Champ.
Tony Finau
(301.17 pts)
T15
(52.5)
Win
(198)
DNP T34
(16)
DNP DNP T28
(14.67)
T15
(23.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Patrick Cantlay
(289.17 pts)
Win
(198)
T11
(58.5)
DNP T23
(27)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T13
(12.33)
Cameron Smith
(288.67 pts)
T34
(24)
2
(150)
DNP T5
(70)
DNP T10
(26.67)
DNP T33
(11.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T30
(6.67)
Kevin Na
(285.83 pts)
T17
(49.5)
T8
(75)
T2
(100)
T23
(27)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T2
(33.33)
DNP DNP T47
(1)
Erik Van Rooyen
(281.83 pts)
5
(105)
7
(82.5)
T37
(13)
DNP Win
(88)
DNP T58
(0)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Jon Rahm
(280.83 pts)
T9
(67.5)
3
(135)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T3
(60)
DNP DNP 7
(18.33)
DNP DNP
Sungjae Im
(252.33 pts)
3
(135)
T16
(51)
T24
(26)
T46
(4)
DNP T22
(18.67)
DNP DNP DNP T47
(1)
DNP T8
(16.67)
DNP
Abraham Ancer
(250.17 pts)
T9
(67.5)
T64
(0)
DNP Win
(132)
DNP T14
(24)
DNP T59
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP 4
(26.67)
Bryson DeChambeau
(246.83 pts)
2
(150)
T31
(28.5)
DNP T8
(50)
DNP DNP DNP T33
(11.33)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T19
(10.33)
Sam Burns
(241.5 pts)
8
(75)
T21
(43.5)
DNP T2
(100)
DNP DNP DNP T76
(0)
DNP DNP T18
(10.67)
DNP T13
(12.33)
Justin Thomas
(228 pts)
T22
(42)
T4
(120)
DNP T26
(24)
DNP T22
(18.67)
DNP T40
(6.67)
DNP DNP T8
(16.67)
DNP DNP
Rory McIlroy
(221.17 pts)
4
(120)
T43
(10.5)
DNP T12
(38)
DNP T4
(53.33)
DNP T46
(2.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Harris English
(191.17 pts)
T26
(36)
T31
(28.5)
DNP 4
(80)
DNP DNP DNP T46
(2.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP Win
(44)
Louis Oosthuizen
(177.67 pts)
T38
(18)
DNP DNP T17
(33)
DNP DNP T2
(66.67)
T3
(60)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Corey Conners
(175.67 pts)
T22
(42)
T8
(75)
DNP T36
(14)
DNP 13
(24.67)
DNP T15
(23.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Xander Schauffele
(173.83 pts)
T49
(1.5)
T16
(51)
DNP T46
(4)
DNP Win
(88)
DNP T26
(16)
DNP DNP T10
(13.33)
DNP DNP
Hideki Matsuyama
(158.17 pts)
T46
(6)
T43
(10.5)
CUT
(-10)
T2
(100)
DNP T4
(53.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP WD
(-1.67)
DNP
Collin Morikawa
(150.33 pts)
T63
(0)
CUT
(-15)
DNP T26
(24)
DNP T4
(53.33)
DNP Win
(88)
DNP DNP T71
(0)
DNP DNP
Dustin Johnson
(150 pts)
T6
(90)
CUT
(-15)
DNP T10
(40)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
T8
(33.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T25
(8.33)
Daniel Berger
(144.67 pts)
T26
(36)
T56
(0)
DNP T5
(70)
DNP DNP DNP T8
(33.33)
DNP T34
(5.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Sergio Garcia
(136.33 pts)
T6
(90)
CUT
(-15)
DNP T26
(24)
DNP DNP T25
(16.67)
T19
(20.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Scottie Scheffler
(135.5 pts)
T22
(42)
T43
(10.5)
DNP 14
(36)
DNP DNP DNP T8
(33.33)
DNP DNP T12
(12.67)
DNP T47
(1)
Brooks Koepka
(133.83 pts)
T22
(42)
T31
(28.5)
DNP T54
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T6
(40)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T5
(23.33)
Joaquin Niemann
(133.67 pts)
T29
(31.5)
T47
(4.5)
DNP T17
(33)
DNP T10
(26.67)
DNP T59
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T2
(33.33)
T36
(4.67)
Jordan Spieth
(128.67 pts)
T34
(24)
73
(0)
DNP T12
(38)
DNP DNP DNP 2
(66.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

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

Player BMW Champ. Northern Trust Wyndham Champ, WGC FedEx St. Jude Barracuda Champ. Olympics 3M Open British Open Barbasol Champ. John Deere Scottish Open Rocket Mortgage Travelers Champ.
Patrick Reed
(56 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T31
(19)
DNP T22
(18.67)
T34
(10.67)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP T32
(6)
T25
(8.33)
Billy Horschel
(61.5 pts)
T52
(0)
T31
(28.5)
DNP T17
(33)
DNP DNP DNP T53
(0)
DNP DNP T54
(0)
DNP DNP
Stewart Cink
(61.83 pts)
T38
(18)
T21
(43.5)
DNP T43
(7)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T30
(6.67)
Jason Kokrak
(72.17 pts)
T15
(52.5)
CUT
(-15)
CUT
(-10)
T34
(16)
DNP DNP DNP T26
(16)
DNP DNP DNP T12
(12.67)
DNP
Viktor Hovland
(123.33 pts)
T17
(49.5)
T43
(10.5)
DNP T36
(14)
DNP T14
(24)
DNP T12
(25.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz:

So we have gotten to the last event of the 2020-21 season.  Hard to believe the year has gone by so fast. This week’s Tour Championship is the end of the longest season in the history of the PGA Tour.  Including the Olympics, 51 events were played over 51 weeks.  Because of the time off because of COVID-19, several events from the 2019/2020 season were played in 2021, as we saw six majors in the 2020/2021 season.  All of that comes to an end this week in Atlanta for the Tour Championship.  Before we talk about that, we have to look back at what happened on Sunday at the BMW Championship.  We saw the best mano-a-mano exhibition since probably the Nicklaus/Watson duel at Turnberry in 1977.  What Patrick Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau gave us was an epic battle.  The first lapped the field to tie after regulation at 27 under.  This was shot on a course that wasn’t that easy, but the 27-under total was the lowest to par score for the year, and the 261 total of Cantlay and DeChambeau was the second-lowest 72 hole score for the year (Kevin Na’s 259 at Sony Open in Hawaii was the lowest).

What made Sunday so captivating was it turned into a David and Goliath showdown as DeChambeau on the back nine and in the six-hole playoff outdrove Cantlay by 40 yards.  So while Cantlay was left with a six-iron to the hole, Bryce was hitting a wedge.  It didn’t matter for Cantlay, who was relentless in making every putt on the final holes and in the playoff to beat DeChambeau.  Cantlay ended the 72 holes making a 21-foot birdie at 18, and then in the playoff made a 17-foot birdie on the first playoff hole. Cantlay made an 18-foot birdie putt before DeChambeau missed a 10-footer that would have sent it into overtime.

The win for Cantlay capped off what is one of the greatest putting weeks for an individual in the 18 years of the shotlink era.  Cantlay made 537 feet, 5 inches of putts in regulation to become just the third winner to make over 500 feet of putts in victory.  Despite Cantlay constantly being outdriven by DeChambeau, Cantlay proved that the putter is greater than the driver. Through 72 holes, Cantlay gained an incredible 14.6 strokes, five strokes more than DeChambeau and eight strokes better than anyone else in the field.

The victory had significant repercussions for the Tour Championship, as Cantlay goes into East Lake the leader and thus starts on Thursday 10-under-par, while DeChambeau, with a win, could have been in the same boat but instead starts Thursday three shots back at 7-under par.  It may have continued DeChambeau’s heartbreaking summer in which he has collapsed in three events since the PGA Championship.  So despite losing this battle, DeChambeau gained a ton of confidence going into the Tour Championship with the thought that if he could win at East Lake, it would make him the best player in the 2020/21 season.  Still, there may be a lot to celebrate for Bryson, but he had numerous opportunities on Sunday afternoon to win, but a half dozen times missed putts inside of 15 feet that would have claimed victory.  Still, what happened on Sunday has set up for a very exciting Tour Championship and will give betters many different choices.

New Format

After the 2018 Tour Championship, the PGA Tour started a new format to combine the Tour Championship with the FedExCup points list.  We explained it in our East Lake Key Fantasy stats. Still, the bottom line is that come Thursday, Patrick Cantlay, who leads the FedExCup points list, will begin the week at 10-under, with Tony Finau at 8-under, Bryson DeChambeau at 7-under, Jon Rahm will start at 6-under, and Cameron Smith at 5-under par. The following five (Justin Thomas, Harris English, Abraham Ancer, Jordan Spieth, and Sam Burns) will begin at 4-under, regressing by one stroke per five players until those ranked Nos. 26-30 start at even par. Now for those players that are 20 and below in the FedExCup and will find themselves 9 or 10 shots back of Patrick Cantlay will be like entering the Indy 500 in a Prius. It’s hard enough to cover ten shots over any player, but to at the same time jump over 20 of the best players in the world is an impossible task.

The format created a lot of buzz in its first year as leader Justin Thomas spent the week talking to the 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 score was 14-under and took 2nd.  Brooks Koepka started the week at 7-under and, with his 274 total, ended at 13-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 will be a lot of money on the table.  Once we get over 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, the 72nd green ever.

Last year things worked as its creators had in mind as Dustin Johnson was the leader of the FedExCup and thus started at 10-under. He shot 11-under, 269, and won by three shots over Xander Schauffele and Justin Thomas. Schauffele was remarkable as he started at 3-under but with his 265 total was able to take 2nd place, but wasn’t good enough to catch Johnson.  So this year will be the third time around for this format.

What’s great about this format

We have seen that the format created a lot of excitement and got rid of the confusion of trying to see who would win the FedExCup.  Of course, Federal Express, who foots the bill, 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 like Erik Van Rooyen, who starts on Thursday ten shots back of Patrick Cantlay, 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.

The importance of making it into the Tour Championship

The PGA Tour has made getting into the top-30 a critical feat in the last couple of years.  An example of this was Sunday at the BMW Championship when K.H. Lee made bogey at his final hole to drop out of the top-30.  Alex Noren was also a 72 hole casualty with a bogey that dropped him out of the top-30.  Of all of them, Patrick Reed, who was sick and hospitalized and didn’t make a single shot, was able to hold on to the onslaught.  He started the week 26th, and after Lee and Noren fell out, Reed was able to claim the 30th spot and says he will tee it up on Thursday.

For Reed, Lee, and Noren, it’s hard to calculate the true financial windfall have what happened, but if Noren or Lee hadn’t made bogey, they would have gotten a trip to play in the Tour Championship.  The last place at East Lake pays out $395,000.  For Lee, who finished 31st, he will get $200,000.  For Noren, who finished 33rd, he will get $190,00. Of course, we can only speculate what-ifs, but let us say that Lee or Noren made it to the Tour Championship and had 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 what happened on the final hole on Sunday at Caves Valley was important.  The same with Reed. If Noren or Lee made par on the final hole, that would have meant that Reed would have fallen out of 30th place and not play this week.  Money isn’t the only prize for playing at the Tour Championship. Being in the top-30 brings on a lot of other great things.  You get to play in any tournament you want to play in 2020 (except for Noren the Sentry TofC), plus getting a pass to the World Golf Championships and all four majors.  They also get to play in Invitationals, like the Genesis Invitational, Arnold Palmer Invitational, Charles Schwab, and the Memorial.  Also, a top-30 will get invited in October to the CJ Cup@Summit and the Zozo Championship.  Both events have a field of only 78, and last place money pays about $17,000.  So you can see that at the minimum, those bogeys by Lee and Noren at BMW could cost them half a million dollars.  So yes, lot’s of happiness for Reed and sadness for Lee and Noren.

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. Higher-income people started emigrating to the suburbs, leaving only lower-income households to inhabit the once-storied Country Club area. In the ’60s, the membership decided to abandon the site and move to Atlanta Athletic Club, with East Lake becoming a public course.

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

In 1993, Tom Cousins, an esteemed real-estate developer and East Lake resident, joined 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 of 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 amid 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 and 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/September 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 and part of the backside. Adding to the difficulty is a small bunker on the front left and the green, 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 a new tee makes that hole seem more significant.

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 were reversed as the PGA Tour was hoping to create a more exciting finish.  They got that as the new par 5 18th hole began a lot more drama as the par 3, ninth hole was, who in previous 15 years was the final hole. In 2016 Rory McIlroy birdied the 72nd hole to get into a 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 that year.  In 2019, East Lake played to a 70.03 average and was ranked 14th hardest course on tour. Last year East Lake played to a 68.92 average and was ranked 24th hardest course on tour.

Let’s 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 2021.

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 20 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 talking about the new format that went into effect in 2019. In previous years it seemed as if there were two events in one, which created confusion. In the 12 years of the FedExCup between 2007 and 2018, 8 times the FedExCup winner and the Tour Championship winner were the same. When Xander Schauffele in 2017 and Tiger Woods in 2018 won the Tour Championship but didn’t win the FedEx Cup, it became a noticed thing. Just the excitement of Tiger winning the Tour Championship drowned out any excitement of Justin Rose winning the FedExCup playoffs. So the PGA Tour decided for the 2019 Tour Championship to try a new format. They made a new format in which the winner of the Tour Championship was also the winner of the FedExCup playoffs. They did that by taking the points after the BMW Championship and give the players based on their finish a point advantage to start the Tour Championship. The winner would start the Tour Championship at 10 under, the person 2nd in the FedExCup standings would begin at 8 under and the player in 3rd, starting the Tour Championship at 8 under par. They staggered the start in a way that if you finished 6th in the FedExCup list you started the Tour Championship at 4 under and worked down the list that those players between 26th and 30th on the points list started at even par, ten shots back of the leader of the FedExCup points race. So statically speaking the person 30th in the FedExCup race could still win but to cover ten shots and slip past 29 players is a tall order.
So for this year, Patrick Cantlay who leads the FedExCup points list will begin the week at 10 under, with Tony Finau at 8 under, Bryson DeChambeau at 7 under, Jon Rahm will start at 6 under, and Cameron Smith at 5 under par. The next five, (Justin Thomas, Harris English, Abraham Ancer, Jordan Spieth, and Sam Burns) will begin at 4-under, regressing by one stroke per five players until those ranked Nos. 26-30 start at even par. Now for those players that are 20 and below in the FedExCup and will find themselves 9 or 10 shots back of Patrick Cantlay will be like entering the Indy 500 in a Prius. It’s hard enough to cover ten shots over any player, but to at the same time jump over 20 of the best players in the world is an impossible task.
In 2019 the first year the format was used, 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 13 under to T-3rd with Thomas.
Last year was different as Dustin Johnson was the leader of the FedExCup and thus started out at 10 under. He shot 11 under, 269 and won by three shots over Xander Schauffele and Justin Thomas. Schauffele was remarkable as he started at 3 under but with his 265 total was able to take 2nd place but he wasn’t good enough to catch Johnson.
When the new format came about many people weren’t happy. Many said it was taking away from the Tour Championship and no money was won. It was ok in the first year when Rory McIlroy not only won the tournament after making up the five shots over Justin Thomas, but he was the low score at 267. Last year Xander Schauffele was the low scorer at 265, but Dustin Johnson shot 269 to hold onto the tournament and become the first leader on Thursday morning to lead after 72 holes.
After two years everyone is in agreement that the new format is good and does bring out both the Tour Championship and the FedExCup race. Even playing on Draftkings it’s weird that some players have an advantage, but that is reflected upon the price of the player. 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 14th in Driving Accuracy. In looking at Dustin Johnson, who won last year he was 3rd in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green while he was 28th (out of 30 players) in Driving Accuracy. Rory McIlroy, who won in 2019 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 12th in Greens in Regulation and Dustin Johnson was T-5th. The year before in 2019, 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 27th in scrambling, and in winning Dustin Johnson was T-13th getting it up and down 14 of 22 times. In 2019, McIlroy was 5th as he got it up and down 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 36th on the PGA Tour. In Strokes Gained Putting, last year Johnson was 12th while in 2019 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 Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau, and Bryson DeChambeau 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 Patrick Cantlay’s name on the trophy. But after seeing what happened to Justin Thomas in 2019, having the lead for 72 holes is a challenging proposition. It’s also going to be great weather, 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 2021:

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

Here is a link to all 30 players stats

DraftKings tips

The field is only 30, and with staggered to-par totals, it’s going to make Patrick Cantlay, Tony Finau, and Bryce DeChambeau very popular picks.  But in DraftKings, making birdies and eagles, plus playing low, plays an essential role in earning points.  So here is a cheat sheet to help you in a player with the most production value this week.  Our categories show how the player ranks in Strokes Gained total, Birdie average, Eagle Average and Par-Breakers.

Essential to see all of this in one chart. It makes you wonder if Patrick Cantlay is a good choice since he has very little offense, while you may be getting better value from your picks with cheap players like Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth, Sam Burns, and Brooks Koepka.  Also, look for the best Par Breakers total, players like Scottie Scheffler could be your best buy for the week at $6,800:

 

*Here are the guys that cost the most on DraftKings this week:
  • Patrick Cantlay – $13,400
  • Jon Rahm – $13,000
  • Bryce DeChambeau – $12,300
  • Tony Finau – $11,800
  • Justin Thomas – $11,000
  • Dustin Johnson – $10,700
  • Jordan Spieth – $10,400
  • Cameron Smith – $10,100
  • Abraham Ancer – $9,600
  • Rory McIlroy – $9,300

Just remember this week is not an ordinary PGA Tour event.  There are only 30 players in the field and with Patrick Cantlay starting at 10-under it’s suppose to give him a big advantage for leading the FedExCup rankings.  So that is why figures seem out of wack as you have three players over $12,000, while on the other side, there are seven players under $6,000.  But before you get suckered in on picking one of those over $12,000 remember this. If you pick Cantlay at $13,400, that leaves you $36,600 to make five other picks or an average of $7,300.  There are only 13 players at $7,300 and under and most of them are not worth considering.  So think about who has the most firepower, who makes the most birdies and eagles, those are the players that will give you the most points.  Another thing to remember, yes winning is important because you gain 30 points.  But let’s say you take Cantlay at $13,400 and he wins, but has very little offense of making birdies and eagles, that 30 points honestly means very little.  Try to find that person who has the best shot at making eagles, which earns 8 points.  In looking at the history of East Lake, in the last six years going back to 2015, 42 eagles have been made.of those in the field this year here is the list of those that have made the most eagles:

  • Xander Schauffele – 3
  • Brooks Koepka – 2
  • Bryson DeChambeau – 2
  • Jon Rahm – 2
  • Justin Thomas – 2
  • Abraham Ancer – 1
  • Daniel Berger – 1
  • Dustin Johnson – 1
  • Hideki Matsuyama – 1
  • Jordan Spieth – 1
  • Rory McIlroy – 1
  • Tony Finau – 1
  • Webb Simpson -1

Now making birdies is also important, a birdie gets you 3 points so if you make 20 birdies thats 60 points.  Since 2015 at East Lake 2,549 birdies have been made and with the most is Rory McIlroy with 95.  Next best is Dustin Johnson with 93, Hidaki Matsuyama with 90, Justin Thomas with 84.  Now what about Patrick Cantlay, he has only played in three Tour Championships and made 33 birdies, so that is a 11.0 per event birdies.

Here is the top guys with the best birdie average:

The high price talent for this week:

So lets get down to the chase on all this, for Draftkings I cannot endorse Patrick Cantlay at $13,400.  Very easy reasons, first he has never played well at East Lake, second he doesn’t produce enough offensive, three it’s very rare to see a player win back-to-back and four too much pressure on him, he will have held onto the lead for four days before he tees off.  I also can’t endorse Jon Rahm at $13,000, even though I feel he is going to win this week.  In DraftKings price is too high plus historically he is low on birdies, but he did finish 4th last year.  Bryce DeChambeau at $12,300 is another very expensive luxury that you just can’t afford.  If that isn’t enough, I feel he can’t play the course and will have problems like he has in other years.  Tony Finau is $11,800 and high, he is playing well and is 16 birdies per start is nice figure.  Justin Thomas at $11,000 is my first yes, his game has come around and he plays well at East Lake, in five starts never higher than T-7th plus he was runner-up last year and T-3rd in 2019.  Did I also tell you he makes 16.8 birdies per start so a very fine pick.  Dustin Johnson at $10,700 is a no for me.  Yes he is the defending champions but historically he hasn’t played great at East Lake and averages 15.5 birdies per start.  Jordan Spieth at $10,400 is a toss-up to me, his birdie production is not great at 15.0 and he is just too far back starting out six shots back of Cantlay.  Cameron Smith at $10,100 is your first perfect choice.  Price is good, he will start five back but has good offense at 17 birdies per round.  Only problem he does make a lot of bogeys.  Abraham Ancer at $9,600 is another high price guy that hasn’t shown he can play at East Lake and has limited offense.  Rory McIlroy at $9,300 may be you next best bet after Justin Thomas.  Has played well at East Lake plus good offensive numbers at 19 birdies per start.

*Players in that $7,000 to $8,900 price range, which ones are worth the money?:

Xander Schauffele at $8,900 could be the best pick of all.  Always plays great, in four starts has a win, two runner-ups and a T-7th.  Birdie production is solid at 16.75 a round.  He is the best player for the price.

Sam Burns at $8,500 has never played at East Lake but has played well on course like it and is playing well right now.

Collin Morikawa at $8,300 is a great price for the player that you are getting.  Was 6th in his only start and made 21 birdies in that.  Only thing that worries me, has not played well since is British Open win but we have to forget that.

Sungjae Im at $7,300 is good considering that again we like birdies and in two starts has made 34.  Like the fact that he finished 3rd at the BMW and nobody noticed it.

*Some of the “bargains” this week at the Tour Championship, those under $7,000

Scottie Scheffler at $6,800 A good buy when you see that he was 5th in his only Tour Championship start and made 17 birdies

Hideki Matsuyama at $6,400  Boy is this bargain basement special considering he has played at East Lake seven times and has a T-4th and 5th place finish. Also makes a lot of birdies at 15 per round he is a great buy

Sergio Garcia at $5,400 is very under value.  Yes I worry every time I pick him, he always does a dozen bogus things that really piss me off.  But we will have to endure his shenanigans but most importantly he averages 18 birdies per start so yes take him.

Billy Horschel at $5,100 will give your money’s worth.  How many past champions can you get this low?  Production numbers are good at 15.5 birdies per round, along with his win was 2nd in 2018.

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 your at 4 under you have a chance of winning if you play well.  But even those guys have a long uphill slush as they need to go low.  So frankly I see this as a four-man race between Cantlay, Finau, DeChambeau and Rahm.  All of these players have done great things in 2021 and I can see them do well.  But at the same time feel that we need to be cautious with Cantlay and DeChambeau because there is a good chance they fold and if that happens lets a lot of players in.  If that happens it brings Thomas, Spieth and Morikawa into play.  I also feel you need to watch Xander Schauffele and Rory McIlroy who will start at 2 under.  That’s a lot of shots to make up, but if the leaders stumble anything could happen.  Both Schauffele and McIlroy play well on the course.  Remember this, Schauffele last year started at 3 under par and worked his way up to finishing T-2nd so anything is possible.
  • As was proven in past Tour Championships played at East Lake it favors those that hit lots of greens.  Just look at the 20 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.  In 2019 Rory McIlroy hit 50 of the 72 greens and ranked T-5th while Dustin Johnson last year hit 50 of 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 22 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, the same with Dustin Johnson who shot 64 on Sunday to win.
  • Experience and having a good year especially coming into the event is also a factor. Just look at the winners over the years.  Dustin Johnson last year, Rory McIlroy in 2019 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 top-five, Patrick Cantlay, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Tony Finau or Cameron Smith.  Now I didn’t have a typo on Bryson, don’t see him getting through 72 holes at East Lake.
  • One last thing to look for. Yes, the course is demanding, but as it goes into the year being played for the 21st time and the 18th 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 under performance 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.  Hit got some of the heavy rain from Hurricane Ida, but after that passes it’s going to be perfect each day with temperates in the mid-80s.  There also shouldn’t have much wind.

Who to watch for at the Tour Championship

Best Bets:

Jon Rahm

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
4 T12 T11 T7

He begins on Thursday four shots back, but that is nothing over 72 holes. Was 4th last year and over the course of four visits to East Lake his worst finish was T-12th in 2019. In 16 rounds at East Lake has been in the 60s, 11 times. The most consistent player on Tour right now, can play well on any course and in five starts since withdrawing from the Memorial while leading, has not finish worst than 9th and won at the U.S. Open. In seems in the cards for him to win this week.

Justin Thomas

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
T2 T3 T7 2 T6

Yes he starts on Thursday six back but with only five players in front of him. His season has been as unpredictable as the New York Yankees, terrible at times but getting into his stride. I can see him have one big burst this week to win. The biggest reason his record at East Lake, he always has played well not finishing worst that 7th with two runner-up finishes including last year. In 20 rounds has been par or better 17 times he is 35 under for his play.

Tony Finau

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
17 7 T15 T7

Starts on Thursday just two back which is nothing, in the first two playoff events is 36 under par and hasn’t been over par in any round. Record at East Lake could be better but of the four starts has finished 7th twice. Half of his 16 East Lake rounds have been under par.

If the leaders fold, brings these folks into play:

Xander Schauffele

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
T2 2 T7 Win

Will begin on Thursday at 2 under par and with 16 players in front of him. That will be his biggest problem to overcome, but of all courses on the PGA Tour he has played the best at East Lake. Won at East Lake in his first try in 2017, has been 2nd the last two years and last year his 265 total was the best of anyone in the field. He has never been over par at East Lake plus in 16 rounds is a remarkable 47 under-par. If there is one person to bet can overcome the deficit, it’s Xander.

Cameron Smith

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
T24 20

He begins Thursday at 5 under-par but with only four players ahead of him. His big problem in two East Lake starts has not played well, best was 20th in 2018. He needs to be vulturous, playing well and preying on Patrick is his only way to a victory. One thing I can tell you that is important Smith Is a very overlooked player who needs to get more respect from the media and fans, the only way for him to achieve that goal is to win a big event like the Tour Championship.

Rory McIlroy

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
T8 Win T7 Win T16 T2 T10

Just like Xander will begin Thursday at 2 under par and 8 back of Cantlay. The only reason to think of him, like Xander has a great record at East Lake. Has won twice and was T-2nd in 2014. He is 46 under-par in 28 East Lake rounds and does know how to go low at East Lake. If it wasn’t for his win at the Wells Fargo, this would be a dreadful season. But his game has come alive of late, was T-4th at the Olympics and 4th at the BMW with a 22 under score that would of won 90% of the events on tour. Stats are meaningless because he has no choice but to play very aggressive this week.

Jordan Spieth

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
T7 T17 Win T27 T2

Will begin Thursday at 4 under, six back of Cantlay. He has a great past at East Lake, winning in 2015 and runner-up in 2013. Hasn’t played in the Tour Championship since finishing T-7th in 2017. He will have to be remarkable and go low everyday. If he can play half decently from tee to green but have a remarkable putting week he could find himself in contention on Sunday.

Dustin Johnson

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
Win T29 3 T17 T6 T5 5 T10 T23 T22 27

We all know what a miserable season it’s been, he hasn’t won on the PGA Tour in the 2021 calendar year and if he can’t get that “W” it will be the first time since 2007 that he hasn’t gone a year without a PGA Tour win. We realize he has told us all year that he is close, but hasn’t been close on the PGA Tour since his Masters win last November. So the question will be, can he overcome all of this put starting on Thursday at 3 under and seven back. Reason why he can do it, played great last week at the BMW shooting 65-66 over the weekend. Has a good record at East Lake, was the winner last year and has six top-ten finishes in his last seven starts. He says that his game is close, he will have to show us low rounds all four days to have a chance.

Really feel these leaders will stumble which will let the door open for others:

Patrick Cantlay

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
T21 T21 T20

Its always hard to sit on a lead over night, but for Cantlay he will sit on the lead four nights before play begins. He will have to answer 100s of questions from not only media, but every fan that he comes across will treat him to first congratulate him for winning the BMW and then having the lead going into the first round. What we are asking from him is to win back-to-back, lot’s of energy and thought went into winning the BMW which will sap him of the energy needed at East Lake. Has never played well at East Lake, in three tries his best was T-20th is in 2017. In his 12 rounds is 10 over par and last year was over par in all four rounds at East Lake. This shows a sign that the course is very tough for him and don’t see him overcoming this obstacle. With that said no need to look at his stats.

Bryson DeChambeau

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
22 T12 19

He too had to use up a lot of energy on Sunday at the BMW Championship. Despite playing well he had to be totally frustrated with all the chances he had to beat Cantlay, who seemed to be the guy who used up eight of a cats nine lives. The course just doesn’t set up well for him, in three starts at East Lake his best finish was T-12th in 2019. He has shown he can shot low, shot 66 in 2018 and 67 in 2019 but has never been consistent enough over 72 holes at East Lake. He averages 314.6 yards for every drive, which is meaningless for him at East Lake. In the stats that mean the most for the course, he is 182nd in driving accuracy, T-69th in Greens in Regulation, T-164th in Proximity to Hole, 141st in Strokes Gained Around the Green. He is good in Strokes Gained Putting ranking 14th, but in putts from 15 to 20 feet is 176th and from 20 to 25 feet is 190th. The item that means the most, DeChambeau cannot maintain consistent play over 72 holes at East Lake.

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