Tour Championship Key Fantasy Stats

Tour Championship

August 24th – 27th, 2023

East Lake G.C.

Atlanta, GA

Par: 70 / Yardage: 7,346

Purse: $75 million for the top-125 players

with $18 million to the winner to the winner

Defending Champion:
Rory McIlroy

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:

This is based on the most vital stats from East Lake G.C., based on data from last year’s Tour Championship and using data from all the players with stats from 2023.

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 things turned around with changes in the community in the 50s and 60s. The course held the 1963 Ryder Cup on it, and George Cobb made some changes. The club fell into some tough times in the 60s and 70s, with members deciding to move to a new site. With the move, the course became a public course and was in serious shape. It took Tom Cousin, an important real estate developer in Atlanta, to bring the course back from its low point. Ross Jones did the restoration in 1994, but the goal was to get it back to Donald Ross’s changes, which he did correctly.
The course is a gem because each hole is tree-lined, so you have to drive it reasonably straight. The most crucial aspect is hitting greens, in the 22 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 eight of the winners including 2021 winner Patrick Cantlay 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 is this isn’t a course for the power hitter, short hitters have as much chance of doing well as long hitters.
Before continuing, we must mention that after the last putt drops on Sunday, the course will be closed for a year as it undergoes a massive renovation. The aim is to make the course more closely resemble the one that Bobby Jones and others played decades ago. Several holes will have major changes to resemble the original Donald Ross routing more closely.

So in looking at this year’s Tour Championship, we have to talk 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. It became a noticeable thing when Xander Schauffele in 2017 and Tiger Woods in 2018 won the Tour Championship but didn’t win the FedEx Cup. 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 to try a new format for the 2019 Tour Championship. With the new format, the Tour Championship winner is also the FedEx Cup playoffs winner. They did that by taking the points after the BMW Championship and giving the players a point advantage based on their finish 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 start the Tour Championship at 7 under par. They staggered the start in a way that if you are 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 has to cover ten shots and slip past 29 players is a tall order. On the surface, that seems like a lot, but last year Rory McIlroy started six shots back and was able to make up those strokes off of Scottie Scheffler, as McIlroy beat Scheffler by seven shots, so anything is possible.
So for this year, Scottie Scheffler will again begin the week at 10 under, with Viktor Hovland at 8 under, Rory McIlroy at 7 under, Jon Rahm at 6 under, and Lucas Glover at 5 under par.
The next five (Max Homa, Patrick Catlay, Brian Harman, Wyndham Clark, and Matt Fitzpatrick) will begin at 4-under.
The next five (Tommy Fleetwood, Russell Henley, Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler, and Xander Schauffele) will begin at 3-under.
From there, regressing by one stroke per five players until those ranked Nos. 26-30 start at even par (Sam Burns, Emiliano Grille, Tyrrell Hatton, Jordan Spieth, and Sepp Straka). Now for players 20 and below in the FedExCup and will find themselves 9 or 10 shots back of Scheffler, it will be like entering the Indy 500 in a hybrid car. It’s hard enough to cover ten shots over any player, but to do it at the same time, having to jump over 20 of the best players in the world is an impossible task, sure mathematically feasible, but not realistic.

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, he 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.
2020 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. In 2021 Patrick Cantlay led the FedExCup point list and started the week at 10 under. He shot 269 (-11), and the score was T-4th for the week. Since he started the week at 10 under, with his ten under reward finished at 21 under, a shot better than Jon Rahm, who started the week at 6 under, and with his 14 under par performance for the week finished at 20 under and 2nd place. Kevin Na also shot 14 under par but started the week at 2 under, so his 16 under total got him 3rd place. Xander Schauffele was 12 under for the week, but since he started at 2 under, he finished at 14 under and was T-5th. Cantlay was a bit lucky because Tony Finau started at 8 under shot even par, so his 8 under total finished T-11th. The same with Bryson DeChambeau, who started the week at 7 under but shot a 6 under 274 to finish the week 13 under and 7th. So Cantlay wasn’t the best for the week but did do good enough and with some luck of those close to him at the start, was able to win.
When the new format came about, many people weren’t happy. Some 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 of 267. In 2020 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. In 2021 Jon Rahm and Kevin Na shot 266 but started too far back of Patrick Cantlay, who won by a shot.
Last year McIlroy was the best player for the week, shooting 17 under. Sungjae Im shot 16 under and like McIlroy, was six back at the start. As for Scheffler, he was 10 under but it was a shot back of McIlroy as Scottie finished T-2nd.
After four years, everyone agrees 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 in 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 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 putting the ball in play off the tee at East Lake is very important, probably one of the essential items on this Donald Ross course. Last year East Lake was 19th in Driving Accuracy. In looking at Rory McIlroy, who won, he was 13th in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green, while he was T-10th (Out of 29 players) in Driving Accuracy. Patrick Cantlay, who won in 2021, was 2nd in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green, while he was T-10th (out of 30 players) in Driving Accuracy. The year before, the winner Dustin Johnson, 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 Donald Ross greens.
Last year East Lake ranked 33rd in Greens in Regulation, and Rory McIlroy was T-4th in Greens in Regulation. The previous year, Patrick Cantlay was T-1st in hitting greens. In 2020 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 in Greens in Regulation. 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 40th in scrambling, and in winning, McIlroy was 23rd, getting it up and down 55.56%, 10 of the 18 greens missed. The previous year Patrick Cantlay was 16th, getting it up and down 58.82%, 10 of 17 greens missed. In 2020 the winner, 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.
The last and vital stat for those playing a Donald Ross golf course is putting, last year, the course ranked 45th on the PGA Tour. In Strokes Gained Putting, last year Rory McIlroy was 2nd, in 2021 Patrick Cantlay was 14th, in 2020 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 Scottie Scheffler, Viktor Hovland, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, and Lucas Glover 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 either Scottie Scheffler’s or Viktor Hovland’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. Weather is also going to play a part as it’s going to be very hot, each day will be around 98 each day.  So the big question will be, with this forecast will it change the characteristics of East Lake? With the course firm and hard, more players will have trouble hitting fairways and greens, it opens up the possibilities for those who aren’t great shotmakers to win.

*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 2023:

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

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