The PGA playoffs conclude this week at the TOUR Championship where the top-30 players in the FedEx Cup standings will all vie for bonus money that includes a $15 million top prize to the champion. Hosted at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Ga., the event will feature a staggered-handicap starting system based on the players’ FedEx Cup rankings entering this event. No. 1 seed Dustin Johnson will start at 10-under par, while No. 2 seed Jon Rahm will start two shots back at 8-under.
The rest of the field will start the event anywhere from 7-under to even par based on their ranking. Last year, this event saw Rory McIlroy win from the 5-under starting position (five back). It’ll be a fun event as players try to ladder up throughout the week and get themselves into position for a run at the top prize on Monday.
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East Lake Golf Course has hosted the TOUR Championship every year since 2004 and acted as the host for the finale for the FedEx Cup playoffs since the concept’s inception in 2007. The Donald Ross-designed venue plays as a par 70 at 7,319 yards that features lots of longer par 4s and some extremely tricky par 3s that play over water onto island greens.
The Bermuda greens here can also be quite treacherous and often require some getting used to for newer players. In recent incarnations of this event, longer hitters have enjoyed an advantage with the field averaging 302 yards per drive here last season. It’s not a shock that one of the longer hitters in the game, Rory McIlroy, has now won here twice in the past four years.
Regardless of how you’re approaching things, I’ve written up my thoughts on this week’s DraftKings Sportsbook pool and have tried to give you decisive picks and strategies to employ at each level. Hope you enjoy.
Who will have the best finishing position? Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas or Jon Rahm
Both Rahm and Johnson are coming in off a big week at the BMW Championship where they ended up battling in a playoff, which was eventually won by Rahm. There’s no doubt that these two players have been two of the best in the world since the restart and they come in ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the OWGR. Neither has put up particularly good results at East Lake but it still seems like a two-man race in this one. No. 3-ranked Justin Thomas hasn’t been sharp since winning at WGC Memphis and will start three back of Johnson this week thanks to the PGA’s FedEx Cup format. He lost strokes around the green last week for the first time in nine starts while posting just a T25 finish.
Choice: Jon Rahm
· Rahm’s played the tougher courses well all season. He’ll be starting two strokes behind DJ this week but has been sharper around the greens than him of late, which could prove to be the difference-maker here.
Who will have the best finishing position? Webb Simpson, Rory McIlroy or Bryson DeChambeau
Rory posted one of his better finishes in a while last week when he landed a T12 at the BMW Championship. The Northern Irishman spoke about a lack of focus of late, mainly due to the impending birth of his first child. He’s got a great course history (wins here in 2016 and 2019) but feels like a risky target for fantasy and betting purposes. Bryson has been downright bad the past two events and has lost strokes on his approaches in two straight starts. His lack of consistency is the exact opposite of Webb Simpson who, perhaps smartly, took last week off to rest and has T6 and T3 finishes to his credit in his past two appearances.
Choice: Webb Simpson
· Webb may be the shortest hitter of the group but he’s vastly outperformed the other competitors here. He’ll also start two strokes ahead of Rory and Bryson which, on its own, is enough reason to target him.
Who will have the best finishing position? Collin Morikawa, Daniel Berger or Xander Schauffele
Morikawa bounced back from a missed cut at the Northern Trust to post a respectable T20 at the BMW Championship. From an achievement and recent form perspective, he’s likely the one to target here but there is a question of fatigue as he’s only a couple weeks removed from a life-changing win at the PGA Championship. Schauffele and Berger have been two of the most consistent names on Tour in 2020, with both posting top-15 finishes at the PGA Championship. Schauffele (-3) will start two behind Morikawa (-5) this week, which is a big gap when the talent level is so close. This ranks as one of the closest groups on paper.
Choice: Daniel Berger
· Berger will start this event just one stroke behind Morikawa at 4-under par and should be motivated here given how far he’s come over the past year. He sets up well for the tough Par 70 venue and has the experience edge on Morikawa this week.
Who will have the best finishing position? Hideki Matsuyama, Tony Finau or Harris English
Finau finished off last week with a five-under-par final round that moved him up into a T5 position. Matsuyama actually managed to beat him out at Olympia Fields, though, by finishing T3, a result that marked his best finish of 2020. Hideki gained an incredible +6.1 strokes around the green last week, so any regression there could be highly detrimental. English had his worst week from a ball-striking and putting perspective in quite some time and finished a distant T40. He’s played a lot of golf in 2020, so fatigue could be a factor. Both Matsuyama and English will start at 4-under and will have a two-shot lead over Finau, so factor that into your decision making.
Choice: Hideki Matsuyama
· Hideki’s been consistent as of late and is benefiting from an improved off the tee game. He’s also finished inside the top-5 in two of his six East Lake appearances.
Who will have the best finishing position? Tyrrell Hatton, Patrick Reed or Scottie Scheffler
Scheffler has been, by far, the most impressive golfer in this group of late, posting T4 finishes at both the PGA Championship and the NORTHERN TRUST, where he shot a second-round 59. Reed and Hatton have both been roller coasters since the restart, with Hatton nearly winning back at the RBC Heritage but also posting a missed cut at the PGA Championship. Reed will get a one-shot edge on both these players to start but he feels like a player biding his time until the next major as he’s only managed T40 and T49 finishes at the first two playoff events. The American has also played East Lake six times now but has never finished better than T9 there.
Choice: Tyrrell Hatton
· Hatton has produced solid ball-striking numbers in three straight starts and beat Scheffler last week. Reed’s been indifferent to this event over his career, so Hatton looks like the play to me.
Who will have the best finishing position? Sungjae Im, Kevin Kisner or Joaquin Niemann
Joaquin Niemann had a terrific finish last week at the BMW, ultimately settling for a T3 placing two shots behind winner Jon Rahm. The Chilean fired up his deadly approach game again, gaining +5 strokes against the field on his approaches alone. Kevin Kisner also continues to play well, as he followed up a T4 at the NORTHERN TRUST two weeks ago with a T25 finish at the longer Olympia Fields. Im will start this event at 4-under, two shots ahead of Kisner and one ahead of Niemann but has been the clear laggard of this group. He’s recorded just a T56 and missed cut in two playoff events thus far.
Choice: Kevin Kisner
· Kisner has a significant experience advantage over Niemann. He’s trending well with his irons and finished T3 at this event in 2017 and T9 last year, making him the target for me.
Who will have the best finishing position? Brendon Todd, Sebastian Munoz or Billy Horschel
Todd continued his solid play last week, landing a T8 finish. The three-time Tour winner has taken on tough golf courses and produced plenty of solid results this summer, which is surprising given his lack of distance off the tee. His sharpness around and on the greens shouldn’t be overlooked at the tricky East Lake. Munoz was a winner early in the season on the Fall swing but has shown plenty of game lately too, landing a surprise T8 finish last week off the back of some superb around the green play. Billy Horschel has landed a win (2014) and a second-place finish (2018) at East Lake in just three visits to the course but will start the event four behind both Todd and Munoz.
Choice: Brendon Todd
Todd has been trending well all summer and is capping off a great comeback season. His elite around the green game and putting should serve him well at East Lake.
Who will have the best finishing position? Abraham Ancer, Viktor Hovland or Kevin Na
Hovland has really petered out over his past few events. The Norwegian started strong after the hiatus was lifted but has only cracked the top 20 once in his past four starts, as his ball-striking as taken a dramatic drip downward. Abraham Ancer has had a very similar journey in this disjointed PGA season, landing a runner-up finish at the RBC Heritage but he has struggled with his ball-striking since then. Na has been playing through back issues all season and hasn’t finished better than T19 in his previous four trips to East Lake. Na and Ancer both start at 1-under par this week, one shot ahead of Hovland.
Choice: Viktor Hovland
· This group consists of three players struggling to get across the finish line. Hovland will start one behind his competitors in this group but has put well as of late, so targeting him might be the play.
Who will have the best finishing position? Lanto Griffin, Ryan Palmer or Cameron Champ
Champ has failed to get any momentum going after posting a T10 finish at the PGA Championship last month. The two-time winner on Tour has lost multiple strokes putting in his past two starts but his gains off the tee could really help him out at a driver-heavy course like East Lake. Griffin and Palmer have been the far better players over the past month and a half, with Griffin posting a strong T10 finish to get himself into the field at East Lake. Palmer’s the only player here who has actually played in the TOUR Championship before, finishing T7 in 2014.
Choice: Ryan Palmer
· Palmer will start one shot behind Griffin but one in front of Champ. His experience helps and he’s been great with his irons as of late, gaining strokes on approach in four of his past five starts.
Who will have the best finishing position? Mackenzie Hughes, Marc Leishman or Cameron Smith
Marc Leishman can almost certainly be crossed off the list here. The Aussie shot 30-over par last week (yes, that’s not a typo) and has struggled to regain any kind of form since the restart. The two other players in this group have been much better. Mackenzie Hughes made a huge par putt on the last hole at Olympia Fields to qualify for this week’s event and should be brimming with confidence. He’s now posted three top-10 finishes in his past seven starts on Tour. Cameron Smith has also been showing better form. He’s finished inside the top 20 in two straight starts now. All three men will start the event at even.
Choice: Cameron Smith
· Hughes has been solid as of late but Smith is the more quality golfer. The Aussie has already nabbed top-5 finishes in two majors and has an experience edge having played East Lake back in 2018 as well.
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