The Cheat Sheet provides DraftKings fantasy golf players with course info, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.
This is the final event of the 2021 PGA season. The field is only 30 golfers and it is comprised of the top 30 players from the FedEx Cup point standings. This week, there is a game within the game. While the old version of the TOUR Championship used to simply operate like a regular tournament with FedEx Cup positions changing throughout the week, the new format is quite different. Players’ starting “scores” will be determined by their FedEx Cup positions. The winner after 72 holes of play will then not only win the tournament, but also win the FedEx Cup (and the $15 million prize).
The starting positions for this week’s field can be found here. The field will be 30 players (no alternates). Note for DraftKings scoring purposes: starting strokes will be incorporated in the fantasy points awarded for finishing position.
Also, Patrick Reed (pneumonia) has not withdrawn from the event yet but isn’t in the DraftKings player pool either.
East Lake Golf Club—Atlanta, Georgia
Par 70, 7319 yards; Greens: Bermuda
East Lake Golf Club is a Donald Ross design that has undergone some renovations in the past five to 10 years. The course used to be very good for scoring (Tiger Woods won at -23 one year), but after the redesign, where the greens were changed to Bermuda grass, it now plays much tougher. The course has yielded winning scores in the -8 to -13 range for the most part since the change. In 2019, Rory McIlroy shot 13-under par over four days to win — his final score was 18-under par, starting at 5-under, under the new FedEx playing format. In 2020, Dustin Johnson won at 21-under-par, but started the event at 10-under. So, he effectively shot 11-under for the week.
While there are a few easier holes on the course (a drivable par 4 and a very reachable par 5) there’s also some very intimidating ones. Long par 3’s are a trademark of Ross designs, and this course features four of them in total, with three of them measuring 200-235 yards and playing to island style greens. The par 4s also play long — six of the par 4s play over 450 yards, with a couple of these holes actually being shortened par 5s. The two par 5s that remain on the course will yield birdies, although the finishing 18th hole measures in at 600 yards on the scorecard, so two great shots will be needed to get near the green or on in two. In 2018, East Lake played as the 24th-toughest venue, and it ranked as the 14th toughest in 2019, so a complete birdie-fest isn’t likely to break out.
As far as player styles go, ball placement off the tee and into the greens will generally be more important than sheer power this week — the already discussed Bermuda green complexes will give the players fits if they don’t hit it to the right spots. Longer hitters have certainly won at East Lake before, but this course rewards good pure ball-striking over sheer power in general. Since East Lake is a Donald Ross design, it is also worth looking at who has had success at some of his other venues on TOUR (Sedgefield, Plainfield, Aronimink Golf Club, Oak Hill, Pinehurst #2).
2021 Weather Outlook: The weather for this week’s four-day event looks solid for the most part. Starting Thursday, highs will be in the mid-80s, and there’s little to no rain in the forecast for any of the four days. Wind is also expected to stay low, with gusts staying below eight mph all week. With higher humidity, it seems likely the course could play firm and fast. There is some early-week rain slated to fall (Tuesday and Wednesday), so scoring could be a touch easier early on. Look for more receptive conditions and for potentially slightly easier scoring conditions in 2021 given the lack of wind.
Last Five Winners
2020—Dustin Johnson -21 — started at 10-under par (over Justin Thomas -18)
2019—Rory McIlroy -18 — started at 5-under par (over Xander Schauffele -14)
2018—Tiger Woods -11 (over Billy Horschel -9)
2017—Xander Schauffele -12 (over Justin Thomas -11)
2016—Rory McIlroy -12 (over Kevin Chappell and Ryan Moore playoff)
– Ten of the past 11 winners have ranked 15th or better in par 4 scoring in the year of their victory.
– Nine of the past 11 winners had already registered a PGA TOUR victory the year they won the TOUR Championship (Bill Haas hadn’t in 2012; but he did have two T2’s; Tiger Woods didn’t in 2018).
– Ten of the past 11 winners had not missed a cut in any playoff event coming into East Lake.
Winners Stats and Course Overview
2020: Dustin Johnson (21-under—started at 10-under for the week)
- Fairways at East Lake have been tough to find for the field, which only averaged a 55% Driving Accuracy rate last season — that’s about seven percent lower than the TOUR average.
- On the flip side, this does profile as something of a driver-heavy course — the field averaged 302 yards per drive last year, which was about nine yards more than the TOUR average in that stat for 2019.
- Scrambling around these tricky green complexes was also tough as the field averaged about a two to three percent lower up and down rate than the TOUR average.
Finding Values (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.
- Rory McIlroy+2500 and $9,300
- Abraham Ancer +2800 and $9,600
- Cameron Smith +2800 and $10,100
- Brooks Koepka +5000 and $7,800
- Viktor Hovland +4000 and $8,000
- Collin Morikawa +3500 and $8,300
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
Horses for Courses
1. Rory McIlroy ($9,300; best finishes: win-2016, 2019): McIlroy has now won this event twice, coming back from a five stroke starting deficit in 2019 to grab his second win. He’s also landed two other finishes of T7 and T2 at East Lake since 2014. McIlroy comes in off a big week at the BMW Championship where he rallied off a hot putter to finish T4. A similar big week at one of his favorite venues to end his season wouldn’t be shocking.
2. Xander Schauffele ($8,900; best finishes: win-2017, second-2019): Schauffele won at East Lake on his first visit back in 2017 when he was still a rookie on TOUR. In 2019, he finished solo second, and he again rallied to finish in a group at T2 last year. Now in his fifth full season on TOUR, he leads this field in strokes gained total stats at this event over the last five seasons. He’ll start this year’s event at two under par and again be looking to shoot himself into the mix.
3. Dustin Johnson ($10,700; best finishes: win-2020, third-2018): Johnson won this event last season, shooting 11-under par for the week (ended at 21-under), and won by three strokes. Johnson also finished third in 2018 before the handicap format was introduced, so he’s performed well at East Lake in a variety of situations. He enters this year at three-under-par but has putted better of late and has taken to this venue well the last few seasons.
1. Patrick Cantlay ($13,400; third-T3): Cantlay finished T11 at the first playoff event and followed that up with a win last week where he gained +14.6 strokes putting. He’s playing some of the best golf of his life but will need to improve on his East Lake history — he’s never finished better than T20 at this venue before.
2. Tony Finau ($11,800; third-T3): Finau rallied for a 9-under-par round Sunday to finish T15. As a result, he’ll start in second position this week. The two-time TOUR winner has gained +4 and +6 strokes putting the last two weeks and has finished inside the top 10 at East Lake in three of his five visits.
3. Bryson DeChambeau ($12,300; third-T3): DeChambeau lost in an exciting playoff last week to Cantlay, but he has showcased some high-level golf the last three events. He’s now made 76 birdies in his last three starts alone and should be fired up for a big week at East Lake.
DraftKings DFS Strategy
Cash Games: Trust the birdie rates of Bryson and Burns
Bryson DeChambeau ($12,300 — see below) is putting out massive DraftKings totals every week. Sam Burns ($8,500) isn’t quite as prolific a birdie-maker, but he’s close and is a lot cheaper here. He’ll be playing East Lake for his first time but has very positive Bermuda putting splits and can move into some big money with a big week. He’s the cheapest player at 4-under-par this week and a great value here. Sungjae Im ($7,300 – see below) is another great Bermuda putter who is priced too cheap, and you also have to love the sub-$6K price here on Daniel Berger ($5,800), who is hitting the ball great but has simply run cold with his putter the last few events.
Tournaments: Thomas a potential dark horse
Justin Thomas ($11,000) starts this event six shots in back of the leaders, but he’s certainly the type of player who could make up that deficit. We saw a player win here starting at 5-under-par in 2019, and Thomas leads this field in birdies gained over the last 50 rounds. He’s pricey, but a good GPP option. As is Louis Oosthuizen ($7,600), who rates out as a good value but will likely be lightly owned due to injury issues. He was 15th in SG: APP stats last week, though, and fired a 64 in round three. Other potential GPP targets include Billy Horschel ($5,100) and Hideki Matsuyama ($6,400). Given the 29-player field, leaving some money on the table here in GPPs isn’t a bad idea for roster construction purposes (in bigger fields).
MY PICK: Bryson DeChambeau ($12,300)
DeChambeau enters this week off a heartbreaking loss in the second playoff event. We don’t need to rehash what happened, but he will certainly not be happy with himself for letting Patrick Cantlay ($13,200) wriggle off the hook so many times at the BMW Championship. DeChambeau will be happy with how he’s playing though. As mentioned above, no one is giving themselves more opportunities at birdies or better right now than DeChambeau, who has made an incredible 76 birdies in his last three starts alone. His iron play dipped a little last week, but his driver was still dead on — he gained +8.0 strokes Off the Tee.
There’s plenty of motivational things in play here for DeChambeau, who seems to have run-in’s with fans on a near weekly basis now, but the bottom line is he’s playing some of the best golf of his life right now and will have a quick opportunity for revenge here against Cantlay — who will start with a three-stroke lead this week. DeChambeau hasn’t had much success at this event, but he’s won on a Donald Ross course before (Detroit Golf Club) and will be playing East Lake for fourth time. He’s my pick to grab the win this week and end the year as FedEx Cup champ.
MY SLEEPER: Sungjae Im ($7,300)
Im has really picked up his game in the playoffs. He enters this week ranked 12th in the FedEx Cup standings after a T3 finish last week. Im struggled with consistency in the middle of the year but seems to be back on track in a big way. He’s gained strokes on his approaches now in eight straight starts and gained strokes both OTT and on Approach in his last four events. While he can struggle on the greens, the +6.2 strokes he gained on the greens last week marked his best outing with the flatstick since March.
Im’s momentum is obvious, and the venue this week should be a plus for him, too. The Ross-designed East Lake features Bermuda greens, which play to Im’s strength — he’s gained +27 strokes putting on Bermuda grass over his last 50 rounds. He’s also landed multiple top-10 finishes at the Ross-designed venues on TOUR (Sedgefield and Detroit) over the last two seasons. Im’s starting price and outright win odds (+3500 in the winner without strokes category on DraftKings Sportsbook) look like great bargains, making him one of my favorite targets this week from the lower half of the field.
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