Daily Fantasy Golf Course Primer: TOUR Championship
East Lake! It all comes down to this -- 30 players will tee it up to determine who will earn the FedEx Cup and the $15 million first prize. Under the new rules, golfers will be awarded starting strokes ranging from 10-under par to even par based on their position in the FedEx Cup Standings, ostensibly rewarding the best form for the entire season but really just the last couple weeks.
Justin Thomas, fresh off his win at Medinah Country Club, is your new No. 1 in the standings thanks to the heavy weight given the BMW Championship. He'll start 10-under, two strokes ahead of No. 2 Patrick Cantlay. Deciding who to pick for your daily fantasy rosters and outright bets should depend greatly on these starting scores. Thomas will be a heavy favorite, but crafting DFS lineups around golfers who have to charge from behind while fading the top guys makes a ton of sense this week. After all, those golfers will need to make a ton of birdies to catch up to the frontrunners, and birdies are the bedrock of daily fantasy scoring systems.
The player pool is extremely small, and differentiation will be key. Everyone in the field is either a world-class golfer, in the best form of their life, or both. There are no "scrubs" per se, but someone has to be priced at the bottom of the pool. Leaving money on the table and creating an unorthodox lineup will generate a unique construction.
The Atlanta, Georgia-based club plays 7,346 yards to its par 70, one of the longer par-adjusted courses on Tour. Unlike the first two legs of the Playoffs that rotate courses each year, the TOUR Championship is held at East Lake every year, giving us some course history through which we can parse. Beware, though, that golfers don't qualify for the FedEx Cup finale every year, and seven players are making their East Lake debut.
The last three FedEx cup champions -- Justin Rose, Thomas, and Rory McIlroy -- are in the field, but notably only one other former champion, Brandt Snedeker, will tee it up this week. Last year, Tiger Woods' walk up the fairway on the 18th hole at East Lake was one of the moments of the year not just in golf but in all of sports. Alas, Woods failed to qualify to defend his title.
As of Sunday night, rain is potentially in play on all four days of the tournament, so focus on golfers who either play well in rainy weather or who benefit from soft conditions.
Let's dig into the course and see what stats we can use to build our daily fantasy lineups this week.
Course and Tournament Info
Course: East Lake Golf Club
Distance: 7,346 yards
Fairways/Rough: Zoysiagrass fairways, Bermudagrass rough
|Season||Par||Yardage||Average||O/U Par Avg||Rank|
East Lake will be the second longest par 70 course of the season, behind only the Black Course at Bethpage. It generally plays about middle of the pack in terms of difficulty, and the length comes mostly on the par 3s with each measuring at least 197 yards. On the flip side, two par 4s under 400 yards are prime birdie opportunities along with the two par 5s, each of which played at least a half a stroke under par in 2018. The 525-yard 6th hole is one of the easiest holes on Tour.
The average driving distance has exceeded 300 yards each of the last three years, and given the names of recent FedEx Cup winners, it is no surprise that ball-striking is the key to contending this week. The course is one of the easiest 15 courses in terms of proximity to the hole from the fairway, and one of the 15 hardest in proximity from the rough.
Bethpage is a comp for sure, as length and difficult rough would indicate, but this course won't play up to the difficulty of a major championship. A better comparison is the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort, which features Bermudagrass (albeit overseeded) and the longest par 3s on Tour. Our recent visit to Medinah Country Club could also be a good indicator, another ball-striker's paradise that contended with some rainy conditions.
The most overlap comes at Quail Hollow Club. Long par 3s, Bermuda greens, geography, strong field, and a slew of common winners make the host of the Wells Fargo Championship the best comparison course with East Lake.
These stats will be key to success in the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club.
|Key Stats for the TOUR Championship at East Lake GC|
|Strokes Gained: Off The Tee|
|Strokes Gained: Approach|
|Birdies or Better Gained|
|Strokes Gained: Par 3s (200+)|
|Strokes Gained: Putting (Bermuda)|
Fairways and greens are the name of the game. It is worth bifurcating the ball-striking stats, as both are essential, but we don't want to let one overcompensate for the other. Proximity falls off a cliff if you miss the short stuff here and especially for golfers a few spots down in the standings who will need to knock it close as often as possible to make a charge.
Sinking those putts will make or break the week, and while birdies or better gained incorporates putting to some degree, we should be looking specifically round by round into this small field to see who is capable of electric putting rounds regardless of their long term rank.
Thomas, for instance, had an otherworldly week with his irons at Medinah but also sank five putts over 11 feet just on Saturday. Those types of rounds are unpredictable, but targeting guys who at least have shown they can reach those heights is how we should look at putting stats this week.
As covered above, all four par 3s are 197 yards or longer. The par 5s are so easy that it will be difficult for golfers to gain on the field on those holes, but the par 3s all played at or above par last year and should be a focus this week.
Course History Studs
Not surprisingly, the former FedEx Cup champs Rose, Thomas, and McIlroy have good form at East Lake. Rose has finished inside the top 10 in each of his four appearances in the past five years. Like Rose, Thomas did not actually win the TOUR Championship en route to his FedEx Cup win -- he was 2nd in 2017 and has finished T6 (2018) and T7 (2016) in his other cracks at East Lake.
McIlroy has finishes of T7, DNP, 1st, T16, and T2 over the last five years.
The man who held off Thomas in 2017 was Xander Schauffele, and he followed that up with a T7 last year.
Mike Rodden is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Mike Rodden also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mike_rodden. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.