TOUR Championship: Best Bets, Daily Fantasy Golf Picks, Course Key Stats, and Win Simulations

The PGA Tour's season comes to a close at East Lake. What should we know about the modified scoring start for this week's event?

The final event of the PGA Tour's regular season is next on the schedule, and that means a bit of a different scoring setup to start.

The remaining 30 golfers in the FedEx Cup Standings will start this week's event with a given score and then play four rounds of no-cut golf, and that'll impact expectations for all 30.

Player Starting TOUR
Scottie Scheffler -10
Patrick Cantlay -8
Will Zalatoris (Withdrew) -7
Xander Schauffele -6
Sam Burns -5
Cameron Smith, Rory McIlroy, Tony Finau,
Sepp Straka, Sungjae Im
Jon Rahm, Scott Stallings, Justin Thomas,
Cameron Young, Matt Fitzpatrick
Max Homa, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth,
Joaquin Niemann, Viktor Hovland
Collin Morikawa, Billy Horschel, Tom Hoge,
Corey Conners, Brian Harman
K.H. Lee, J.T. Poston, Sahith Theegala,
Adam Scott, Aaron Wise

Let's dig into the course, the key stats, the win simulations, and the best bets of the week.

You can jump ahead to any specific section of the piece you would like.

Course Information and Key Stats
Golfers With Great Course History
Win Simulations
Best Bets
Past TOUR Championship Optimal Lineups
Daily Fantasy Picks

East Lake Golf Club Course Info & Key Stats

Par: 70
Distance: 7,346 (average: ~120 yards longer than the average par 70)
Fairway Acres/Yardage Ratio: 3.3 (narrow: PGA average is 4.2)
Average Green Size: 6,090 square feet (average: ~99% of the PGA average)
Green Type: Bermuda
Stimpmeter: 12.0
Past 3 Winning Scores (Since New Format): -21, -21, -18
Lowest Gross Scores (Since New Format): -18, -19, -17
Key Stats (in Order of Importance): Strokes Gained: Approach, Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (Emphasis on Driving Accuracy), Strokes Gained: Putting on Bermuda, Birdie or Better Rate, FedEx Cup Standings

The winning net scores here (accounting for starting strokes) reflect two consecutive FedEx Cup leaders winning the TOUR Championship. Patrick Cantlay started at -10 last year and went on to win; in 2020, Dustin Johnson did that. In 2019, Rory McIlroy earned the win while starting at -5 (and shooting the lowest gross score of -17).

Naturally, there's a relationship with starting strokes and in-tournament performance (because better long-term golfers tend to have better starting scores), and there's a clear drop-off in success rate for those starting -1 or at even par. Just 2 of the 30 golfers starting in the bottom 10 climbed to the top 10 over the three years of this format.

What about the course?

East Lake actually rewards driving accuracy a good bit. It's not overly long, and it's rather narrow. Datagolf lists East Lake with the second-narrowest fairways and fifth-most penal rough we get on Tour. However, it's also one of the easiest places to putt of all Tour stops.

Irons matter, as always, given the average-sized greens, so we need our guys to hit fairways and greens and take advantage of the putting conditions. Again, the gross leaders win with scores around -18, so it's a pretty scorable setup.

Golfers With Great Course/Event History

The best strokes gained averages at East Lake, according to FantasyNational, belong to Xander Schauffele (+1.90), Rory McIlroy (+1.29), Justin Thomas (+1.19), Billy Horschel (+1.00), Jon Rahm (+0.90), Viktor Hovland (+0.74), Scottie Scheffler (+0.61), and Adam Scott (+0.60).

Past winners at the field include Patrick Cantlay (2021), Rory McIlroy (2016, 2020), Xander Schauffele (2017), Jordan Spieth (2015), Billy Horschel (2014).

The three gross-score leaders (i.e. 72-hole winners) since 2019 include Rahm (2021), Schauffele (2020), and McIlroy (2019).

Win Simulations for the TOUR Championship

Here are the most likely winners this week, according to my win simulation model, as well as their golf betting odds this week at FanDuel Sportsbook.

Golfer FanDuel

Win Simulation Analysis and Best Bets for the TOUR Championship

Everything changed once Will Zalatoris withdrew, so I'm starting from scratch here.

As far as the net scores go (i.e. with starting strokes), Scottie Scheffler is a fair value at +200, per the model. He now has a four-shot lead on everyone other than Patrick Cantlay, who starts two shy of Scheffler.

Reasonable values in the model otherwise include Cameron Smith (+2000) and Sam Burns (+2000). The instincts and form put me on Xander Schauffele (+650) and Rory McIlroy (+900). Ultimately, I like Scheffler, Cantlay, Xander, and Rory but can't bet them all so will be just taking the longer odds here with regards to net scoring.

As for the gross scoring (72-hole format), the model shows value on Sungjae Im (+2200), Cameron Smith (+1400), Corey Conners (+3300) while viewing Scheffler (+1200) and Viktor Hovland (+2700) as reasonable plays. I like Hovland in that regard. He has gained tee-to-green in both starts at this event in his career.

My main areas of interest, then, are Schauffele and McIlroy with net scoring and Scheffler, Smith, and Hovland in gross scoring.

Past Optimal Lineups for the TOUR Championship

In the three years since we have had this modified start, here is how the optimal lineups have broken down.

Year Golfer Finish Starting Strokes Salary FanDuel
2021 Patrick Cantlay 1 10 $12,800 114.0
2021 Kevin Na 3 2 $7,800 112.3
2021 Justin Thomas 4 4 $11,500 107.3
2021 Xander Schauffele 5 2 $10,500 102.4
2021 Viktor Hovland 5 3 $9,600 102.2
2021 Billy Horschel 9 0 $7,000 96.3
Year Golfer Finish Starting Strokes Salary FanDuel
2020 Xander Schauffele 2 3 $9,500 115.8
2020 Dustin Johnson 1 10 $14,400 114.9
2020 Justin Thomas 2 7 $12,000 112.2
2020 Scottie Scheffler 5 2 $8,600 107.0
2020 Tyrrell Hatton 7 2 $8,200 97.3
2020 Mackenzie Hughes 14 0 $7,000 83.7
Year Golfer Finish Starting Strokes Salary FanDuel
2019 Rory McIlroy 1 5 $11,400 123.1
2019 Xander Schauffele 2 4 $10,500 103.7
2019 Adam Scott 6 3 $9,300 89.3
2019 Brooks Koepka 3 7 $12,100 86.8
2019 Paul Casey 5 2 $8,300 86.8
2019 Chez Reavie 8 1 $7,100 81.9

Of these 18 golfers, just one finished outside the top 10 (Mackenzie Hughes in 2020) when Dustin Johnson had a $14,400 salary and won. Each of the three optimals have had a near-minimum (or minimum) golfer in the $7,000 range.

Last year's optimal had two golfers below $8,000 when Kevin Na and Billy Horschel finished in the top 10 despite starting well down the list.

Top-and-bottom-heavy lineups have been the real trend rather than total balance.

Daily Fantasy Golfer Picks for the TOUR Championship

All stats cited below originate at FantasyNational. Strokes gained data includes stats from the past calendar year and is adjusted based on my field strength and recency tweaks. Putting surface splits also come from FantasyNational and include the past 50 rounds when possible -- unless noted. All ranks and percentile ranks are among the field. References to my combo model refer to a combination of long-term, field-adjusted form, key stat performance, and hole-by-hole-level strokes gained data.

Best of the Best

Scottie Scheffler (FanDuel Salary: $12,900 | Golf odds Win Odds: +250 | Starting Score: -10) - The heavy favorite is very affordable on FanDuel. Scheffler with a two-shot lead on the next closest guy is too obvious to ignore, especially after we've seen that lead converted into back-to-back wins at the TOUR Championship. Scheffler is a plus putter on bermuda greens and is one of the better birdie-makers in the field. With above-average distance and accuracy, Scheffler should gain on the field off the tee and just chip away at a stellar finish from there.

Xander Schauffele ($12,400 | +800 | -6) - Schauffele has finished fifth, second, and second at East Lake the past three years during the new scoring format. In 2020, he had the best gross score, and in 2017, he won at East Lake outright. Schauffele is one of eight golfers to have above-average distance and accuracy, and with the form currently and at East Lake, he's an anchor play.

Others to Consider:
Rory McIlroy ($12,100 | +1000 | -4) - Has five guys above him outright to start; the only come-from-behind winner in the new modified format (2019).
Justin Thomas ($10,700 | +2600 | -3) - A long way back but highest rate of spike weeks in tee-to-green play in the field.

Mid-Range Picks

Viktor Hovland ($9,600 | +5000 | -2) - Hovland is another golfer with plus distance and accuracy while holding some of the best irons on the planet. Hovland's underlying putting data is some of the best in the field, and we saw him surge here last year to a T5 finish, and he's gained strokes in all three tee-to-green stats in both starts at East Lake in his career.

Joaquin Niemann ($9,500 | +5000 | -2) - A dreadful history lingers for Niemann at East Lake. He's finished T27 and 29th at the TOUR Championship in two starts, and maybe it's just not a great fit for his game, but that seems a bit dismissive. Niemann is in the 83rd percentile in adjusted strokes gained: tee to green among this field over the past year, and he holds some of the best super recent form in the field, as well.

Others to Consider:
Cameron Young ($10,000 | +3300 | -3) - Can go chase down anyone; leader in opportunities gained in past 50 rounds; bad putting from within 5 feet is mitigated this week a bit.
Corey Conners ($9,000 | +8000 | -1) - Super accurate off the tee and can benefit from easier putting surfaces.

Low-Salaried Picks

Max Homa ($8,400 | +10000 | -2) - The recent form at key stabilization rates is some of the best in the field for Homa, and he's a solid performer across the board statistically, especially with driver. He's a dominant putter and is great on bermuda. A win is tough to envision at a -2 start, but the rest is there for a top-10.

Aaron Wise ($7,600 | +16000 | E) - Starting at even par, Wise really needs a hot showing to get into the top 10 but is one of the biggest expected regression candidates with the putter (and is good on bermuda). Wise also is a field-average tee-to-green golfer despite the low salary.

Others to Consider:
Billy Horschel ($7,800 | +15000 | -1) - Very familiar with East Lake; accurate and great bermuda putter, too.
Brad Harman ($7,200 | +21000 | -1) - My preferred near-minimum option; super accurate with okay irons and good bermuda putting.