This article is part of our FanDuel PGA DFS Picks series.
Course: East Lake Golf Club (7,346 yards, par 70)
Winner: $18,000,000 and five-year PGA Tour exemption
- 1st: Scottie Scheffler -10
- 2nd: Viktor Hovland -8
- 3rd: Rory McIlroy -7
- 4th: Jon Rahm -6
- 5th: Lucas Glover -5
- T6: Max Homa, Patrick Cantlay, Brian Harman, Wyndham Clark, Matt Fitzpatrick -4
- T11: Tommy Fleetwood, Russell Henley, Keegan Bradley, Rickie Fowler, Xander Schauffele -3
- T16: Tom Kim, Sungjae Im, Tony Finau, Corey Conners, Si Woo Kim -2
- T21: Taylor Moore, Nick Taylor, Adam Schenk, Collin Morikawa, Jason Day -1
- T26: Sam Burns, Emiliano Grillo, Tyrrell Hatton, Jordan Spieth, Sepp Straka E
It all comes down to this. 30 players qualified for the season-ending TOUR Championship at East Lake, where they will compete for the FedEx Cup and a $75 million bonus pool -- with a whopping $18 million of that going to the winner. The format for the TOUR Championship has changed over the years, but the starting strokes format that was introduced in 2019 is probably the easiest to follow in terms of keeping track of the race for the FedEx Cup. Gone are the days where you could have two different champions, one for the TOUR Championship and one for the FedEx Cup. Now if you win the tournament, you win it all.
Rahm was unseated from the top spot in the FedExCup Standings for the first time in 30 weeks. With quadruple points on the line and finishes of T37 and T31 in the first two playoff events, Rahm enters the TOUR Championship as the No. 4 seed and four shots back of Scheffler. This will be the second year in a row that the six-time PGA Tour winner enters in pole position and with that two shot cushion over the No. 2 seed, which this year happens to be Hovland following his final-round 61 at the BMW Championship to take the victory. A year ago Scheffler took a six-shot lead into the final round of the TOUR Championship, but lost to McIlroy, who is the No. 3 seed this year. McIlroy's three FedExCup titles are more than any other player since its inception in 2007. Clark (-4), Harman (-4) and Rahm (-6) will all be looking to become the first in-season major winners since Justin Thomas in 2017 to win the FedEx Cup.
While there is a ton of money up for grabs this week that will include each of the top-10 finishes making at least seven figures, one other thing to keep an eye on is the Ryder Cup hopefuls. Following the BMW Championship, the top-six spots on the American side were locked in. That means Scheffler, Clark, Harman, Cantlay, Homa and Schauffele all will be representing the U.S. Ryder Cup team in Rome next month. Those that failed to lock in on points will hope to give Captain Zach Johnson one last reason to pick them at East Lake if they were fortunate enough to make the Top 30 this week. The European Ryder Cup automatic qualifiers will be determined following next week's Omega European Masters with Captain Luke Donald's six picks to be made on Monday Sept. 4. All seven Europeans that made the TOUR Championship are expected to make the team.
Fans have been critical over the years about East Lake because it isn't the most interesting golf course in the world and it has become a real grind to play for its members. Immediately following this week's TOUR Championship, however, the course will be closed down and undergo its most significant remodel since 1994. Andrew Green, who received a lot of praise for his work at Oak Hill, will be working to restore East Lake to the original Donald Ross design in 1913. The fairways are expected to be widened and use firmer zoysia grass, greens lowered, and bunkers and hazards brought in more strategically. Overall it should lead to a more enjoyable experience for the members and provide a much more exciting test for the best in the world in the season-culminating TOUR Championship. The project is expected to be done in time for the 2024 TOUR Championship.
That is next year, though. The 2023 edition has a pretty encouraging weather forecast. While temperatures will extend into the upper-90's, we shouldn't see much precipitation, if any, all week. That will hopefully lead to a really firm and challenging golf course for these Top 30 players. Winds will be relatively mild, however. The starting strokes throw it off a bit, but if you look at the lowest 72-hole scores at East Lake, it typically doesn't get much more than 11 or 12-under-par. That being said, McIlroy shot 17-under-par over 72 holes last year to take the win, but he was actually 21-under for the final 71 holes after opening the tournament with a quadruple-bogey.
2022 - Rory McIlroy (-21)
2021 - Patrick Cantlay (-21)
2020 - Dustin Johnson (-21)
2019 - Rory McIlroy (-18)
2018 - Tiger Woods (-11)
2017 - Xander Schauffele (-12)
2016 - Rory McIlroy (-12)
2015 - Jordan Spieth (-9)
2014 - Billy Horschel (-11)
2013 - Henrik Stenson (-13)
Key Stats to Victory
- SG: Off-the-Tee
- SG: Approach
- SG: Putting
East Lake Golf Club features some of the narrowest fairways on Tour, but requires players to hit a lot of drivers. The rough while not overly long, is very thick bermuda that you never get a good lie in and makes it a challenge to control into elevated greens. There's a reason why winners at East Lake gain the second most strokes versus the field off the tee of any course on the PGA Tour. Just look a recent winners like McIlroy, Cantlay, Johnson and Schauffele. All of them are really strong drivers of the golf ball.
While driving it well means a lot at East Lake, it isn't the only thing you need to be able to do. Because the fairways don't really run out and the par-3s are long, being a strong mid-to-long iron player certainly is an advantage around this place. The greens are just below PGA Tour average in size and typically are pretty quick. The subtle breaks and grain changes are not easy to read, but the putts roll so pure on these bermuda surfaces.
From a short game standpoint there are challenges on every level. There's some occasions where you'll have to deal with sticky bermuda close to the greens, there are some closely mown areas where contact becomes extremely important to stop it close, and the bunkers can be pretty challenging. The beauty of East Lake deciding the FedExCup is that it tests every single part of your game and penalizes you for poor shots. You'll see a few 64s and 65s, but you'll also see some 75s and 76s.
FanDuel Value Picks
Rory McIlroy ($12,800)
The restoration to East Lake after this year is the only thing that may be able to stop McIlroy from being the favorite. He is the best driver of this generation, and while his putting can be up and down he loves these greens. McIlroy's worst finish here in nine starts is a T16, and he has seven top-10s and three wins. He ranks second in SG: Off-the-Tee, third in SG: Approach and eighth in SG: Around-the-Green this season.
Viktor Hovland ($12,000)
I think you get a nice little discount on the man that sits as the closer player to Scheffler and $1,000 cheaper. Hovland has all kinds of momentum right now after that back-nine 28 at Olympia Fields where he was stuffing every approach. The No. 2 seed ranked top-five in SG: Off-the-Tee, SG: Approach and SG: Putting for the week. If Hovland does that at East Lake, especially considering where he starts, we very well might see him join Stenson as the only two Scandinavians to win the FedEx Cup.
Max Homa ($11,300)
The Homa we saw to begin the season is back, as evidenced by this T21-T12-T10-T6-T5 run over his last five starts. During that stretch, Homa has gained 0.84 strokes off the tee per round, which would put him fifth on the season. You combine that driving with how good the putter and short game is and you've got a strong chance to make a run at this from 4-under-par. Homa finished T5 in his East Lake debut a year ago.
Tommy Fleetwood ($11,100)
It would certainly be something if Fleetwood got that long-anticipated first PGA Tour win at the TOUR Championship to win the FedEx Cup. He has just been so good for the last several months racking up nine top-25s and five top-six finishes over his last 11 starts. There is nothing to knock in his game as over that stretch he has gained off the tee in 10-of-11, on approach in 8-of-11, around the green in 8-of-11 and with the putter in 9-of-11. Fleetwood finished 11th and 16th in two prior starts at East Lake.
Longer Shots with Value
Russell Henley ($9,600)
Henley has put himself right in the Ryder Cup conversation with his play the last few weeks, going T2-T6-T8. It has been since 2017 that Henley has made it to East Lake, but he finished T3 that year and the Georgia kid loves bermuda greens. Henley's ball-striking consistency is staggering as he has gained from tee to green in his last 15 starts. He also has one of the most underrated short games on Tour at 24th in SG: Around-the-Green and 16th in scrambling for the season.
Sungjae Im ($9,400)
It is really hard to believe that Im has now made the TOUR Championship in five straight seasons at the age of 25. He made bank last year by tying No. 1 seed Scheffler for second place. Im struggled a bit in the early part of the summer, but has picked it back up and gone T14-T6-7th the last three weeks. If you look through all his stats you won't be able to find a single weakness across the board. Im truly has one of the most complete games on Tour at his best.
Brian Harman ($8,800)
I'm not generally not super high on players that gain the majority of their strokes with the putter, but I mean the heater Harman has been on over the last couple months on the greens is something to behold. Harman has finished top-12 in five of his last six starts, including that dominating performance at the Open. During that stretch he is gaining 1.37 strokes per round with the putter. For reference the PGA Tour leader in SG: Putting is gaining 1.06 per round on the season.
Sam Burns ($8,200)
Many people thought after a three-win season last year that Burns would be a lock for the Ryder Cup. Despite winning the WGC-Match Play in March, that is certainly still up for debate. Burns has just been a little too inconsistent, but he is starting to find form with top-20 finishes in three of the last five events. To me, Burns is the favorite of the guys starting at even-par to make a run up the leaderboard because of his power and how well he putts, specifically on bermuda greens.
Strategy Tips This Week
Based on a Standard $60K Salary Cap
Typically the top of the pricing sheet is right around $12,000, but this week because of the starting strokes format we have five players north of that number. I think because it will be hard to roster more than one of those players, you can easily make multiple lineups and choose one of those top-four seeds each time to try to get the placement points for the victory. The $10K range is pretty weak with guys at even-par like Spieth and Hatton in there, but then I think you find a lot of good value in the $9K range again. Depending on how you construct your lineup you may need to dip into one of the six golfers in the $7K range. My two favorite plays from there are Kim ($7,700) and Grillo ($7,500) because I think they are easily the most consistent ball strikers of the group. The last thing to remember is that starting strokes aren't everything, especially once you get past the top five seeds the rest of the field is pretty closely bunched and can change dramatically within an hour of the tournament starting. The top few seeds are going to control the tournament and determine whether or not anyone can come get them, but there are still a lot of points to be gained outside of the placement points by racking up birdies and eagles on two of the easiest par-5s on the PGA Tour.
Trying to place a wager on the TOUR Championship? Check out the FanDuel Promo Code!