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DraftKings PGA: Tour Championship

Len Hochberg

Hochberg covers golf for RotoWire. A veteran sports journalist, he contributes to Sports on Earth and was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years.

TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP
Purse: $8.75M
Winner's Share: $1.575M
FedEx Cup Points: 2,000 to the Winner
Location: Atlanta
Course: East Lake Golf Club
Yardage: 7,385
Par: 70
2016 champion: Rory McIlroy


Tournament Preview

We've reached the end of another fantasy golf season, and hopefully you've enjoyed it regardless of how successful you've been -- but hopefully you've been successful, too. We should all enjoy the Tour Championship because after Sunday's final round, there is no more PGA Tour golf for ... 11 ... looooong ... days. That's right, the offseason spans less than a fortnight before the Safeway Open, Johnny Miller's tournament that is the traditional lid-lifter, gets under way in the Napa Valley. We'll be back for another season then, but until then ...

We are focused on the Tour Championship, and it is perhaps the most fascinating and challenging golf event on the DFS calendar. There are only 30 players, yet we're all still charged with picking the best six. Good luck finding a hidden gem this week. Don't try to pick someone you think will be low-owned. Not only is that next to impossible this week, but you'll just double-cross yourself -- pick who you think are the best guys. If you could determine two guys who you think can win the tournament, then find four more who will finish in the top-10 or -15, you'll be way ahead of the field.

East Lake in the past few years has landed among the top-third or -half of toughest courses on Tour, which makes us wonder whether it would be even harder if lesser golfers were playing it. For one, it's quite long as a par-70, nearing 7,400 yards. The beauty of the course is that it penalizes length and over-aggressiveness. We'll get back to that in the Champion's Profile below. Driving accuracy doesn't mean a whole lot on the PGA Tour anymore, but it does here, where the average width of the fairways is 25 yards or less from 275 yards on out. A look at the winners over the past decade shows that this course has not necessarily favored the longest hitters. Rory McIlroy won last year, but before him you'd have to go back to Tiger Woods in 2009 to find someone else who qualifies as long. East Lake has its flaws. Four of the five toughest holes last year were on the front nine, and the closing holes of Nos. 16-18 were not even among the toughest half. In fact, the 18th, at 600 yards one of only two par-5s on the course, was the second easiest hole. So maybe you're thinking of high drama at the end? Maybe an eagle for the win? Not so fast. Last year, there were only three eagles all week. Still, it's better than it used to be before the nines were reversed, when the tournament ended with a par-3. It's not the most fantastic course on Tour, with apologies to Bobby Jones, but at least the drama of the season-ending tournament can mask at lot of that.

We all hear that the top-5 golfers -- Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, surprising Marc Leishman and Jon Rahm -- control their own fate; If they win the tournament, they'd win the FedEx Cup playoffs and the $10 million bonus that goes with it. But really, the next handful of golfers -- Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Paul Casey -- would also stand a pretty fair chance of winning it all if they win the tournament. Last year, McIlroy won from the sixth position. One thing to guard against in selecting a lineup is complacency -- maybe the more accurate word is relief. Some of the lesser guys who have been grinding so hard to reach the top-30 and get all the incredible perks that go with it might simply exhale at this point and come out flat.

Weather-wise, hot and humid conditions are on tap for Atlanta, with minimal and only a chance of some rain.

Key Stats to Winning at East Lake (in order of importance)

Strokes gained tee to green
Greens in regulation/strokes gained approach
Driving accuracy/strokes gained off the tee
Scrambling/strokes gained around the green
Putting average/strokes gained putting

Past Champions

2016 - Rory McIlroy
2015 - Jordan Spieth
2014 - Billy Horschel
2013 - Henrik Stenson
2012 - Brandt Snedeker
2011 - Bill Haas
2010 - Jim Furyk
2009 - Tiger Woods
2008 - Vijay Singh

Champion's Profile:

Guys who keep the ball in the fairway do well at East Lake. But the thing is, you can't just look at driving accuracy stats. East Lake forces just about everybody to keep the driver in the bag more than usual, so finding the fairway should be easier just by clubbing down. But it's still a hard course to keep it in the short stuff, with trees and rough lurking. Going back to 2010, every winner but one has been top-11 in driving accuracy. Every one of them was top-11 in greens in regulation. All but one, top-20 in scrambling. Only one of them outside the top-10 in putting average. Putting is critical to success, but the tournament likely will be won tee to green. Thirteen of the top-15 on Tour in strokes gained tee to green are in the field (Francesco Molinari and McIlroy are the two who aren't).

DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)

Tier 1 Values

Jordan Spieth - $11,600 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 5-1)
If you believe in the San Francisco Giants' odd-year theory, Spieth is your man. He was runner-up in 2013 and won in 2015, with mediocre showings in the even years. If you believe in the hot hand, Spieth is still your man. He's gone 2-2-T7 in the first three playoff events. East Lake is well suited for Spieth, a master tactician on the course. He's second on Tour in strokes gained tee to green (SGT2G) and third in greens in regulation (GIR). While considered the game's finest clutch putter, Spieth is only 30th in strokes gained putting (SGP).

Dustin Johnson - $11,400 (7-1)
Johnson has danced around a win in his last three visits to East Lake, finishing no worse than sixth. So even though the course puts limits on power, Johnson has managed to navigate his way around just fine. Not only is he first on Tour in strokes gained off the tee (SGOTT), first in SGT2 and 11th in GIR, Johnson is a sneaky-good 20th in scrambling.

Jon Rahm - $9,500 (10-1)
Unlike Spieth and Johnson, Rahm has never played East Lake before. Then again, that's been the case every week of the playoffs and all he's done is rack up three top-5 cashes. Rahm is second on Tour in SGOTT, third in SGT2G, 24th in GIR, 14th in scrambling and, a bit surprisingly, 32nd in SGP.

Tier 2 Values

Justin Rose - $8,900 (12-1)
You could make a strong case that Rose could win this week. He has top-10s in all three playoff events, including co-runner-up last week at Conway Farms. More impressively, he cashed 2-6-4-2 at East Lake from 2012 to '15. Rose missed the tournament last year, but pay no mind to that. Rose has been outstanding in strokes gained approach and around the green during his recent surge. It's his putting that's a concern, but even that has been better of late.

Paul Casey - $8,600 (15-1)
Casey had a run of five straight top-5s in playoff events broken with his T33 at the BMW. We might be able to chalk that up to it being a busy week for him -- his wife gave birth just three days before the tournament and he arrived late to Conway Farms. Casey was fourth last year at East Lake, part of his run on top-5s, and was T5 the year before. He's played East Lake only one other time, way back in 2010 -- and even then he was T4.

Marc Leishman - $8,400 (15-1)
When Leishman missed the cut at the first playoff event, who could've foreseen what would happen next: a near win the following week and then a five-stroke win at the BMW, thrusting him to fourth in the point standings. We've seen something like this before, when Billy Horschel finished the 2014 playoffs 2nd-1st-1st. And Leishman is a far better golfer. Predicting another win for this week is a bit much, but when someone is playing so well, it's hard to turn away. Leishman has played East Lake only once before, tying for 27th way back in 2009.

Tier 3 Values

Sergio Garcia - $7,900 (25-1)
It's only fitting that Garcia caps his milestone season at East Lake. He needed a good week at the BMW to get there, too (T12). It was the first sign that Garcia was over his busy summer -- celebrating his Masters win and getting married. When on, Garcia is a premier tee-to-green player (fifth in SGOTT, 13th in SGT2G, 15th in GIR). He hasn't been in the Tour Championship since 2014, when he notched a second consecutive T9 there. Going back a decade, Garcia has a pair of top-5s there.

Patrick Cantlay - $7,800 (30-1)
Cantlay's remarkable season lives on. He's only the third golfer to reach the Tour Championship with as few as 12 tournaments played (McIlroy in 2015, Steve Stricker in 2013). He needed to knock down an 11-footer on 18 on Sunday to jump inside the top-30, so he can handle pressure. That moved him into a tie for ninth, going along with a T13 and T10 in the first two playoff events. Cantlay finally has played enough rounds to qualify among PGA Tour statistical leaders. He's eighth in SGOTT, 15th in SGT2G, 17th in GIR, 42nd in scrambling and 43rd in SGP. No matter what happens this week, he's had a remarkable rookie season.

Webb Simpson - $7,500 (40-1)
A funny thing happened to Simpson on the way to the Tour Championship: He found a putting stroke. In a remarkable occurrence, Simpson led the field in SGP at the BMW, where he tied for ninth with Cantlay. It was actually an off-week in other areas for Simpson, who happens to be 27th on Tour in SGT2G, 29th in driving accuracy and second in scrambling. Simpson has two top-10s in the first three playoff events. He also has a pair of top-5s at East Lake, where didn't qualify the past two years.

Long-Shot Values

Jason Dufner - $6,500 (60-1)
Dufner isn't exactly lighting it up right now; he's at East Lake thanks to his early season play and qualified by the scantest of margins: less than one point over Louis Oosthuizen to finish in the 30th position. But he's a straight shooter, ranking in the top-50 in SGT2G, driving accuracy and GIR. And in five Tour Championships, he's never finished outside the top-20, including a tie for eighth last year and T9 in 2013.

Gary Woodland - $6,400 (50-1)
Woodland has top-10s in his past two trips to East Lake, including T10 last year. He's been playing better after a midseason swoon. His T18 at the Dell got him into the top-30, and his T27 at the BMW kept him there. Woodland is 17th on Tour in SGT2G and eighth in GIR.

Pat Perez - $6,400 (60-1)
At age 41, this is Perez's first trip to the Tour Championship, the capper to his best season ever. Perez endured a dry spell over the summer, but he tied for sixth at TPC Boston and followed it up with a T12 at Conway Farms. He doesn't boast gaudy numbers, just solid ones across the board: 41st in SGT2G, 58th in GIR, 24th in scrambling and 54th in SGP.

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