This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
Winner's Share: $1.62M
FedEx Cup Points: 2,000 to the Winner
Course: East Lake Golf Club
2017 champion: Xander Schauffele
The Tour Championship is fascinating on a number of levels. For one, it's like golf's version of an All-Star Game. Only the best of the best are in this elite field. Heck, 17 of the 30 will be in next week's Ryder Cup. Secondly, and more importantly for our purposes, it's also the most challenging event on the fantasy golf calendar. Of course, you still pick six guys, and you want the six best guys within the salary cap, but you also want to find some low-ownership guys. You need to find some low-ownership guys. And simple math tells us that's a lot harder than usual. So, what do you do? You can't just focus on guys who you think will be low-owned. If that were the case, everyone would pick Patton Kizzire, who then wouldn't be low-owned. Hmmm. See, it's not so simple. Picking the guy you think will be low-owned but also have a good week, well, that's the Holy Grail.
Every week we make "Value Picks," and it seems there can be no greater value than a defending champion who finished top-5 in the previous tournament who is situated in scrub-ville at $7,000. That, of course, is Xander Schauffele. But you have to think his ownership will be off-the-charts high. Avoid him to be different? Avoid him and be burned? It's so easy to double-cross yourself this week. Bottom line: It's better to pick guys you think will do well, even if they are highly owned, than to pick a guy you question just because he'll be low-owned.
As for the course, we get it that there's a historical connection to Bobby Jones, and that romanticizes things. But East Lake is far from thrilling, and it's not a very tough course. The past two years it played in the middle of the difficulty pack on the PGA Tour. Granted, that's with the best players on Tour, but still. The closing stretch is ho-hum; in fact, Nos. 16-18 didn't were all among the easier holes last year. The 18th, one of only two par-5s, was the second easiest on the track, which doesn't seem the proper way to cap a sport's season and to crown a champion. What we like about East Lake is that accuracy off the tee counts more here than in most places because the fairways are among the handful of narrowest all season. As we'll delve into deeper in the Champion's Profile, the trophy has not been reserved solely for the longest hitters. Quite the opposite.
As for the field, all the big names are here, save Jordan Spieth. Justin Rose is the new No. 1, but Brooks Koepka (who just jumped to No. 2 on Monday), Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas all can overtake him this week. Although everyone wants to be No. 1, we imagine as many or more of the 30 golfers would rather be the FedEx Cup champion because of the $10 million bonus that goes with it. We all know that the top-5 in the standings – Bryson DeChambeau, Rose, Johnson, Tony Finau and Thomas – control their own fate. If they win the tournament, they win the Cup and the 10 mil. But the next few guys – Keegan Bradley is sixth, followed by Koepka, Bubba Watson and Billy Horschel – each would likely with the Cup if they won the tournament. Heck, Bradley and Koepka don't even have to win the tournament to become the Cup champion.
Weather-wise, there hasn't been much rain in the days preceding the tournament and there's hardly any predicted going forward. Mostly, it will be hot and sticky, with temperatures close to 90, and minimal wind.
Key Stats to Winning at East Lake
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained: approach
• Driving accuracy/strokes gained: off the tee
• Scrambling/strokes gained: around the green
• Putting average/strokes: gained putting
2017 - Xander Schauffele
2016 - Rory McIlroy
2015 - Jordan Spieth
2014 - Billy Horschel
2013 - Henrik Stenson
2012 - Brandt Snedeker
2011 - Bill Haas
2010 - Jim Furyk
2009 - Tiger Woods
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 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. Last year, Schauffele ranked sixth in greens in regulation, but compared to other recent winners that wasn't great. McIlroy was second in greens in regulation, while Horschel and Stenson were both first. Schauffele was fifth in distance off the tee, and of course McIlroy is long, but from Spieth in 2015 going back to Furyk in 2010, there wasn't a long hitter in the bunch.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Dustin Johnson - $11,300 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 9-1)
If you're looking to avoid a popular pick but still want a stud to anchor your lineup, here's your guy. We're figuring that Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas will all have high ownership. Don't get us wrong, we like Rose this week (and might get burned by omitting him). But Johnson has sort of been a forgotten man during the playoffs, though the oddsmakers still like him. Johnson has gone T11-T7-T24. He's shot two 64s and three 67s. At East Lake, he's finished tied for fifth twice and also tied for sixth. And Johnson has more incentive than just $10 million – he's lost his No. 1 ranking. In fact, he's now No. 3.
Rory McIlroy - $10,700 (9-1)
In four starts in the Tour Championship, McIlroy has a win (2016) and a runner-up (2014). He arrives having played well in his two playoff starts, a T12 in Boston and a T25 at Aronimink. McIlroy is first on Tour in driving distance, which sometimes masks his wayward tee balls. He's also ranked second on Tour in scrambling, which seems unfair for a guy who hits it so far.
Justin Thomas - $10,300 (10-1)
Thomas has played East Lake twice. He tied for sixth in 2016 and was runner-up last year. If there's a shortcoming in Thomas' game, it's driving accuracy, but like the other long hitters, he'll probably be clubbing down a lot. Despite misses off the tee, Thomas is ranked third in strokes gained: approach. He has played 12 rounds in the first three playoff events and shot in the 60s 10 times, good for a T8, a T24 and a T12 at the BMW.
Tier 2 Values
Rickie Fowler - $9,100 (14-1)
If there's anyone flying under the radar this week, it's Fowler. He was surprisingly strong at the BMW, tying for eighth after missing the first two playoff events with an oblique injury. In a down year, he still has top-25s in 13 of his 19 starts. That can happen when you rank 26th in greens in regulation and fifth in scrambling, even though it's a down year for him in putting, ranking 37th. Fowler's best here is T8 in 2014, but if you're looking for a low-ownership guy with high upside, Fowler is a good option.
Hideki Matsuyama - $8,800 (20-1)
Here's another guy who could fly in under the radar. Like Fowler, Matsuyama is sandwiched between Tiger Woods ($9,500) on one side and Tony Finau ($8,600 and Bryson DeChambeau ($8,400) on the other. All three of them will be popular. This is the Japanese star's fifth straight trip to East Lake, and his best was T5 two years ago, when he led the field in strokes gained: putting. After a decidedly down year – again, like Fowler – Matsuyama strung together three top-15s in the playoffs to punch his ticket to the finale.
Francesco Molinari - $8,200 (20-1)
Molinari makes if 3-for-3 in Tier 2 guys who might get bypassed by the masses. The Italian has not been front and center in the playoffs – he missed a cut, he skipped an event – but he came back strong with a top-10 at the BMW. Molinari has not played East Lake before, but it's not as if there's a big learning curve to do well there. Molinari is seventh in strokes gained: off the tee, sixth in SG approach and second in SG tee to green.
Tier 3 Values
Tommy Fleetwood - $7,900 (20-1)
In 18 starts on the PGA Tour this season, Fleetwood has 14 top-25s, including a tie for eighth at the BMW. This is his first trip to the Tour Championship, but he arrives well-equipped to do well. The Englishman is ranked 16th in strokes gained: off the tee and 13th in SG tee to green. Fleetwood is even ranked top-50 in strokes gained: putting.
Webb Simpson - $7,500 (25-1)
Simpson has been one of the steadiest players all season and, after a couple of off-weeks in the first two playoff events, he was at it again at the BMW, tying for sixth. The North Carolina native speaks fondly of playing golf in this part of the country – he was co-runner-up at the Wyndham last month – and has a couple of top-5s at East Lake. And that was before he became an elite putter.
Billy Horschel - $7,300 (25-1)
It's hard to ignore what Horschel is doing, especially since he's done it before. After coming out of nowhere to become the 2014 FedEx Cup champion, Horschel has a pair of T3s in three playoff events this season to climb to ninth in the point standings. His game is well suited for East Lake: ranked 16th in driving accuracy, fifth in greens in regulation and 24th in strokes gained: putting. We expect him to be a popular lineup option.
Patrick Cantlay - $7,100 (30-1)
East Lake is kind of a boring course, which suits Cantlay's style just fine. Cantlay notched a pair of top-25s in the first two playoff events before fading at Aronimink. But he hadn't played three straight weeks in a very long time. Now refreshed, Cantlay returns to the tournament where he tied for 20th last year. Ranking seventh in both strokes gained: off the tee and greens in regulation, and fourth in SG tee to green, we envision a better showing this time around.
Gary Woodland - $6,700 (50-1)
Woodland got progessively better in each playoff event, culminating with a T12 at the BMW to ensure his sixth visit to East Lake, where he has two top-10s. As we often say, Woodland is perhaps the straightest driver among the long hitters, and that's reflected in a rank of third in strokes gained: off the tee. That sets him up nicely to get on the green in regulation, and he's ranked sixth there.
Bubba Watson - $6,500 (40-1)
Well look who's sitting down here in the mid-$6000s. Watson is eighth in points, but far down on the DraftKings board. Watson's season has been front-loaded with his three victories all coming before July. He went into a bit of a tailspin thereafter, missing the cut in the final two majors. But Watson has quietly rebounded in the playoffs, with a tie for seventh in Boston and for 16th at the BMW. He's had good success at East Lake through the years, topping out with a pair of T5s.