The DFS Preview and Picks for the Tour Championship
Course: East Lake Golf Club (Atlanta, Georgia)
Yardage: 7,346 – Par 70
Purse : $ 8.75 million
Field: Top 30 players in FedEx Cup points to date
Recent Tour Championship Winners
Prior to the week off, Keegan Bradley was able to pick up his first win since 2012 at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. Bradley paired rounds of 66 on Thursday and Saturday with rounds of 64 on Friday and Sunday. The emotional win for Bradley also saw the man that he beat in a playoff, Justin Rose, rise to the number one spot in the world. While there was frustration for Rose (he lipped out for the win on 18), he won a nice consolation prize by reaching the number one spot for the first time in his career at age 38.
We head into the final week of the 2017-18 PGA season with the Tour Championship. The Top 30 remaining in the FedEx Cup standings will all gather at the Donald Ross-designed East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. While the Tour Championship is a its own tournament with an $8.75 million purse, the FedEx Cup champion will also be crowned at the conclusion of this event. The winner of the FedEx Cup will take home a far more lucrative bonus check worth $10 million. The winner of the Tour Championship does not guarantee every player entered the $10 million payday, although it does for the current Top 5 in the standings:
- Bryson DeChambeau
- Justin Rose
- Tony Finau
- Dustin Johnson
- Justin Thomas
Outside of those five, anyone else that wins the Tour Championship will need some help from players ahead of them in order to officially be named the FedEx Cup champion as well. Those players (in rank order starting at six) are Keegan Bradley, Brooks Koepka, Bubba Watson, Billy Horschel, Cameron Smith, Webb Simpson, Jason Day, Francesco Molinari, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Patrick Cantlay, Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, Tommy Fleetwood, Tiger Woods, Aaron Wise, Kevin Na, Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm, Kyle Stanley, Paul Casey, Hideki Matsuyama, Gary Woodland, Marc Leishman and Patton Kizzire. That’s all 30 players that you’ll have available to choose from this week. Those 30 players will play all four rounds at East Lake, as this tournament has no cut.
East Lake Golf Club is a Donald Ross-designed track that has been renovated and redesigned within the last decade. Since the renovation, winning scores have generally been in the high single to low double digits under par. Playing out to a Par 70, East Lake has just two Par 5s and 12 Par 4s. While it’s always important to be a good Par 4 scorer on Par 70 courses, it’s proven to be one of the key components to winning at East Lake in recent years. Players’ main challenges at East Lake will be the long Par 4s, and the Par 3s, which all range between 197 and 235 yards with water-surrounded greens. The tournament can’t be won on the Par 3s, but it can surely be lost on them. Players who excel in both Par 3 scoring and Approach Proximity 200-225 yards will have a better chance at staying relevant for four days.
Over the years, East Lake has proven to reward players who are solid ball strikers that can pinpoint where they are going to hit the green. The Bermuda green complexes at East Lake put a premium on being in the right spot on the green. If the ball isn’t on the right tier, par is the best you can hope for. Accuracy and gaining in strokes gained: approach trumps driving distance this week, although there doesn’t seem to be a disadvantage to being a long-hitter either. The most important stat in recent years has been the almighty Greens (hit) in Regulation stat. Players who’ve ranked first or second for the week in greens hit have usually been in contention until the end.
With this course being a Donald Ross design, looking at player results on the PGA Tour’s other Donald Ross-designed courses can give you a feel of who may play well this week (of course, recent form is always important to consider as well). Some of the most recent stops on the schedule have been Ross Designs (Aronimink, Plainfield, Sedgefield, Oak Hill, Pinehurst #2).
Par 4 Scoring
Par 3 Scoring
Approach Proximity 200-225 yards
Strokes Gained: Approach
Greens in Regulation
Donald Ross-Designed Course History
Justin Rose ($11,400) Justin Rose is the priciest player this week, but he’s well worth it. Rose has finished with back-to-back solo second places during these FedEx Cup playoffs, and comes in as the second-hottest golfer in the field behind Bryson DeChambeau. What separates Rose from his peers in the uber-expensive salary range is his track record at East Lake. Rose has finished inside the Top 6 in this tournament in five of his last six tries including two runner-up finishes. He may have overtaken the number one spot in the world rankings, but after falling short by the slimmest of margins at the BMW two weeks ago, Rose should be hungry to put the FedEx Cup to bed and retain the number one spot through the fall.
Hideki Matsuyama ($8,800) Matsuyama has had a down year by his standards, but a win at the Tour Championship could get him back on the right foot for the 2018-2019 season. Matsuyama has been heating up lately, with finishes of T11, T15, T4 and 15th in his last four events. He’s always been known as a wonderful ball striker who can win any tournament if his putter gets going. Matsuyama ranks inside the Top 20 in Par 3 scoring, Par 4 scoring and strokes gained: approach, while also ranking a very respectable 27th in approach proximity from 200-225 yards. He does everything well that you need for this course, and is swinging a hot stick lately. Currently 27th in the FedEx Cup Standings, his only chance at winning the FedEx Cup is to win the tournament outright. Hideki will surely be swinging for the fences.
Bryson DeChambeau ($8,400) I mentioned earlier that Justin Rose was the second-hottest golfer in the world right now. That’s because Bryson DeChambeau is undoubtedly the hottest golfer with two playoff victories and a T19 over these three playoff events. DeChambeau went out and dismantled the best in the world at the Northern Trust Open and Dell Technologies. At the beginning of the year, DeChambeau was the 99th-ranked golfer in the world. Now, he sits inside the Top 10, ranked eighth. It’s going to be difficult for him to go out and win a third playoff event, but this kid is so hot right now, he could easily finish inside the Top 5 without playing his absolute best. For $8,400 that’s a pretty good bargain.
Francesco Molinari (8,200) Molinari went on a run similar to DeChambeau’s, where he won two PGA events and a European Tour event within about a six-week stretch that included the British Open. He understandably cooled off in the recent aftermath of his first major win, but appears to be back in the office lately, with a T6 and T8 in these FedEx Cup playoffs. Molinari is one of the best iron-players in the game, ranking sixth on Tour this season in strokes gained: approach, and he’s a tick better in Par 3 scoring, ranking fifth. Molinari’s precision should work nicely at East Lake. The fact that he’s a European who’s mostly played on the Euro Tour in his career tends to result in Molinari going for slightly cheaper than his true value.
Bubba Watson ($6,500) For only $6,500 you can have the eighth-ranked golfer in the FedEx Cup Standings. Watson’s inconsistency is the reason for that low price. Watson has been boom or bust this year, with three wins and only three other non-winning top 10s all season long. However, in the last two playoff events, Watson has finished T7 and T16, so there’s some reason for optimism. He’s also one of the 10 or 12 players in this field who can routinely reach the 600 yard Par 5 18th hole. There aren’t many chances for easy birdies on this course, so Watson will need to take full advantage on the two Par 5s. Now would be a good time for Bubba to go boom again, as a win would most likely get him the FedEx Cup title.
Keegan Bradley ($6,200) Keegan Bradley is coming off of his first win in six years, and it wasn’t just some fluke. Bradley has been the best all year long in strokes gained: approach until Tiger Woods recently bumped him down to second place. Bradley put his main strength together with a hot putter where he finished the BMW Championship first in strokes gained: putting. If Bradley can stay hot with the putter, it’s not outrageous to think that he go back-to-back. Many times the Tour Champion is simply the hottest golfer going into the week, and Bradley is certainly in the conversation after tearing Aronimink apart last week.