This is the final event of the 2015 PGA season. The field is only 30 golfers and it is comprised of the top 30 players from the FedEx cup point standings. This week there is a game within the game. While all 30 players will obviously be competing for the Tour Championship and a tournament win, only a certain number of players will have a real shot at winning the FedEx cup point standings and the 10 million dollar bonus that goes to the winner. To make things less complicated, here’s a breakdown of which players will actually win the 10 million bonus if they win the golf tournament on Sunday:
– Jason Day
– Jordan Spieth
– Rickie Fowler
– Henrik Stenson
– Bubba Watson
Everyone else in the field would need some kind of help to win the FedEx standings outright, although for 6th and 7th ranked Dustin Johnson, the scenarios needed are not very complex. Every player will be out there trying to win this prestigious event but these 5-7 players will have a little extra motivation (actually 10 million of them). Make sure you take a full look at who is actually in the field before creating your line ups, there’s no cut this week and so all 30 golfers will get in four rounds.
East Lake Golf Club—Atlanta, Georgia
Par 70, 7300-7400 yards
East Lake Golf Club is a Donald Ross design that has underwent some renovations in the past 5-10 years. The course used to be very ripe for scoring but after the redesign, where the greens were changed to Bermuda grass it now plays much tougher, the course has yielded winning scores in the -8 to -13 range for the most part since the change. This course is quite tactical. While there’s a few easier holes (a drivable par 4 and a very reachable par 5) there’s also some very intimidating ones. Long par 3’s are a trademark of Ross designs and this course features 4, one of which is essentially an island green. There’s also two longer par 4’s that are actually scaled down par 5’s and will play long for the players. Ball placement off the tee and into the greens will be more important than sheer power this week as the already discussed green complexes will give players fits if they don’t hit it to the right spots. Putting will be key and it’s not a shock to know that past winners of this event have almost always ranked inside the top three in putting stats for the week of their respective wins.
LAST 5 WINNERS
– Billy Horschel—2014
– Henrik Stenson—2013
– Brandt Snedeker—2012
– Bill Haas—2011
– Jim Furyk—2010
– 4 of the 5 past winners have ranked 13th or better in par 4 scoring in the year of their victory
– 4 of the 5 past winners had scored a victory on tour in the year they won the Tour Championship (Bill Haas hadn’t in 2012 but he did have two T2’s)
– 3 of the last 5 winners of the Tour Championship had a win or a T2 in a previous playoff event that year
– None of the past 5 winners had missed a cut in any playoff event coming into East Lake.
– Par 4 scoring
– Par 3 scoring
– Greens in regulation
– Strokes gained: total
As noted earlier, some of the past winners of this event had very good rankings in par 4 scoring in the year of their victories. However with 4 tough-long par 3’s on the course par 3 scoring is generally also very important this week. I’d consider both stats when making any projections or line-ups. It’s also hard for me to ignore Greens in Regulation this week. Past winners Bill Haas, Henrik Stenson and Billy Horschel were all GIR monsters in the years of their respective wins and anyone finding the green consistently on this course will be at a huge advantage as scrambling will be difficult on these green complexes. A final trend I noticed was that recent winners of this event had high rankings in strokes gained: total… which is essentially a ranking of how a player has done vs. the field in their shot-making for the year. It makes sense in a very tough field/event that players who rank highly in this category have done well at the Tour Championship and I think it’s a very important category this week.
– There’s no words that can describe what Jason Day has done in his last few tournaments. He’s now won two of the first three playoff events by a combined 12 shots. He’s clearly the top play this week and will be hard for anyone to beat and hard to fade in fantasy.
– Bubba Watson has certainly looked pretty decent in the playoffs this year as well. He took home 3rd at the Barclays, struggled a bit at the Deutsche Bank but rebounded with a T10 last week.
– Daniel Berger has also really stepped up in the playoffs. He missed the cut at the Barclays but then went 12th-2nd. The rookie could surprise again this week.
– The other two men to watch: Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson. Stenson now has two runner-ups in the playoffs while Fowler has a win and a T4 from last week. Both men are in great form coming into this event.
– Jimmy Walker only qualified for the finals due to his early season success. He’s been out of form in the playoffs and has a missed cut and two finishes near the bottom in the other two events
– Brooks Koepka is also struggling. He came into the playoffs in great form but has now missed two cuts in a row and just made the final 30, mainly off his early season form.
– Bill Haas had two pretty bad starts at the beginning of the playoffs but turned it around last week to finish 19th. He’s played well at East Lake before (won in 2011) and so his recent form might be worth ignoring.
With only 30 players to choose from this week and Jason Day playing some of the most dominate golf ever you might see historic levels of ownership on him (over 50%). This makes for a very interesting opportunity for your tournament lineups. If Day does not win, or somehow fails to crack the top 5 you could benefit big time if you put out a more solid well-rounded team without him on it. This is a highly risky strategy however and not one I’d recommend for double-ups or cash games.
Non-Jason Day Picks of the week: Paul Casey and Patrick Reed
Jason Day is playing some of the best golf ever since perhaps 2000-2002 Tiger Woods. He’s close to a 4-1 favorite with odds makers which is approaching the same the price Tiger Woods would go off at in his prime. Still, we need to pick 6 golfers for fantasy and so I’ve picked a couple others this week who should be a bit under the radar. Paul Casey may not have lit things up in the playoffs so far but he performed well at the Wyndham Championship (another Donald Ross design) and ranks highly (11th) in par 4 scoring and Strokes gained: total. He could be a very sneaky play this week. My other under-the-radar choice this week is my man from last week, Patrick Reed. Reed is 16th in strokes gained: total, 11th in par 4 scoring and 27th in par 3 scoring. He’s fully capable of coming away with a win or high finish in a tough field.