The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course information, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.
This is the final event of the 2019 PGA season. The field is only 30 golfers, and it is comprised of the top 30 players from the FedEx Cup standings. This week, there is a game within the game. While the old version of the TOUR Championship used to operate simply like a regular tournament with FedEx Cup positions changing throughout the week, this year’s event will be quite different. Players’ starting “scores” will be determined by their FedEx Cup positions. The winner after 72 holes of play then not only will win the tournament, but also win the FedEx Cup (and the $15 million prize).
The starting positions for this week’s field are below. Note for DraftKings scoring purposes: Starting strokes will be incorporated in the fantasy points awarded for finishing position:
1. Justin Thomas ($15,500) 10-under
2. Patrick Cantlay ($12,400) 8-under
3. Brooks Koepka ($12,200) 7-under
4. Patrick Reed ($10,200) 6-under
5. Rory McIlroy ($10,600) 5-under
6. Jon Rahm ($9,900) 4-under
7. Matt Kuchar ($9,100) 4-under
8. Xander Schauffele ($9,500) 4-under
9. Webb Simpson ($9,700) 4-under
10. Abraham Ancer ($7,100) 4-under
11. Gary Woodland ($8,000) 3-under
12. Tony Finau ($8,800) 3-under
13. Adam Scott ($8,200) 3-under
14. Dustin Johnson ($8,400) 3-under
15. Hideki Matsuyama ($9,100) 3-under
16. Paul Casey ($7,500) 2-under
17. Justin Rose ($6,900) 2-under
18. Brandt Snedeker ($7,300) 2-under
19. Rickie Fowler ($8,600) 2-under
20. Kevin Kisner ($6,600) 2-under
21. Marc Leishman ($6,300) 1-under
22. Tommy Fleetwood ($7,700) 1-under
23. Corey Conners ($6,100) 1-under
24. Sungjae Im ($5,900) 1-under
25. Chez Reavie ($5,100) 1-under
26. Bryson DeChambeau ($5,500) Even par
27. Louis Oosthuizen ($5,700) Even par
28. Charles Howell III ($5,000) Even par
29. Lucas Glover ($5,200) Even par
30. Jason Kokrak ($5,300) Even par
East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta, Georgia
Par 70, 7,300-7,400 yards
East Lake Golf Club is a Donald Ross design that has undergone some renovations in the past five to 10 years. The course used to be very good for scoring (Tiger Woods won at -23 one year) but after the redesign, where the greens were changed to Bermuda grass, it now plays much tougher, and the course has yielded winning scores in the -8 to -13 range for the most part since the change. While there are a few easier holes (a drivable par 4 and a reachable par 5), there also are some intimidating ones. Long par 3s are a trademark of Ross designs, and this course features four of them in total, with three of them measuring between 200-235 yards and playing to island-style greens guarded by water.
The par 4s also play long apart from a few shorter scoring holes, which players will need to take advantage of. Six of the par 4s play more than 450 yards, with a couple of these holes actually being shortened par 5s. The two par 5s that remain on the course will yield birdies, although the finishing 18th measures in at 600 yards on the scorecard, so two great shots will be needed there to get near or on the green in two. In 2016, East Lake played as the 27th toughest course on tour and last year it played as the 24th toughest, so don’t expect super low scoring.
As far as player styles go, ball placement off the tee and onto the greens generally will be more important than sheer power this week as the already discussed Bermuda green complexes will give players fits if they don’t hit it to the right spots. Longer hitters certainly have won at East Lake before, but in general, this course rewards good pure ball-striking over sheer power. As East Lake is a Ross design, it also is worth looking at who has had success at some of his other venues on Tour (Sedgefield, Plainfield, Aronimink Golf Club, Oak Hill, Pinehurst #2).
2019 Weather Outlook: The temperatures are expected to be hot this week in East Lake, with highs hovering around the mid-80s to low-90s for the most part. The thing to watch this week will be the thunderstorms. East Lake has scattered thunderstorms in the forecast for all four days, so we could see a softer golf course this week if we do get some weather stoppages and rain. Outside of a few possible stoppages, don’t look for much wind as it is expected to remain calm with winds under 10 mph all week. In such a small field, weather watching isn’t as vital given the condensed tee times, but it still pays to check back during the week if playing single-round Showdown on DraftKings.
PAST FIVE WINNERS
2018—Tiger Woods -11 (over Billy Horschel -9)
2017—Xander Schauffele -12 (over Justin Thomas -11)
2016—Rory McIlroy -12 (over Kevin Chappell and Ryan Moore playoff)
2015—Jordan Spieth -9 (over three players at -5)
2014—Billy Horschel -11 (over Jim Furyk and Rory McIlroy -8)
– Eight of the nine past winners have ranked 15th or better in Par 4 Scoring in the year of their victory
– Seven of the nine past winners had scored a victory on Tour already in the year they won the TOUR Championship (Bill Haas hadn’t in 2012, but he did have two T2s; Tiger Woods didn’t in 2018)
– Eight of the past nine winners had not missed a cut in any playoff event coming into East Lake
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful of putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their odds of winning this week.
Player: Justin Rose
Odds to Win: 45-1
DraftKings Price: $6,900
Rickie Fowler; $8,600 and 50-1
Paul Casey; $7,500 and 50-1
Player: Dustin Johnson
Odds to Win: 25-1
DraftKings Price: $8,300
Tony Finau; $8,800 and 33-1
Hideki Matsuyama; $9,100 and 33-1
HORSES FOR COURSES
1. Justin Rose: Over his past six appearances at East Lake, Rose has finished outside of the top-six only once (2017-T10). He was also runner-up twice at this venue, in 2012 and 2015, and has plenty of experience at East Lake as this will be his ninth start here. He enters the week ranked 17th.
2. Paul Casey: Like Rose, Casey is also fond of this venue. In five visits he’s finished worse than T5 only once — last year’s T11 — and was leading going into the final round in 2017 before a poor round. He’s a little better rested than many of the top players given he skipped the first event. He enters the week ranked 16th.
3. Rory McIlroy: Rory won this event back in 2016 and overall also has finishes of T7 and T2 in four starts at East Lake since 2014. Entering with two wins on Tour already in 2019 and ranked fifth in the FedEx Cup standings, he’ll be looking for his second win at East Lake.
4. Xander Schauffele: Schauffele won at East Lake in his first visit here back in 2017, when he was a rookie on Tour. Now in his third full season he’s got a T7 from 2018 to back up his course history. He enters the week ranked eighth in the FedEx Cup.
5. Webb Simpson: Simpson has finished inside the top five at this event three times in his past five appearances. He backed up his strong season at East Lake last year by finishing T4, shooting four rounds of par or better for the week. He enters the week ranked ninth.
– Par 4 Scoring
– Greens in Regulation/ Strokes Gained: Approach
– Strokes Gained: Tee to Green
East Lake has a ton of longer/tough par 4s that await players this week. As a par 70, these holes get even more weighted this week as only two par 5s exist to give the players chances at birdies. In 2016, the top three players from this tournament finished 1-2-3 in Par 4 Scoring, and the winner over the past seven seasons never has finished worse than seventh in this stat for the week.
While East Lake might be best described as an all-around test, hitting tons of greens for the week has been a good formula for success. The 2016 winner, Rory McIlroy, ranked second for the week in GIR, while playoff loser Kevin Chappell ranked first. Additionally, 2014 and 2013 winners Billy Horschel and Henrik Stenson, respectively, both finished first in the week for this stat, making both Greens in Regulation and SG: Approach ones to target here.
Strokes Gained: Tee to Green also should be emphasized. Three of the past four winners ranked inside the top three in this stat for the week of their win. Generally, past winners all have ranked highly in this stat for the year as well, with three of the past four winners ranking inside the top five.
Cash Games: This is a hard week to break down strategy-wise as we have almost zero precedent for this kind of format. I like starting with Patrick Cantlay ($12,400), who has a huge discount off Justin Thomas ($15,500) and starts with just a two-shot deficit. Patrick Reed ($10,200), Dustin Johnson ($8,400) and Justin Rose ($6,900) all would be on my radar here as well given their price relative to the others in their starting positions. At the bottom, I do like Lucas Glover ($5,200) on skill and form alone. He ranks top 15 in Par 4 Scoring and had a great week at the BMW to qualify.
Tournaments: Fading the top values (aka those who likely are highest-owned) probably will give you a lot of leverage this week. Potentially low-owned plays I’d be interested in for GPP purposes include Matt Kuchar ($9,100), Paul Casey ($7,500), Louis Oosthuizen ($5,700) and Jon Rahm ($9,900).
1. Justin Thomas: Last week’s winner blitzed Medinah to the tune of 25-under and enters as the No. 1 seed this week. Along with his win last week he’s finished T12 or better in four straight starts.
2. Patrick Cantlay: He put on a clinic last week but couldn’t catch Thomas. He enters this week ranked fourth in the FedEx Cup and fifth in the season-long SG: Tee to Green rankings.
3. Jon Rahm: Rahm enters the week still in fine form. The Spaniard hasn’t recorded a finish worse than T11 since landing a T3 at the US Open. He’s finished T3 and T5 in the first two playoff events and ranks sixth in the FedEx Cup.
4. Adam Scott: Scott’s found his form of late after a brief slump. The Aussie ranked 12th in SG: Tee to Green last week and recorded finishes of solo fifth and T9 in the first two playoff events. He enters the week ranked 14th.
5. Patrick Reed: Reed slowed down a little last week with a T19 finish, but overall his form remains superb. The winner of the Northern Trust enters the week ranked third in the overall FedEx Cup standings and hasn’t finished worse than T23 in any of his past six starts.
My Pick: Patrick Reed ($10,200)
Reed stands out among the top five players this week. He comes into the final event ranked fourth in FedEx Cup points and will start the event at 6-under, yet he’s still only the fifth most expensive player on the board and only $300 and $500 more expensive than Webb Simpson ($9,700) and Jon Rahm ($9,900), respectively, who will be starting at 4-under.
Reed’s outperformed Rory McIlroy ($10,600) in the playoffs — tying him last week while also winning the first playoff event — yet remains cheaper in salary. A slight drop-off was expected last week after Reed’s win in New York, but his ball-striking and putting at Medinah remained consistent. Going with players who have been slightly under-priced comparable to their starting positions seems logical in this format, and Reed definitely fits that bill. He’s shown superb play in all facets of his game as the season has wore on and enters this week in great shape to take a run at the overall win — at an affordable DK price that makes him easy to fit into lineups.
My Sleeper: Louis Oosthuizen ($5,700)
From a price perspective, Louis isn’t what you’d call value this week. From the five players who will start the tournament at even par (or in 25-30th position), he’s the most expensive on DraftKings. Still, there’s reason to think he could vastly outperform the rest of his group. The South African has put in a strong end of season run, which saw him sneak into the bottom five spots in the FedEx Cup rankings with T6 and T11 finishes at the first two playoff events.
He’s done so on the back of some brilliant ball-striking, ranking second in SG: Approach at the Northern Trust and fourth in this same category at the BMW. Since posting a T7 at the US Open, Oosthuizen hasn’t missed a cut and has finished T20 or better in four straight starts. Starting 10 strokes back, a player in this type of form should relish the freedom to swing loose and go pin-seeking early while trying to make up ground. It could make for a great week of DK scoring and make him a vital GPP play if he sees low ownership due to his inflated price.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is wavegoodbye) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.