The PGA Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each week’s slate, using the Fantasy Labs Tools and metrics to highlight notable golfers.
The Tour Championship is up next, along with a unique format. Golfers will start with a certain amount of strokes depending on where they fall on the FedExCup leaderboard. Justin Thomas finished first, so he’ll start at -10 to begin the tournament, along with his 30 points for currently being in first.
Let’s dive in.
As always, I backtested various metrics in our PGA Models to find out those that have been the most valuable at East Lake. Per our Trends tool, here’s how the top 20% of golfers in various metrics have done at this course (in Plus/Minus valuation).
Historically, this course has yielded averages of 69.63 DraftKings points and a -2.05 Plus/Minus with a 46.3% Consistency Rating to the field.
I’m listing only those metrics that tested at least +1.00 above the baseline:
- Recent Greens in Regulation: +4.88
- Long-Term Driving Accuracy: +4.77
- Long-Term Greens In Regulation: +4.67
- Recent Bogeys: +3.52
- Recent Par-4 Scoring: +2.89
- Recent Driving Accuracy: +2.26
- Recent Birdies: +1.02
East Lake Golf Club will play as a 7,346-yard, par-70 course. This tournament isn’t shaping up to be a birdie-fest since the winning scores have all been between -9 and -12 since 2014. With six of the eight highest trends consisting of recent form, I think targeting golfers who are in good form and striking it well will be something to key in on this week, which can typically be said for almost any week.
There are 12 par 4s at East Lake and six of those par 4s exceed 450 yards in length, including one that checks in at a whopping 520 yards. Excelling on the par 4s and trying to mitigate any damage on the tougher ones should help golfers stay in contention.
And while it didn’t show up in the backtesting, you could factor in par-3 scoring as well since three of the four par 3s are 210 yards or longer, even the shortest one is 197 yards. The golfers probably won’t be able to separate themselves with par-5 scoring since there are only two of them, but No. 6 has eagle potential since it’s only 525 yards.
Additionally, per Data Golf, Strokes Gained: Approach and Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee have been significantly more important compared to an average tour event over the past two years. Over those two years, Strokes Gained: Approach has driven 40-42% of the scoring while Strokes Gained: Approach been at 19-20%, while the average tour event is typically around 34% and 15%.
Although from 2014-2016, those metrics were closer to an average tour event. Regardless, I think Strokes Gained: Approach and Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee will be key this week.
Key metrics to focus on: greens in regulation, birdie or better scoring, par-4 scoring, Strokes Gained: Approach, Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee.
And as usual, I like Long-Term (LT) and Recent Adjusted Round Score (Adj Rd Score) as catch-all metrics.
Best DFS Plays for Tour Championship
I think the first question this week is whether to play Justin Thomas ($15,500 DraftKings; $14,200 FanDuel) or not? I believe for cash games, paying up for Thomas makes sense, and you hope he holds on to his lead throughout the week. Aside from starting with a two-stroke lead and a 30-point bonus, he also leads the field in Strokes Gained: Approach over his last 24 rounds. Furthermore, his 19.8 birdies per tournament over the previous six weeks also leads the field. So you start with a golfer in first place and who his striking it better than everyone else he’s competing with.
If you don’t want to start with Thomas in cash, I’ll try and target as many golfers as close to the top five as I can. Without JT on your roster, it’s not difficult to make a roster consisting of Rory McIlroy ($10,600 DraftKings; $11,400 FanDuel), John Rahm ($9,900 DraftKings; $10,700 FanDuel) and Xander Schauffele ($9,500 DraftKings; $10,500 FanDuel). They’re starting five-to-six strokes behind JT, but all three players mash the ball off the tee, have plenty of upside and all three are capable of winning if Thomas falters.
Rostering Thomas on DraftKings gives you $6,900 left per golfer, so you’ll need to look further down the price range. Louis Oosthuizen ($5,700 DraftKings; $7,500 FanDuel) or Lucas Glover ($5,200 DraftKings; $7,000 FanDuel) are my favorite two golfers for salary relief.
Glover’s 18.2 birdies per tournament is the fifth-best mark in the field, and over that span, he’s hit 72.2% of GIR and 70.5% of fairways.
Oosthuizen is starting at even par, but I’m mostly targeting him for salary relief and his hot birdie-making of late. Over the last six weeks, he’s averaged 16.4 birdies per tournament while hitting 70.8% of GIR in the process. His irons have been hot since the Northern Trust, gaining 5.5 and 9.3 strokes on approach over his last two tournaments.
Dustin Johnson ($8,400 DraftKings; $10,100 FanDuel) is an interesting case. He’s cheap on DraftKings and most of his recent metrics would indicate that he’s not the best play. DJ lost 6.6 strokes on approach last week, and over the last six weeks, his 13 bogeys per tournament is the worst mark in the field.
That said, I’m still interested in him considering his 18.4 recent birdies per tournament is the fourth-highest mark in the field. And it’s not often you’re going to get one of the best players in the field (67.8 LT Adj Rd Score) for $8,400. He’s starting in 14th place (-3), but if DJ can at least rack up birdies, then he should be an excellent tournament play and could get some higher finishing bonuses since he’s only two strokes back from fifth place. Despite his poor recent form, it’s hard to plug in one of the best birdie-makers in the field.
Bryson DeChambeau ($5,500 DraftKings; $7,600 FanDuel) could go somewhat lower owned in a field of 30 guys since he’s struggled of late. At his cheap tag, he’s worth a look in tournaments considering his long-term form. He’s one of six players in the field who has gained adjusted strokes on par 3s (-0.2), par 4s (-0.8) and par 5s (-5.3) over the last 75 weeks.
- Justin Rose ($6,900 DraftKings; $9,000 FanDuel) is another elite golfer who is priced quite cheap. He struggled last week, but that was mostly due to his putter as he lost 5.1 strokes putting.
- Paul Casey ($7,500 DraftKings; $8,300 FanDuel) is averaging 16 birdies per tournament and has hit 76.7% of GIR over the last six weeks. He also ranks fifth in the field in both Strokes Gained: Approach and Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee over his last 24 rounds.
- Adam Scott ($8,200 DraftKings; $9,300 FanDuel) ranks second in Strokes Gained: Approach over his last 24 rounds. Scott is familiar with East Lake and has back-to-back top-10 finishes over the last two years.
- Abraham Ancer ($7,100 DraftKings; $8,400 FanDuel) is in excellent form, hitting 72.2% of GIR and averaging -2.8 adjusted strokes on par 4s over the last six weeks. His birdie numbers aren’t the strongest, but he’s a decent fit for the course with his strong game from the tee box, ranking sixth in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee over his last 24 rounds.
Marc Leishman ($6,300 DraftKings; $7,300 FanDuel) ranks 28th in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee over his last 24 rounds and has been mediocre with his approach game over the same time frame, ranking just 17th. His 19th-place finish last week was mostly due to his putter, where he gained 6.7 strokes.
The par 4s is where Leishman could struggle the most considering he’s averaged 0.5 and 0.4 strokes on them over the past 75 and six weeks.
Good luck, and be sure to check out The Action Network if you’re looking for more golf coverage!
Note: Strokes Gained and efficiency data via Fantasy National.
Pictured above: Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay
Photo credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports