Out of the Rough: The Tour Championship (2022)
These no cut events are no joke. They’re some of the hardest to predict in my opinion and last week was no different. On top of that, having a pool of 70 golfers makes tough work for DFS success. Xander Schauffele was my favorite last week and he walked away with a tie for third. He left too many puts on the greens to make a run at the BMW Championship with Patrick Cantlay pulling away from the field. Corey Conners also had a good showing going -10 for a T5th. It’s hard to have DFS success when your most expensive guy, in this case Justin Thomas, shoots a plus-one over the tournament. The field now has been reduced to 30 golfers in this week’s Tour Championship. There is a stroke handicap given depending on their respective placement in the FedEx Cup Standings coming down to the final event of the season. Let’s get into it!
Justin Thomas (+1) - T52nd
Xander Schauffele (-11) - T3rd
Corey Conners (-10) - T5th
Keegan Bradley (+3) - T58th
Chris Kirk (+4) - T61st
Rory McIlroy (-9) - T8th
Tony Finau (-4) - T28th
Shane Lowry (-8) - T12th
Mito Pereira (+2) - T54th
Brandon Steele (-3) - T32nd
Before we talk about the course or the tournament as a whole, we have to understand this odd scoring format that has been inplace over the last three years.
Depending on placement in the FedEx Cup Standings heading into this final week, golfers are given a stroke handicap. For example, Scottie Scheffler comes into this week’s event as the leader in the FedEx Cup Standings. Therefore he starts at -10.
The amounts decrease from there, all the way to even with the bottom five golfers. These starting scores will be taken into account in the DraftKings’ score for DFS purposes. For example, if Scheffler shoots -11 at the event he’ll finish at -21 and that score is taken into account for DraftKings.
Now, onto the course. The Tour Championship is held at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s a Donald Ross design and has gone through some renovations in the last decade.
East Lake used to be a birdie fest with Tiger Woods winning the event at -23 one year. Since the redesign, the greens have been replaced with Bermuda grass which has made the course so much more difficult with winning scores in the -8 to -13 range.
The course plays very long, at over 7,300 yards for a par 70, making it one of the longest par 70 venues on the entire tour.
Getting off the tee is crucial here at East Lake. Not only in driving distance but accuracy. Historically, the course is typically ten-percent lower on average when it comes to hit fairway percentage. It also plays ten-percent higher on average when it comes to average driving distance.
Golfers will be using driver on most holes, so those big bombers who too can control where their drive goes will be set up nicely. Water is in play often on this course so missing off the tee can put someone into a lot of trouble.
There of course will be the “birdie holes” such as a drivable par four and a reachable par five. More often than not however, the course plays tough and long. There’s long par threes such as that of any Ross design. There’s four par threes on the course, with three measuring between 200-235 yards with island style greens.
Six of the par fours at East Lake play over 450 yards with a few actually being shortened par fives for members.
On top of all of that, the course is finished by an around 600 yard par five.
Ross’ design is also known for larger than average greens and that is the case this week as well. There will be a ton of long puts this week so three putt avoidance will be something to keep an eye on.
As for weather this week there is a decently large chance of rain Thursday morning but with a smaller field and later starts, I don’t think there’s much of a concern. Friday peaks at a 50-percent chance of rain as well at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday look clear. Temperatures will range from the low-to-mid 80s.
Important statistics to consider this week include Driving Accuracy, Average Driving Distance, Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (SG: OTT,) Three-Putt Avoidance from 25 Yards or Longer, Average Par Four Scoring and Strokes Gained: Tee to Green (SG: TTG.)
Some trends to consider include that ten of the past 11 winners of this event has ranked 15th or better in par-4 scoring on the year, 10 of the past 12 winners registered a PGA Tour victory on the season and 11 of the past 12 winners have not missed a cut in any playoff event coming into the Tour Championship.
I originally wanted to offer just one golfer per price range but the drastic difference in prices and the flexibility you’ll need to include one of these more expensive golfers, I’ve decided to go with two per range. First off, and my favorite (outside of the starting strokes,) is Jon Rahm ($10,900.) Rahm starts at -3 this week and over the last three years, Rory McIlroy is the only one who didn’t start at -10 to go on to win. McIlroy started at minus-five. Rahm will start seven strokes to make up but I don’t see that as a completely impossible feat. He’s tops on tour when it comes to SG: OTT, is third in average driving distance, fourth in SG: TTG and tenth in average par four scoring. He is also well above average in driving accuracy and is above average in three-putt avoidance from 25 yards or longer. Following the trends, Rahm is tenth in average par four scoring, took T5th and T8th at FedEx St. Jude Championship and BMW Championship respectively and he won the Mexico Open at Vidanta. It’ll take a lot of work and a lot of luck but I can see a world where Rahm wins this week. Also consider Xander Schauffele ($12,300.) Schauffele was my favorite last week and he went on to place T3rd. He also made the cut at the FedEx St. Jude Championship two weeks ago. He also has three wins on the season with victories at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Travelers Championship and Genesis Scottish Open. To check all the boxes for the trends to follow, he’s second on tour in average par four scoring. Scahuffele is also 12th in SG: TTG, 21st in three putt avoidance, 27th in average driving distance, 38th in SG: OTT and 80th in driving accuracy. On top of all of that, he starts the tournament at six-under, just four strokes back. We’ve seen McIlroy do it from five-back before, Schauffele can do it from four.
I’m on the Sungjae Im ($9,100) wagon this week along with the rest of the internet. He definitely comes in at a fair price and is ready to make some noise. Although he comes in at four-under, his game and run of form suggests that he can make a run at the $15 million purse. He’s fourth on tour in average par four scoring, ninth in SG: OTT, 11th in SG: TTG, 29th in driving accuracy and 68th in average driving distance. He is below average on tour in three-putt avoidance from 25 yards or longer which is a bit concerning but let's also not forget that he’s an elite ball striker so the three-putt opportunities may be limited. He took 12th at the FedEx St. Jude Championship and T15th at last week’s BMW Championship. He also technically does have a win on the season at the Shriners Children's Open way back in October of last year. Im is also at +2600 to win. It would be crazy, but not impossible for him to win. Also consider Justin Thomas ($9,400.) Thomas starts the event three strokes back. He has a win on the season at the PGA Championship and is tops on tour when it comes to average par four scoring. He also placed T13th at the FedEx St. Jude Championship. Thomas is also third on tour in SG: TTG, 14th in average driving distance, 16th in SG: OTT and 55th in three-putt avoidance greater than 25 yards. He is well below average in driving accuracy which can and has caused him a bunch of trouble. Thomas is one of the most well rounded golfers on tour however so look for him to make a move and jump a few spots this week in route to helping your DFS lineups.
We’re getting out of the range of realistic winners beyond some form of miracle. This group is the start of looking for golfers who can advance their position and help you score DFS points. With the starting strokes there are realistically just a few golfers who can actually win. With all of that said, I’m high on Corey Conners ($8,000) this week. He allows for lineup flexibility being just $8,000 and I think he can make a significant move up the leaderboard this week. He’s fifth on tour in SG: OTT, tenth in average par four scoring, 13th in SG: TTG, 21st in driving accuracy, 33rd in three-putt avoidance greater than 25 yards and 77th in average driving distance. He comes in just one stroke under. There’s a lot of room for movement up the leaderboard this week and I think Conners is going to be a DFS winner. Also consider Matt Fitzpatrick ($8,800.) Fitzpatrick took T5th at the FedEx St. Jude Championship two weeks back. His showing last week wasn’t the greatest but he does come in three-under. He of course has a win on the season as he won the U.S. Open. Now, he isn’t in the top 15 in average par four scoring but is 23rd, not too far off the pace. He’s also fifth in SG: TTG, eight in SG: OTT, 52nd in driving accuracy and 75th in average driving distance. His downfall comes on the greens with his below average finish in three putt avoidance greater than 25 feet. I wouldn’t mark Fitzpatrick as a potential winner, but someone who can advance their placement in the standings.
Selections are scarce in this price range and with only 30 golfers in the entire field we had to get a bit creative in this week’s edition of Out of the Rough. There are prices we only see once a season here, both higher and lower, than the norms. So starting off this price range is Collin Morikawa ($7,900.) We saw Morikawa crumble last week with that 10 on a single hole after hitting in the water twice. That’s not the elite ball striker that is Morikawa however. He comes in at minus-one this week. He’s 20th in SG: TTG, 23rd in average par four scoring, 33rd in driving accuracy, 34th in SG: OTT, 80th in average driving distance and 86th in three-putt avoidance. Morikawa went T5th at the FedEx St. Jude Championship two weeks back as well. Also consider Billy Horschel ($6,900.) Horschel comes in at under-one like Morikawa. I’m going against things as he missed the cut at the FedEx St. Jude Championship two weeks back. However, he is 23rd on tour in average par four scoring, 24th in three-putt avoidance, 28th in driving accuracy, 39th in SG: TTG and 47th in SG: OTT. Horschel had a decent outing last week at the BMW Championship as he finished dead center at T35th.
We’re banking on these golfers to make some moves this week up the leaderboard. You’ll have to find a guy in this price range who has a crazy week and moves up in the standings if you want to make some money. We’ll do our best in pointing you in the correct direction. We’ll lead things off with Brian Harman ($5,700.) Harman is a steal in my opinion since his price is so low and he comes in at one-under. Harman had a very impressive outing at the FedEx St. Jude Championship where he finished T3rd and followed that up with a T35th a week ago. He made two cuts heading into the FedEx Cup Playoffs as well, including a T6th at The Open. He’s currently tenth in average par four scoring and 23rd in both driving accuracy and three-putt avoidance. He’s also 51st in SG: TTG and 70th in SG: OTT. I really like Harman’s value and he’ll go a long way in lineup flexibility this week. Also consider Aaron Wise ($5,400.) Wise comes into this event even but is in some great form. He’s made four consecutive cuts dating back to The Open. He went T31st at the FedEx St. Jude Championship and T15th last week at the BMW Championship. Wise is currently 19th on tour in SG: TTG, 23rd in average par four scoring, 26th in SG: OTT and 39th in average driving distance. He has his work cut out for him but moving a few places up the board isn’t out of the question.