This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
Course: East Lake Golf Club (7,346 yards, par 70)
Winner: $15,000,000 and FedExCup
Well here we are. The 30 players that scored the most points this season will be competing to take home the $15 million prize and the FedExCup trophy. Last year was the debut of the new tier seeding system that makes it so the winner of the tournament will win the FedExCup. Off a dominant win at the Northern Trust and a playoff loss last week at the BMW Championship, Dustin Johnson is the No. 1 seed and will begin the four-day tournament at 10-under-par. He will have a two shot lead over the No. 2 seed Jon Rahm and a three shot cushion over the No. 3 seed in Justin Thomas. Webb Simpson who sat out last week to rest will begin the event at six-under-par and PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa will start the week at five-under-par. From there the 6-10 seeds will start at four-under, 11-15 seeds at three-under, 16-20 seeds at two-under, 21-25 seeds at one-under, and finally the 26-30 seeds at even-par. While some could argue that this format makes it easier for a player who barely snuck into the field to win the whole shebang, it does get rid of having Golf Channel's Steve Sands melt your brain with different scenarios of how a player can win the FedExCup while you are trying to watch an actual golf tournament. That also does mean that it is entirely possible that the player that shoots the lowest 72-hole score this week will not get credit for a victory of any kind. Nevertheless, this new format simplifies things for both viewers and players. It's worth noting this week that DFS players will have an extra day to prepare their lineups, as it will be a Friday start to take advantage of Labor Day. The early forecast looks promising with temperatures in the upper 80's and relatively benign winds throughout the event. A stray storm cell is certainly always possible this time of year, though.
Key Stats to Victory
East Lake is really one of the ultimate ball striking courses on the PGA Tour. Hitting both fairways and greens will be a challenge, but those that control their ball the best coming into some very firm and slick greens should have the biggest advantage. There is often very few flat lies at this course, so it will challenge the shot shaping ability of the best ball strikers on Tour. Lately we've seen a lot of bombers have success on this layout, as the course is pretty open for aggressive lines off some of these tees and the rough is typically not that long, making the challenge more about judging the lies. Scrambling is often a big factor as to who is contending, as the bermudagrasses around the greens can make the best players look foolish. Missing on the correct side of the hole will be crucial especially given the speed of these greens. Most players will say these are some of the best greens they play on all year, so if you're rolling it well you can really fill it up. Putting is always important, but this week it takes a back seat to ball striking and short game play considering the difficulties presented by this course in those two areas.
FanDuel Value Picks
Jon Rahm ($12,500)
The two most difficult set-ups since the restart have been the Memorial and last week at Olympia Fields. Rahm won both of those events. Now we head to another track that is always a handful for the best players in the world and features lightning quick greens. I think Rahm has to be the top choice because of that. He has now taken over the top spot in terms of SG: Total this season, ranking 20th in SG: Putting and fifth in SG: Tee-to-green.
Justin Thomas ($12,000)
Thomas has been as good as anyone the last few years at East Lake, finishing top-seven in each of his four career starts. He has cooled off a bit since winning in Memphis and reclaiming World No. 1, but he has still been the best ball striker on the PGA Tour this season leading in both SG: Approach and SG: Tee-to-green. As the No. 3 seed he is in perfect position to strike and take home his fourth win of the season and second FedExCup title.
Webb Simpson ($11,300)
Taking last week off cost him one shot this week, but the rest could prove beneficial for his chances of hoisting the FedExCup. Simpson was really dialed in the four weeks straight he did play finishing T12-T37-T3-T6. He might not have the ideal length, but his precision through the bag has been exceptional this season. He ranks sixth in SG: Approach, 12th in SG: Putting, 12th in SG: Tee-to-green, sixth in GIR percentage, seventh in scrambling, and he leads the Tour in both birdie average and scoring average. Simpson also has three top-fives in his last six starts at East Lake.
Daniel Berger ($10,300)
There's never a bad week to invest in Berger with how well he has played this season, and also given the fact that his output still fails to match up with his salary. The Florida State product has finished inside the top-25 in nine of his last ten starts, including six top-five finishes. Berger is top-five this season in birdie average, scoring average, and SG: Total. He also leads the Tour in scrambling and is top-17 in SG: Off-the-Tee, SG: Putting, and SG: Tee-to-green. Berger is very comfortable on bermudagrass like the players will face this week.
Longer Shots with Value
Xander Schauffele ($9,500)
East Lake is probably Schauffele's best track on Tour, with finishes of 1st-T7-2nd in three attempts. A big reason for his success is that he is a really strong driver of the ball, and this season he is seventh in SG: Off-the-Tee. The San Diego State product is also seventh in SG: Tee-to-green, 11th in GIR percentage, and fourth in scrambling. Schauffele led the field in SG: Approach en route to last year's runner-up showing.
Scottie Scheffler ($8,600)
Over the last month of so, Scheffler has played like a borderline top-5 player, going T22-T15-T4-T4-T20. His ball striking is just so solid, ranking ninth in SG: Off-the-Tee and 15th in SG: Tee-to-green this season. The Texan is also seventh in birdie average and 14th in scoring average. Even starting at an eight shot deficit, Scheffler has the firepower to put himself in serious contention for the final round.
Kevin Kisner ($7,100)
His play the last two months can't be ignored at this point. Kisner has finished top-25 in six of his last seven starts, including three finishes inside the top-four. He is by no means long, but his accuracy and the firmness of the fairways should give him a chance. Kisner ranks top-20 this season in SG: Putting and scrambling. When courses play tough, not many are better at managing their game than the South Carolina native. He has finished T3-T9 in his last two trips to East Lake.
Billy Horschel ($7,000)
Horschel was the last man in the field and will have to start with a 10-shot deficit, but at just $7,000 and his track record at East Lake, there is a lot of value here. The Florida product is very accustomed to bermudagrass and has finished T7-1st-2nd in three career starts at East Lake. He is quietly 18th in SG: Total with solid numbers through the bag. Horschel ranks 23rd in SG: Putting and 51st in SG: Tee-to-green this season.
Strategy Tips This Week
Based on a Standard $60K Salary Cap
This is typically the deepest field we see all season top to bottom and the prices on FanDuel are adjusted based on the starting score for each player. I think your best move is to try to forget about the starting number and go with players who have played well at East Lake in the past and who are playing their best golf now. It's entirely possible you can pick up a Kisner or a Horschel at the bottom of the barrel and they post the lowest 72-hole score of the week even if they don't win. At even-par you might be 10 shots out of the lead, but you're only five shots outside the top-five, which is nothing over the course of four days. Dustin Johnson could have easily won three straight tournaments, but at $14,400 I just don't think that price is worth the two shot lead to start the week, especially considering that the No. 1 seed has not won the FedExCup in 10 straight editions. I'd rather save $2,000+ by taking Rahm, Thomas, or Simpson and apply that to the rest of my roster. Other players I would consider putting in lineups that I didn't include above are Hideki Matsuyama, Tony Finau, and Tyrrell Hatton.