And then there was one. After a dramatic play-off to finish the BMW Championship, it’s onto the final event of the 2021 PGA Tour season, which will come to an end at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, where the annual TOUR Championship will be held.
The biggest prize in golf, certainly financially speaking with no less than $15,000,000 awarded to the winner. As things stand, after clinching his third win of the season on Sunday evening, Patrick Cantlay is first in line to scoop the riches on offer, but there’s still a way to go yet. Northern Trust winner Tony Finau currently ranks second in the FedEx Cup standings, while the big-hitting Bryson DeChambeau, who had countless opportunities to secure victory at Caves Valley, sits in third.
Now that we’re down to the wire in the FedEx Cup race, only the top 30 players will feature in this final event. As has been the case in each of the last two seasons, the TOUR Championship will use what is known as the starting strokes format. This means that players begin their quest for glory on Thursday somewhere between level par and -10 depending on where they rank in the top 30.
As touched on above, Cantlay, who on Sunday became the only player on tour to win three events this season, leads the race in terms of points right now, meaning that he will start the week with a two-shot lead at -10. Finau, starts one behind the leader, while DeChambeau starts a further shot back. Last year’s FedEx Cup winner Dustin Johnson will start the week at -3. The full breakdown of the field and starting scores is included below.
-10 = Patrick Cantlay
-8 = Tony Finau
-7 = Bryson DeChambeau
-6 = Jon Rahm
-5 = Cameron Smith
-4 = Justin Thomas, Harris English, Abraham Ancer, Jordan Spieth, Sam Burns
-3 = Collin Morikawa, Sungjae Im, Viktor Hovland, Louis Oosthuizen, Dustin Johnson
-2 = Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na, Brooks Koepka
-1 = Corey Conners, Hideki Matsuyama, Stewart Cink, Joaquin Niemann, Scottie Scheffler
Level par = Daniel Berger, Erik van Rooyen, Sergio Garcia, Billy Horschel, Patrick Reed
East Lake Golf Club
Designed in 1994 by famous courses architect Donald Ross, East Lake Golf Club has hosted this event since 2005. The oldest course in Atlanta tests many aspects of a player’s game, even the best in the business, which those teeing it up this week certainly are. It’s hard to pin down what exactly it takes to win at East Lake. While perhaps not lending itself as much to aggressive play as some others, low scores are possible. The fairways aren’t overly difficult to find, but they need to be found nonetheless, what with no shortage of trees and other hazards either side. Another area where players will need to be sharp is on the greens, which are undulating. Putting from the optimum position will be key too, so expect those at the top of the leaderboard come Sunday evening to have showcased dialled-in approach play.
Strokes gained: around-the-green will be key too, so the better scramblers in the field, those who can get it close and save strokes from nearby the putting surface should thrive. Each of the last four winners of the TOUR Championship has ranked inside the top ten for strokes gained: around-the-green, three of which finished fourth or higher in that category.
Stats to consider at East Lake
Below are four stats that should be important at East Lake this week, followed by the current top 15 (from this field) in those areas on the PGA Tour this season.
Strokes gained: tee-to-green: Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Cantlay, Rory McIlroy, Corey Conners, Viktor Hovland, Sergio Garcia, Hideki Matsuyama, Tony Finau, Daniel Berger, Xander Schauffele, Dustin Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen.
Strokes gained: approach: Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger, Jon Rahm, Corey Conners, Hideki Matsuyama, Xander Schauffele, Viktor Hovland, Sam Burns, Abraham Ancer, Louis Oosthuizen, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Cantlay, Stewart Cink.
Strokes gained: around-the-green: Kevin Na, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Cantlay, Patrick Reed, Louis Oosthuizen, Tony Finau, Justin Thomas, Cameron Smith, Harris English, Hideki Matsuyama, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa, Sergio Garcia.
Strokes gained: putting: Louis Oosthuizen, Patrick Reed, Cameron Smith, Harris English, Sam Burns, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Abraham Ancer, Jordan Spieth, Joaquin Niemann, Sungjae Im, Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, Billy Horschel.
|Odds To Win +400|
|Draft Kings $13,000|
|Jon Rahm, who on average gains an impressive 2.18 strokes per 18 holes at East Lake, is the second-most expensive player in fantasy this week and rightly so. Though he may have failed to win when in command at the NORTHERN TRUST a fortnight ago, and while he didn’t lay down a serious challenge for the win last week, the big Spaniard remains the pick of the bunch.|
If we’re looking at recent form, few can match Rahm, who has either won or finished in the top nine in each of his last five events. No other player in this field has better five-event form figures. Moreover, the 2021 US Open winner sits top of the tree in the all-important strokes gained: tee-to-green.
We are of course talking about the top 30 players in the game right now, and every single one has solid fantasy claims for one reason or another, but of the biggest names, the world number one, who has come of age this season, is my go-to pick here.
|Odds To Win +1600|
|Draft Kings $11,00|
|There hasn’t been much attention thrown the way of Justin Thomas in recent weeks, but the 2017 FedEx Cup Champion is worth having this week. Is he in searing form? Not exactly, but he’s quietly gone under the radar with two solid efforts, finishing fourth at the NORTHERN TRUST before ticking along steadily in Baltimore, finishing T22, posting three sub-70 rounds.|
The one-time major winner does have some work to do to eclipse those above him in the standings, but for fantasy purposes, he’s a man to have on side, especially given his excellent recent record here, finishing no lower than ninth in the last five seasons, finishing third in 2021.
Picking up 2.66 strokes per round on average at East Lake, the 28-year-old ranks as the second-best player in this field in terms of strokes gained: approach, which is eye-catching ahead of a tournament at a course where approach should be critical, while he’s also rank number three here when it comes to strokes gained: tee-to-green.
|Odds To Win +2500|
|Draft Kings $9,300|
|The Scotsman will feature in this event for the first time, but we certainly shouldn’t be put off by that. MacIntrye has proven that he can cut it with the best this season, playing well at the Masters, as well as other events, while he’s won on the European Tour, where he is in the fifth-best player in terms of strokes gained: tee-to-green, in the last year too.|
Moreover, Mac played superbly at St. George’s last week, which tells us that he should have a little problem navigating his way around TPC Twin Cities. For $9,000, he’s going straight in the team.
|Odds To Win +3500|
|Draft Kings $8,500|
|Unlike the first three picks, Sam Burns is a newcomer to this event, but don’t discount him on that basis. The man who averages more birdies than all but two players in this field arrives here having sharpened his game nicely with an eighth-place finish in Baltimore last week, meaning that he’s in esteemed company in the -4 group.|
It’s been a fruitful campaign for the 25-year-old, who delivered a masterclass to win the Valspar Championship, and that wasn’t his only notable moment on tour this season, delivering four other top-five finishes. Excellent with the putter, Burns, who ranks as the fifth strongest in terms of strokes gained: putting, represents excellent value at a draft price of $8,500.
|Odds To Win +4500|
|Draft Kings $7,600|
|It’s been a mixed campaign for Louis Oosthuizen, who really is unlucky not to have won. On the one hand, lots of strong finishes is positive, but on the other hand, it’s a shame that he’s not got over the line. That said, there’s time for that to change yet. In terms of consistently finishing high up the leaderboard in massive events, the South African has had one of his best seasons, hitting the top ten on seven occasions finishing runner-up of now than four tournaments, including in two of the four majors.|
The fourth-best on tour in terms of strokes gained: total, Oosthuizen is a wizard with the flatstick, gaining an average of 0.824 strokes per round, which is more than anybody else on tour this season. The precision of the 38-year-old around the greens is also impressive, so don’t be surprised if he once again makes his presence felt on the biggest stage.
|Erik van Rooyen|
|Odds to Win +20000|
|Draft Kings $5,000|
|For this event, you want someone arriving in hot form and Erik van Rooyen, who shot up the standings to make the season closer for the first time ever is certainly a man in fine form.|
The man who won the Barracuda Championship at the start of August can’t match any of the big players when it comes to strokes gained data for the season overall, but that didn’t stop him from finishing above many of the best in the game in Baltimore last week, and after four sub-70 rounds at Caves Valley, the South African should be primed to give it his best shot in Atlanta. At such a low price, he complements the rest of the guys nicely.