This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
East Lake Golf Club (7,346 yards, par-70)
$60M FedEx Cup bonus allotment
$15M to the winner
Complaints generally accompany change no matter the jurisdiction, and that mantra is no different this week as the FedEx Cup system is still causing grumpiness among a handful of Twitter check marks. This week's exclusive field of 30 finalists is missing a pair of 2019 major championship winners in Tiger Woods and Shane Lowry. How could this be? Well, although victories in the majors should probably be worth much more than 600 FedEx Cup points, qualifying for the TOUR Championship is a season-long reward. The aforementioned duo had plenty of chances to both play in more events and produce consistent results, but leaned more towards the one-hit wonder scope when it comes to the 2018-19 campaign compared to their peers in Atlanta this week. Sparking additional debate is the deployment of a staggered start, at the finale as top-ranked Justin Thomas begins the event 10 shots ahead of Nos. 26-30 in the standings. Instead of a separate purse for just this event, the winner of the TOUR Championship takes home the top prize of $15M in the FedEx Cup bonus fund as well as a five-year exemption. This new format might make Sunday afternoon less interesting as a smaller concentration reaches legitimate contention, but determining the FedEx Cup champion is much clearer.
Key Stats to Victory
Although East Lake isn't technically one of the tougher venues on Tour given the talent level that arrives in Atlanta for the season finale, no champion has surpassed the 13-under mark since Tiger went ballistic here in 2007 and won by eight at 23-under-par. Defense mechanisms on this lengthy par-70 include tree-lined fairways and potentially lightning-quick bermuda greens, which can run up to 13 on the Stimpmeter depending on certain conditions such as precipitation. Driving accuracy is a key factor here, which isn't the norm around Tour nowadays as a majority of the field will be forced to take less than driver off the tee on numerous occasions. Only eight entrants hit more than 50 greens in regulation throughout the tournament here last year, emphasizing the importance of SG: Putting and short-game prowess in general.
FanDuel Value Picks
Justin Thomas, $14,200 - Setting the BMW Championship tournament scoring record at 25-under en route to a dominant three-shot victory last week, Thomas has earned the greatest advantage in the staggered start at East Lake given his positioning atop the FedEx Cup standings. He'll be two strokes ahead of No. 2 Patrick Cantlay when the pair tees off Thursday, but Thomas also wins the course history battle between the duo with impressive results of T7-2-T6 in his past three trips to Atlanta. Thomas, who leads the PGA Tour in birdie average, also sits top-5 in SG: Tee-to-Green, SG: Approach and GIR percentage.
Brooks Koepka $12,100 - Koepka has posted back-to-back top-30s since his win at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, but gliding in cruise control to finishes of T24-T30 during the first two legs of the playoffs isn't going to return value for the No. 1 player in the world. He lost strokes on approach shots at both the Northern Trust and BMW Championship, so improvements with his iron play will be necessary in order to justify such a lofty price tag, though beginning the tournament at seven-under-par helps his case here. Despite recent iron and wedge issues, Koepka has continued to impress off the tee while gaining an average of 4.4 strokes OTT over his last five starts.
Rory McIlroy, $11,400 - Koepka's tee ball has surely been elite, but McIlroy remains king in this department as he leads the field in SG: OTT over his last 12 rounds. The Northern Irishman is also fourth in FIR percentage throughout his last 24 rounds, so length isn't the only credential contributing to his bag of tricks. McIlroy has placed top-10 in four of five trips to East Lake, including a win in 2016 just two years after tying for runner-up honors as well.
Jon Rahm, $10,700 - En fuego is a sufficient manner in which to describe the Spaniard, stringing together exceptional finishes of T5-T3-7-T11-Win-T2-T3 in seven international showings dating back to the U.S. Open. Rahm is second to none in GIR percentage over his last 12 rounds and has gained no less than 3.3 strokes off the tee since the Open Championship. The flat stick is also heating up for Rahm late in the season, gaining an average of 3.73 strokes putting from the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational to the BMW Championship.
Longer Shots Worth a Risk
Justin Rose, $9,000 - An eight-stroke disadvantage is quite a bummer for Rose heading into Thursday's first round, but this is an intriguingly affordable price for the No. 4 player in the OWGR. The Englishman has absolutely lit up East Lake GC since 2012 to the tune of six consecutive top-10s, highlighted by runner-up honors on more than one occasion. Rose struggled mightily with his putter last week at Medinah, which explains his T52 finish as he lost over five strokes on the greens. Nonetheless, Rose managed to play his final nine holes of the BMW Championship in four-under fashion as he picked up momentum late.
Rickie Fowler, $8,600 - Fowler has been extremely inconsistent by his standards throughout the summer, which could help reduce his ownership as he begins the week at just two-under-par. He actually paces the field in SG: Putting on bermuda surfaces over his last 24 rounds and just gained five strokes with the flat stick at Medinah, where he lost strokes on approach shots for the first time since May. Despite what appears to simply be a brief lapse in iron-play quality, Fowler still racked up 18 tweeters and two eagles en route to a tie for 11th.
Paul Casey, $8,300 - A questionable decision to rest during the week of the Northern Trust has come back to bite, as Casey has now fallen to 16th in the FedEx Cup standings. The new staggered start at East Lake definitely entices everyone to tee it up at the first leg of the playoffs no matter their comfortability inside of the top-30, so Casey's strategy didn't make a ton of sense, unless of course he had been dealing with legitimate fatigue. Moving forward, the Englishman deserves consideration at the TOUR Championship where he's finished top-5 in four of five attempts. Casey resides top-10 in both GIR percentage and SG: Approach this season, but he's also eighth in FIR over his past 24 rounds.
Brandt Snedeker, $7,900 - Riding a playoff heater with consecutive top-6 performances at Liberty National and Medinah CC, Snedeker is second in SG: Putting and fourth in SG: Total over his last eight rounds. He led the entire field in bogey avoidance at the BMW Championship and hasn't carded anything worse than a par since this past Friday. Additionally, Snedeker lands among the list of past champions at East Lake and therefore should become even more of a popular bargain in the sub-$8K range.
Strategy Tips for this week (based on 60k standard salary cap)
A measly two-stroke advantage doesn't exactly feel worth the nearly $2K jump in price from Cantlay to Thomas, but this discrepancy was necessary in order to keep the latter's exposure in check. According to consensus betting odds this week, the winner is very likely to come from one of Thomas, Cantlay or Koepka, so it may be a more efficient strategy to nab both Cantlay and Koepka while retaining a bit more salary remaining to disperse between four additional lineup selections. The absence of a 36-hole cut allows gamers to get greedy with Thomas, however, as unusual "punt plays" such as Bryson DeChambeau and Marc Leishman pop up near the bottom of the board.