TOUR Championship Fantasy Preview

I never have, and never will, claim to have all the answers when it comes to fantasy golf. I just try to give my analysis and hope it helps. Last week was a perfect example of just how wrong I can be.

I’ve definitely been more wrong, actually, because a lot of my core plays still hit. However, I did try to get really cute with the golfers I was fading. I faded Rahm and Cantlay due to lack of success on correlated courses. In hindsight, the small sample we had on Conway Farms was likely not enough to nail down correlated venues with confidence.

On top of that I faded Justin Thomas and Marc Leishman due to their crazy leap in short-game performance lately. The Thomas fade worked out but Leishman obviously did not. Lastly, at the last minute I also swapped out all shares of DJ and Kuchar due to some course history stuff I looked at. Again, 1-for-2 in those fades but it was costly since Kuchar was basically a free space at his salary on DraftKings.

This is a long way of me saying, “don’t get cute.” Don’t try to over-analyze things in fantasy golf or you may get paralysis by analysis. Whenever I start talking crazy on fades again, I need some commenters to remind me to KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid).

This week we wrap up the 2016-17 PGA TOUR season with the finale at East Lake. The course is situated in Atlanta, Georgia, a Donald Ross design that plays at just under 7,400 yards. Pretty lengthy for a par 70 layout.

The narrow fairways will lead to fewer fairways hit compared to most weeks (field average of just 53% fairways hit since 2010). Over the last four years the course setup has put a premium on hitting the fairways, with a huge differential of GIR percentage from the fairway versus greens hit from locations other than the fairway. The thick bermuda rough leads to a lot of uncertainty when it comes to attacking the pins here.

If one of the elite bombers is dialed in off the tee, they will have a huge advantage because it’s not a difficult course if you’re playing from the fairways, otherwise this comes down to a scramblefest. Having some comfort on bermuda is certainly a nice tool to have in your shed this week.

Don’t trust what I’m saying about the course? Have a look at the Fantasy Golfanac to read some quotes directly from the golfers. The trend seems to be avoiding the rough and enjoying bermuda.

Based on course setup, location, and golfer performance, the following tracks are showing up as correlated courses this week: Augusta National, Firestone CC, Quail Hollow, GC of Houston, and TPC Sawgrass.

Players to Watch

Dustin Johnson PGA

Dustin Johnson… Four straight top 10s at East Lake, it’s clearly a course he CAN tackle. Off-the-tee, he’s outperformed his baseline SG OTT in his last three trips to East Lake. That is enough for me to consider him the favorite, at least least one of the favorites this week. Last year he was rooting hard for Rory to lose down the stretch since it would have made DJ $10 Million richer. Again, he will have a chance to control his own destiny so perhaps he can cap off his stellar season in spectular fashion.

Rickie Fowler… After another near-miss last week, there doesn’t appear to be any course or course conditions that can slow him down. He’s doing a lot of his work with the flat stick which I generally don’t like to tail but this has been going on all season, across all grass types, so I am just fine assuming he is just dialed in with the putter this year.

Jordan Spieth… Last week we said he sees a lot of Augusta National in East Lake, which is a great thing considering his sparkling record at Augusta. He also has a win and a runner-up in four tries at East Lake, so it’s tough to argue with that.

Daniel Berger … Has gone cold with the putter, losing nearly 10 strokes putting in his last five starts. Four of those have come on bentgrass, so perhaps he’s trying to pad his bermuda putting splits. Only joking, but Berger does have a lot of comfort down in the Southeast part of the country, so this looks like a good bounce-back spot.

Charley Hoffman… East Lake is a demanding driving course, which is generally where Charley shines. Back in his 2010 debut he had this to say about East Lake, “I mean, it’s instantly one of my favorite on TOUR now. It’s a good golf course. It rewards good ball-striking, and you can’t really fake it around this golf course.”

Kevin Chappell… Made his way into a playoff here last year, despite losing more than a stroke with the flat stick. You could take that as a positive (likes the layout, just needs to hit a few putts) or as a negative (doesn’t like the green complexes). I would lean the former as he’s shown a strong liking to bermuda greens compared to other surfaces on TOUR.

Hideki Matsuyama… It’s tough to see him struggling with the putter after shining for about a month. Matsuyama let it leak into other parts of his game last week. He’s the ultimate grinder, though, and I expect him to be in Atlanta early this week testing out 4,000 putters. Another good rebound candidate who may draw lower ownership due to his recent struggles.

Jon Rahm… The key to his consistency? He gets off to fast starts. He’s only lost more than half a stroke to the field in Round 1 during 9% of events played. That is best in the field this week. That number slowly declines throughout the week (he loses half a stroke to the field in 19% of his final rounds which is just sixth in the field this week). A roundabout way of saying he’s already established himself as one of the most consistent golfers on a round-to-round and week-to-week basis.

My Top 30 for the 2017 TOUR Championship

1. Dustin Johnson
2. Rickie Fowler
3. Jordan Spieth
4. Jason Day
5. Paul Casey
6. Jon Rahm
7. Matt Kuchar
8. Daniel Berger
9. Justin Rose
10. Hideki Matsuyama
11. Justin Thomas
12. Sergio Garcia
13. Patrick Cantlay
14. Brooks Koepka
15. Charley Hoffman
16. Kevin Chappell
17. Marc Leishman
18. Webb Simpson
19. Jason Dufner
20. Kevin Kisner
21. Gary Woodland
22. Tony Finau
23. Patrick Reed
24. Pat Perez
25. Brian Harman
26. Xander Schauffele
27. Russell Henley
28. Adam Hadwin
29. Kyle Stanley
30. Jhonattan Vegas

This article has 5 comments

  1. Josh, is there a place where I can find stats from last year’s tournament such as strokes gained putting etc? I can find tourney by tourney for this year on PGA.com, but can’t find anything for last year

    Reply
    • Hey Jared, you can sign up for PGATourMedia.com or use a site like FantasyNational.com and both will give you those stats. PGATourMedia you’ll have to scavenge everything while FantasyNational has all the info right in front of you (but it’s a subscription based service). Cheers

      Reply
  2. Thanks for a great series of articles this year.

    I have to point out – Leishman at 17? Vegas has him as 9th favorite to win, fwiw. Gentleman’s bet he finishes better than 17th?? 🙂

    Reply
    • Haha yes. Vegas also boosts recent performance because they know people will back recency bias and take a lower number they they deserve on a golfer.

      I think the range of outcomes can drastically swing this week. The difference from 9th to 17th could be a two-shot swing. I don’t think Leish finishes inside the top 9 though 🙂

      Reply

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