2017 Tour Championship: East Lake Golf Club (9/20/17)
The top 30 golfers in the PGA Fedex Cup Standings will head to East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta to battle it out for the top spot of the Tour Championship. East Lake is a tighter, faster course than the average PGA stop. The emphasis this week will be on hitting greens and knocking in some putts. Deep bunkers around the greens can pose a challenge; thus, scrambling and bunker play will play a role, as well. Scores will be marginally low, as the winner typically finishes around ten-under par.
More recent winners at East Lake are Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Billy Horschel, and Henrik Stenson. Only Spieth, of that group, will be competing this week, and he's the favorite on the board at 5 to 1 odds. Marc Leishman played his way into the top five of the standings with his victory last week after blowing a two shot lead at TPC Boston in the previous tournament.
As usual, I'll break down the top Favorite, Long Shot, and Dud for this week's tournament. Since there are only 30 golfers in the field, I'll only pick one for each category. Favorites will be considered as those with better than 50 to 1 odds, Long Shots will be 50 to 1 odds and greater, and Duds will be better than 50 to 1 odds players to avoid. Odds will be courtesy of Bovada at the time of writing.
We picked Rickie last week, butFowler at 10 to 1 odds, seems like a steal this week, too. He's not only fit for tight, fast courses like East Lake, he's playing great as of late. Much like Leishman coming into last week, Fowler has been sitting at the top of the board on the verge of winning for a few weeks. Fowler has finished inside the top ten in six of his last ten tournaments, including a T2 last week where he was railroaded by Leishman.
Putting, again, gives Fowler a jump on the top golfers in the field as the top strokes-gained average on the greens with +0.788 per round, In fact, no other top golfers are very close to Fowler. Spieth (+0.373) ranks 7th of 30, Dustin Johnson (+0.183) ranks 18th, and Justin Thomas (+0.286) ranks 14th.
Driving accuracy will also play a huge role on the shorter, tighter East Lake. Fowler ranks 5th in the field at 64.7%. The top golfers on the board that is anywhere close to Fowler, from an accuracy perspective, are Paul Casey and Matt Kuchar, who are both considerably shorter off the tee than Fowler. Thus, Fowler is the best bet on the board this week.
For many of the same reasons I like Fowler this week, I like Kisner, just to a lesser extent due to his lack of competing. Though he's an average ball-striker, Kisner ranks highly in every other key metric this week, including putting and driving accuracy.
Kisner hits fairways at a 68.3% rate, second best in the field, along with the fourth-best strokes-gained putting average. There's reason for pause on any long shot; that is not different with Kisner. Outside of his somewhat deficient ball striking, he does not scramble well. In fact, he's 8th worst in the field this week in scrambling average and 119th on tour in strokes-gained around the green.
Kisner hasn't played great lately, but he's had a rougher road than most considering his game. Kisner hasn't ran up to the top of my analysis in some time, but East Lake finally fits his game. He's worth a shot to disrupt all the top in the world this week.
Brooks Koepka has had a rough few weeks since his US Open victory at Erin Hills. Koepka hasn't placed in a top ten in the last five weeks, even with the shortened fields. Outside of Koepka's ability to knock in a few putts (+0.403 strokes-gained average), the rest of his game doesn't fit tighter courses.
Koepka ranks 26th in the field in strokes-gained tee-to-green, 29th in proximity to the hole, and 28th in driving accuracy. As a bomber, he gets himself into trouble often off-the-tee. He's the seventh furthest driver of the ball this season while only ranking 25th in strokes-gained off the tee box.
A long, wide open track like Erin Hills allowed Koepka to knock the ball onto fairways and greens all week. East Lake will not provide that opportunity. Koepka will need to make a ton of shots on the green this week if he wants to compete.