2023 Tour Championship DFS Preview: Expect Fireworks From Russell Henley

The final leg of the PGA Tour playoffs is here. The Tour Championship features a limited 30-man field, and each player will be assigned a starting score that ranges from 10 under to even par. This will affect DFS strategy and the betting market significantly. There is a lot to wade through, so do not forget to check out Stokastic’s PGA DFS projections, which have both scoring data and ownership projections. Stokastic’s PGA DFS projections come out on Monday and will be updated throughout the week. But before you check out all that, make sure you keep reading the full preview of 2023 Tour Championship DFS picks.

2023 Tour Championship DFS Picks & Preview

The top 4 finishers at the BMW Championship last week were:

  • 1st – Viktor Hovland
  • 2nd – Scottie Scheffler/Matthew Fitzpatrick
  • 4th – Rory McIlroy

Top Strokes Gained from BMW Championship

  • Approach: Scottie Scheffler
  • Tee to Green: Scottie Scheffler
  • Putting: Matthew Fitzpatrick

Tour Championship PGA DFS Picks and Preview

The Tour Championship is the most unique event on the PGA Tour, as it awards players strokes based on where they are in the FedEx Cup standings coming into this event. As such, not all players will start equally, which will give out huge placing point advantages for daily fantasy golf purposes. It is obviously important to know how the format works before setting lineups, so here are the starting places of all the players in the event:

10 Under: Scottie Scheffler
8 Under: Viktor Hovland
7 Under: Rory McIlroy
6 Under: Jon Rahm
5 Under: Lucas Glover
4 Under: Cantlay, Homa, Harman, Clark, Fitzpatrick
3 Under: Fleetwood, Bradley, Henley, Fowler, Schauffele
2 Under: Tom Kim, Im, Conners, Finau, Si Woo Kim
1 Under: Moore, Taylor, Schenk, Morikawa, Day
Even par – Burns, Grillo, Hatton, Spieth, Straka

Field Notes

  • Sepp Straka only managed a 37th-place finish last week but still edged out Sahith Theegala for the final spot.
  • Sahith Theegala finished 30th last year and made East Lake. This year he finished 31st and will miss out.
  • Scottie Scheffler enters first in the FedEx Cup standings for the second year in a row. He lost out in the Tour Championship to Rory McIlroy last season.

Tour Championship DFS & Betting Trends

  • Nobody from a starting position of -1 or even par has ever finished the week inside the top 5.
  • Every season, at least one player from the -2 starting position (tied 16th) has ended up inside the top 5.
  • The worst the leader (-10) has finished in four years was third (2019).
  • In the last three years, the leader (-10) has finished on top or within a shot of the eventual winner.
  • The second-place starter (-8) has only finished inside the top 5 once in four years.
  • The top 3 have included at least one player who started between -2 to -4 every single year.

Tour Championship Past Winners

2022: Rory McIlroy (9-1)

  • Started week at -4 in sixth place and six shots back of leader.
  • Lead-in: 8/MC/3

Strokes Gained: TTG: 2.0 | SG: APP 0.7 | SG: OTT: 2.2 | SG: ATG: -0.9 | SG: PUTT: 6.6

2021: Patrick Cantlay (4-1)

  • Started week as the second favorite and at 10 under with a two-shot lead.
  • Lead-in: Win/11th/23rd

Strokes Gained: TTG +6.5; APP +3.0; OTT +3.3; ATG +0.1; PUTT -0.2

2020: Dustin Johnson (3-1)

  • Started the week as the favorite and at 10 under with a two-shot lead.
  • Lead-in: 2nd/Win/2nd

Strokes Gained: TTG +4.7; APP -0.1; OTT +2.0; ATG +2.7; PUTT +0.9

2019: Rory McIlroy (8-1)

  • Started the week at 5 under in fifth place and five shots back of the leader.
  • Lead-in: 19th/6th/4th

Strokes Gained: TTG +11.0; APP +3.2; OTT +5.3; ATG +2.2; PUTT +2.5

React App

The handicap format at the Tour Championship has only been used in the last four seasons, so there is not much going beyond that unless looking deeper into course history. The trend has been quite clear, though: Momentum is pretty much everything. The last two years, both Johnson and Cantlay came in with a two-shot lead and were coming off wins in one of their last two starts. It is worth noting that McIlroy was able to overcome a five-shot deficit in 2019, and there will be more results like that down the road as this format plays out. Right now, there are four or five players on the PGA Tour with significant results over their last four starts that will be starting in the 2- to 4-under range, so the case could be made to look down the field for betting.

Want to see who is trending as a strong play early? Check out Stokastic’s PGA DFS projections, which will be updated on Monday and throughout the week.

Tour Championship Course Preview

East Lake is a longer par 70. The course has yielded winning scores in the 8- to 13-under range over the last five years and typically ranks in the top 25% in terms of overall toughness. Since renovations in the early 2010s, East Lake has proven to be a very tough course to play off the tee. The average driving distance is 10 yards more than the tour average, but driving accuracy is about 10% lower than normal as well. Long, straight drivers have a more significant advantage than normal at East Lake. The larger Bermuda greens mean greens-in-regulation rates are about tour average, so putting is the other area where players can gain an advantage.

East Lake Golf Club

  • Par 70, 7319 yards
  • Greens: Bermuda
  • Designer: Donald Ross
  • Par 3’s: 150-200 yards (1), 200+ yards (3)
  • Par 4’s: 350-400 yards (2), 400-450 yards (4), 450+ yards (6)
  • Par 5’s: 500-550 yards (1), 550-600+ yards (1)

Similar Courses: Pinehurst No. 2, Plainfield, Aronimink

Tour Championship Horses to Watch

These are players who continue to defy logic with how consistent they have been at this week’s venue. This section will try to decipher what they do so well and why it allows them to flourish at this venue, but some of this is just player preference.

  1. Rory McIlroy (winner 2022, 2019, 2016 and runner-up 2014): Has absolutely dominated this venue at various times. Big advantage off the tee on the longer par 4’s and 5’s. Came back from five shots down to win the inaugural handicap version in 2019 in what was likely the most impressive win at this venue.
  2. Xander Schauffele (winner 2017, runner-up 2019 and 2020): Schauffele has been super consistent at East Lake, making the venue his own personal piggy bank. A winner of the Tour Championship in 2017 (but not the FedEx Cup), he has also done well in the new handicap format, finishing second and fifth here in 2019 and 2020.
  3. Sungjae Im (runner-up 2022): Im has played this event each year since it shifted to a handicap format. He finished runner-up last season at this event and ended the week with the second-best total score at 16 under par.

2023 Tour Championship Recent Form Watch

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (Last 50 Rounds)

  • Scottie Scheffler
  • Patrick Cantlay
  • Rory McIlroy
  • Viktor Hovland
  • Si Woo Kim

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Strokes Gained: Approach (Last 50 Rounds)

  • Scottie Scheffler
  • Lucas Glover
  • Jon Rahm
  • Collin Morikawa
  • Xander Schauffele

Strokes Gained: Tee to Green (Last 50 rounds)

  • Scottie Scheffler
  • Rory McIlroy
  • Patrick Cantlay
  • Viktor Hovland
  • Collin Morikawa

2023 Tour Championship Weather Update

Thursday morning: 83-85 F, winds 3-5 mph/ 40% chance of precipitation.

Thursday afternoon: 93-95 F, winds 5 mph/ 20% chance of precipitation.

Friday morning: 85 F, winds 3-5 mph/ 10% chance of precipitation.

Friday afternoon: 95-97 F, winds 5-7 mph/ 10% chance of precipitation.

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2023 Tour Championship DFS Picks and Early Betting Targets

Patrick Cantlay | BetMGM Outright

Patrick Cantlay works a couple of different ways this week. He is just one tournament removed from a playoff loss at the FedEx St. Jude, and one could perhaps excuse him for being a little deflated at the BMW after that loss. Cantlay was mostly fine last week; his putter remained cold, but his tee-to-green game still gained him plenty of strokes, and he will be a little better rested for East Lake after not being in contention at the BMW. While he is starting at 4 under par, it is worth remembering that each season the Tour Championship has seen at least one top-3 finisher (in the handicap event) come from the -2 to -4 starting range. It is doubly worth remembering that McIlroy won from this spot in 2022.

Over Cantlay’s last eight rounds at East Lake, five of them have seen him shoot 67 or better, so there is also clearly some affinity for the tougher layout. That suits a tee-to-green baller like Cantlay. He makes sense as an outright target in the no-handicap and handicap field, but Cantlay as a top-5 finisher should pay dividends as well in the actual handicap event where he has experience being deep in contention at this event in years prior.

Russell Henley | BetMGM Outright No Handicap + Top 10

Russell Henley is a great option for playing as many ways as possible this week. While he does not have a win in 2023, it has been a great season and he is coming in hot. Henley is on a three-event streak of top-10 finishes and has shown lots of confidence in final rounds of late, which is when the money gets made this time of year.

In short-term form (last 24 rounds), he is third in strokes gained on approach and eighth in strokes gained around the green. The last time he played East Lake was 2017, when he closed with a 65 and ended the week in third. Henley has destroyed Donald Ross designs in the past and finished third at Sedgefield just three weeks ago, another Ross design. He will start at 3 under par, but for the no handicap market he has appeal as an outright and top-5/10 play.

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Geoff Ulrich
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