2023 TOUR Championship Preview: Everything To Know About East Lake Golf Club

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Written By John Haslbauer | Last Updated
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The TOUR Championship is the final stop of the 2023 golf season, as the top-30 remaining players in the FedEx Cup Standings on the PGA TOUR head to East Lake in Atlanta, Georgia for the TOUR’s Finale. Find longer golf odds at the best sports betting sites to increase your potential TOUR Championship payouts. Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, and Rory McIlroy are the favorites for this year’s TOUR Championship.

Just 30 golfers remain for the final PGA TOUR event of the 2023 season. The TOUR heads to Atlanta to wrap things up at East Lake Golf Club for the 2023 TOUR Championship. As always, we begin our weekly preview with a look at TOUR Championship odds.

We’ll see the smallest field of the year, but unlike last week’s event at Olympia Fields CC, we have plenty of data to pull from to profile course fit at East Lake. So although every player in this year’s field may not make this a regular stop on their schedule, we still have a growing understanding of what skillsets best navigate this course.

In short, East Lake Golf Club offers a complete test of golf, rewarding positional tee shots while still yielding a high percentage of missed greens in regulation. That puts an overall emphasis on trending tee-to-green play. As one of Donald Ross’ most famed designs, the course should reward the most skilled long-term putters, particularly on Bermuda greens.

Considering the limited field and nuanced staggered scoring system, it doesn’t bring the most favorable conditions for golf betting. But some shadow leaderboard and finishing prop markets do offer value. With that said, let’s get into the key facts and info about East Lake Golf Club for the 2023 TOUR Championship.

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TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS: THE FAVORITES

Scroll to the bottom for complete outright TOUR Championship odds to compare prices across legal sports betting in your state.

To Win The FedEx Cup (Bonus Strokes Applied)

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R. McIlroy (-7)
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Shadow Leaderboard

Sportsbooks will also offer odds this week on the best four-round score without the FedEx Cup Playoff bonus strokes applied.

TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP: FIELD AT A GLANCE

The field is now officially set with the top 30 remaining players in the FedEx Cup Standings. For the third straight week, there will be no cut in this four-day event. Unique to the TOUR Championship, there will be a staggered scoring start based on FedEx Cup ranking points, so players who begin with a 10-stroke deficit to Scottie Scheffler may simply be motivated by the gaudy purse that awaits them at East Lake.

After the dust has settled from an eclectic finish at the BMW Championship, Matt Fitzpatrick is the only player to play himself from outside the top-30 into East Lake. Chris Kirk, the 36-hole co-leader at the BMW Championship, was surprisingly the only player who began last week inside the top-30 to not qualify for East Lake, as a disappointing 6-over-par weekend has ended his season early. Viktor Hovland climbed from No. 7 to No. 2 in the end of season rankings with his BMW Championship victory, and will have a legitimate chance to catch Scheffler if he can continue the hot form, beginning the tournament at -8.

Rory McIlroy looks to defend his 2022 TOUR Championship title after erasing a 6-stroke pre-tournament deficit from Scottie Scheffler. Additional past TOUR Championship winners in the field this week include Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, and Jordan Spieth.

Below is a breakdown of how the staggered strokes will apply for all 30 players in the field, as well as the payouts from first to 30th.

STAGGERED-START FORMAT EXPLAINED

A great paradox exists when applying the traditional playoff format to golf. As the playoffs go on, only the top-ranked players advance round by round until the best remains. Unfortunately, it creates a very anti-climactic finish to the season when the TOUR Championship features only 30 players. The staggered start format effectively eliminates 75% of the field from serious contention. Fans are understandably unhappy with the end product.

The TOUR Championship is not about keeping the fans happy, however. It rewards the body of work over a long wraparound season and provides an advantage for the players who have earned it.

Amidst the TOUR’s pushback against LIV as a competitive golf product, it’s fascinating that the most prized event has a severely limited field, no cuts, artificially applied starting strokes and a boatload of prize money at stake. Of course, a pretense of meritocracy exists for the TOUR Championship in that players have earned their ways here over the course of an entire season. But, that doesn’t make fans any less annoyed about its lack of drama or betting appeal.

Can This Be Fixed?

It doesn’t require much effort to dissect a 30-man no-cut event complete with the best remaining players on TOUR. As a result, the discourse in TOUR Championship week centers on debating ideas for a superior format. I actually don’t think the format requires changing. The staggered-start format does reward the body of work while still giving opportunity to players who peak late to make a run.

The average players who’ve just snuck into the top-30 like Taylor Moore, Nick Taylor, and Sepp Straka have effectively no chance to overcome Scottie Scheffler and his 10-stroke advantage this week. Which is as it should be, in my opinion. Lucas Glover and Russell Henley stand as examples of opportunities earned in the playoff format for those who can peak at the right time. By all accounts, both players had mediocre to average 2023 seasons. But with new life in the playoffs, they’ve played themselves into shouting distance of Scheffler. Scheffler has had a historically dominant season from tee-to-green, and even if Jon Rahm is the more likely Player Of The Year pick at the moment, a format which sets him up Scheffler well to be the TOUR Champion would seem one that works.

I’m that guy in the fantasy football league who lobbies for a more premium payout to first place after the regular season. The body of work impresses more than the volatility of a playoff champion decided a one-week match-up at a time.

A Happy Medium?

I can understand this removes the drama from the playoffs at the expense of fairness. But while the format hurts viewers’ value, the TOUR Championship is about the players, not the fans. Even still, we can’t help but wonder if a happy medium exists.

If I were the czar of the PGA TOUR, my modifications to the TOUR Championship would better acknowledge the fans while keeping the format exactly the same. So many easy ways to do this exist.

Experiment with new broadcast features like the NFL has tried at the Pro Bowl. Add new camera angles and more hot mics for player-caddy conversations. Incorporate more fan engagement via live tweets during the broadcast. Work with DraftKings as a league partner to interview some Milly Maker winners. Or even carve out $1M from this gargantuan purse and give it back to players in a free Single-Entry Milly Maker contest on DraftKings or Pool Contest.

And no offense to East Lake, a beautiful and challenging course. But if we’ve committed to a limited field and staggered scoring, it would be nice to shake things up on rotating course basis, whether as a preview of upcoming major venues or by leaving it up to a player or fan vote.

Any acknowledgement of the fans within all the dead air that comes with a 30-man field would put the audience’s concerns at ease and surely win over any younger demographic considering hitching their wagon to other Tours.

INTRODUCTION TO EAST LAKE GOLF CLUB

Established in 1904, East Lake Golf Club has rich history in Atlanta. East Lake has served as the permanent final stop of the season since the TOUR Championship’s inception in 2004. In addition to hosting this event, East Lake has also hosted the 1963 Ryder Cup and 2001 U.S. Amateur. It has also hosted the East Lake Cup, a collegiate match play series with notable individual medalist honors to Scottie Scheffler and Viktor Hovland. Get ready to see plenty of vintage photos of these two, who years later will tee it up in the final pairing on Thursday as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds from the 2023 PGA TOUR season.

East Lake joins Sedgefield CC and Detroit GC as the three regular Donald Ross stops on the PGA TOUR schedule. While sharing the commonality of nuanced greens complexes, East Lake clearly provides the sternest test of the three. It rewards above-average distance off the tee and a complete tee-to-green game. Zach Johnson holds the course record of 60 (10-under par), but the low four-day score has typically fallen in the modest -13 to -15 range.

How It Breaks Down

As a 7,319-yard par 70, East Lake plays slightly above TOUR average in distance. The layout features six par 4s over 450 yards and three par 3s over 200 yards, offering a slight advantage to longer hitters and players who excel with their long irons. Overall, East Lake provides a well-balanced test, with half of its holes yielding a scoring average above or below par.

Notable Stats & Course Traits

Driving prowess is at a premium at East Lake, as it features the most narrow fairways on TOUR and has annually finished top three in missed fairway penalty. With three par 3s measuring over 200 yards, East Lake also ranks top three in average par-3 length. Over 30% of approaches will come from beyond 200 yards this week, well above the TOUR average. So, it’s a great spot to hone in on elite long iron players, particularly those who have had success on similar courses with penal Bermuda rough.

For East Lake course specs, hole-by-hole breakdown with yardages, and past TOUR Championship winners with their pre-tournament odds, visit our TOUR Championship betting odds page.

COURSE HISTORY & COURSE COMPS

To have experience at East Lake would inherently imply a strong and consistent overall player. Only the top-30 players each PGA TOUR season can punch their tickets to Atlanta. In this week’s field, Rory McIlroy leads the way in terms of experience, as he is the only player with nine years of TOUR Championship competition under his belt. East Lake has always suited McIlroy’s game well, as he ranks No. 1 in SG: T2G, SG: OTT, and SG: Short Game on this course.

But with that said, Xander Schauffele still holds the title of king of East Lake. Schauffele has finished no worse than T7 over six career appearances, including a victory in his debut in 2017. He posted the low score in 2020, falling just short of Dustin Johnson’s head start to finish runner-up.

The top-10 players in SG: TOT at East Lake entering this week are Schauffele, McIlroy, Russell Henley, Jon Rahm, Max Homa, Jason Day, Tyrrell Hatton, Tony Finau, Scottie Scheffler, and Viktor Hovland.

Looking at comp courses for this week, Quail Hollow makes the top of the list, considering McIlroy’s dominance, the overlapping Bermuda agronomy and premium on long iron approaches.

Donald Ross specialists like Kevin Na, Kevin Kisner, and Billy Horschel who can lean on their short game strengths also tend to succeed. So, I’ll give a close look at recent performance at Detroit Golf Club and Sedgefield CC.

On a secondary tier, TPC Southwind and PGA National also feature a premium on total driving on Bermuda grass. Sheshan International, former host of the WGC HSBC, has also produced similar overlapping leaderboards to East Lake, highlighted with wins by McIlroy and Schauffele over its last two years of hosting.

Combine that all together and the top 10 in comp course history are Russell Henley, Taylor Moore, Sungjae Im, Rory McIlroy, Tom Kim, Xander Schauffele, Lucas Glover, Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, and Jason Day.

KEY STATS TO CONSIDER

  • Par 4 Scoring / SG: T2G
  • SG: APP / Prox 200+
  • Good Drives Gained
  • Scrambling Gained
  • Bogey Avoidance
  • SG: Putting (Bermuda)
  • Course History & Comp Course History

In a 30-man field of players who’ve earned their entry by way of sustained strong play or a hot streak to climb up the rankings in the playoffs, you can almost do no wrong by backing any given player. That has me leaning towards eyeballing the field for the best values rather than deep-diving into key stats. But, they should still act as a helpful guide to whittle down a player pool.

The foundational stats I’ll prioritize for this week are the weighted recent form combination of Par-4 Scoring and SG: T2G. The top-10 players in this combined category are Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, Viktor Hovland, Tyrrell Hatton, Patrick Cantlay, Tommy Fleetwood, Russell Henley, Corey Conners, Jon Rahm, and Lucas Glover.

Looking at a weighted combination between the key stats of Good Drives Gained and Prox 200+, just seven players rate out above average: Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, Lucas Glover, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Si Woo Kim, and Tom Kim.

Correlated Stats

Looking at the correlated stats to success historically at East Lake, SG: APP and Good Drives Gained make the most notable jumps in importance. That makes sense on a demanding course which penalizes erratic driving. Conversely, Par-4 450-500 and SG: OTT take the greatest steps back in importance compared to TOUR average this week. Given the tight fairways and penal rough, it will be difficult for players to gain on the field with their first shots, again emphasizing the importance of the second shot at East Lake.

Top 10 Correlated Stats with SG: TOT
Top 10 Correlated Stats with SG: TOT at East lake

There are six players who rate above average in the top-10 correlated stats for East Lake: Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Tommy Fleetwood, Lucas Glover, and…Russell Henley.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: RUSSELL HENLEY

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Whenever I approach betting the TOUR Championship with its quicky staggered starting strokes and limited field of just 30 players, I usually throw the outright win market by the wayside and instead focus on the “shadow leaderboard”. That is, the player who shoots the best 72-hole score, regardless of starting strokes. It’s a market that the players likely do not care as much about, and is nearly impossible for anyone out on the course to actually track in real time.

So for people like me – often drawn to Henley because of what the numbers say, but scared to death of his ability to close out a golf tournament on Sunday – this format is absolutely ideal.

It’s always a good idea to ride the hot hand when you get to the end of the playoffs in any sport, and few players have looked better in August than Russell Henley, who’s finished top-10 in three consecutive starts leading in. The Georgia native has always been partial to Bermuda greens, so it’s little surprise to see two of those recent top-10s come on comp Bermuda courses between the Wyndham Championship and FedEx St. Jude Championship.

That form should bode well for continued at East Lake, which features similar Bermuda agronomy throughout. Henley will be making his first trip back to East Lake since 2017, but he impressed then with a T3 finish, and placed T12 in his only prior TOUR Championship start. A 7-stroke deficit to Scottie Scheffler is likely asking too much to erase, but everything about the current state of Henley’s game suggests he is capable of catching fire on this course and contending for the lowest 72-hole score of the week.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR AT THE 2023 TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP

Although it may be an anti-climactic format to conclude the 2023 season, the stakes remain very high with $18M up for grabs and Scottie Scheffler in pole position to claim TOUR Champion honors. Scheffler will be difficult to catch with a -10 head start, especially considering his solid course history and preceding form. But players like Viktor Hovland, Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Max Homa, and Patrick Cantlay are still in shouting distance to track him down. That should hopefully make for an entertaining weekend to track before heading into a short off-season of Ryder Cup speculation.

Normally I would include my player pool here. But, with only 30 players to choose from, I don’t really think it’s worth whittling down a list or projecting where values may fall before pricing comes out. It’s the TOUR Championship, and everyone who’s still in the field is an elite player in good form. So, you’ll be hard pressed to find many comfortable fades this week. That said, a small handful of guys I do expect to target in DFS includes Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, Max Homa, Lucas Glover, and Russell Henley.

For my model this week, I’m putting a premium on Recent Form (SG: T2G + Par-4 Scoring), SG: APP, Comp Course History and Good Drives Gained, followed by a balanced mix of Prox 200+, Bogey Avoidance, Scrambling Gained and SG: P (Bermuda).

Model Favorites

The No. 1 player in my model this week is defending TOUR Championship winner, Rory McIlroy. Rory is known to have his own comfort courses where he repeatedly plays well, and East Lake is unquestionably on that list. The three-time TOUR Championship winner has placed inside the top-10 in seven of nine career trips, and will enter in hot form yet again, riding a streak of nine consecutive top-10 finishes into Atlanta.

Rounding out the top 10 of the model, we have Russell Henley, Scottie Scheffler, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm, Lucas Glover, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Tyrrell Hatton, and Viktor Hovland.

When TOUR Championship odds open on Monday, I’ll look to take one or two shots at the shadow leaderboard while also eying some specialty props to keep things interesting. I’ll have my eye on McIlroy and Homa at the top, with Lucas Glover and Russell Henley also in mind as potential values who fit the course well when odds open.

Best of luck navigating 2023 TOUR Championship odds!

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2023 TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP ODDS BOARD

Compare TOUR Championship odds across legal U.S. sports betting apps in your state. Any odds that show the favorites shorter than +200 are for the winner of the FedEx Cup (with bonus strokes added). If you are seeing odds with a favorite around +500 or +600, that is for the best four-round score of the week without bonus strokes added (shadow leaderboard).

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