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Rory McIlroy
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DraftKings Strategy

DraftKings Preview: Roster recs for Atlanta

by Will Gray
Updated On: September 2, 2020, 3:18 pm ET

The new PGA Tour season is just around the corner. But first we have to crown a FedExCup champ at the Tour Championship, who will leave Atlanta with a pair of trophies to go along with a $15 million prize.

The limited, 30-man field means that DFS rosters will have plenty of overlap, and the staggered start adds another variable players will have to account for. But there are still plenty of other factors to process, with top seed Dustin Johnson making his 11th appearance at East Lake while nine of the 29 players chasing him make their tournament debut.

From a trio of former FedExCup champs to a potentially unheralded debutant, here are some tips and players to consider when crafting your DraftKings lineup for the season finale:

Favorites

Justin Thomas ($11,900): In a situation where Johnson and BMW winner Jon Rahm will be getting most of the attention, Thomas appears to be sitting in a prime position to end up $15 million richer. The only three-time winner on Tour this season, including a WGC event just a few weeks ago, Thomas admitted that the pressure of starting the week 10 under at this event last year affected his performance. Now he has a chance to prove he has learned from those mistakes. While he doesn't have the momentum of DJ or Rahm, he's starting ahead of every other player in the field and leads the Tour in both Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and SG: Approach this season. He was a runner-up at this event in 2017, a result that netted him the FedExCup, and hasn't finished worse than T-7 in four prior appearances.

Rory McIlroy ($9,700): Will McIlroy tee it up this week? It's not the sort of question DFS players like to ponder, but McIlroy's surprise baby announcement - along with the added wrinkle that his wife was due any day - means that his participation this week is not a sure thing. But the Friday-Monday format should aid any induction efforts, and if McIlroy makes his way to the first tee he'll do so as an undervalued threat. A winner here both last year and in 2016, the Ulsterman seems to come alive in Atlanta when the stakes are raised. And while he has been largely listless since the break, his wandering attention now makes sense with the impending birth of his daughter. McIlroy played well last week at Olympia Fields, sharing the 36-hole lead, and the new arrival might be just the boost he needs to make another deep run at East Lake.


Value Plays

Xander Schauffele ($8,900): Schauffele has been one of the most reliable players since the break, and there's no reason to expect that trend to stop this week on a course that seemingly fits his eye. A surprise winner in 2017, no one was surprised last year when he finished second despite starting the week at 4 under. Now one shot further back to begin the week, he's coming in off a run of seven straight top-25 finishes that dates back to June and in the midst of a ball-striking season that ranks seventh on Tour in SG: Tee-to-Green. In three prior appearances, Schauffele is averaging 67.75 at East Lake and has never shot higher than 70.

Tony Finau ($8,200): Finau flashed a little magic Sunday outside Chicago, turning in a final-round 65 that stood as one of the two best performances of the week. It moved him up to fifth place, a familiar spot for a talented player who seems to regularly contend without winning. Finau's tee-to-green prowess is well-documented and should serve him well this week on a course where it's imperative to control approach shots into slick putting surfaces. He'll start the week at 2 under and has shot 68 or better in half of his prior trips around East Lake.


Sleepers

Billy Horschel ($5,700): The last man in the field is sure to be a popular lineup addition at this price this week. Horschel needed a short miss from Corey Conners on the 72nd hole at the BMW to even make it to East Lake, but now that he's here he's expected to do some damage, even while starting from the back of the pack. Horschel won this event in 2014, finished second behind Tiger Woods in 2018 and has broken 70 in nine of his 12 rounds at East Lake. He struck the ball well last week at Olympia Fields, and if the putter heats up like it did three weeks ago when he finished second in nearby Greensboro, Horschel seems likely to make up ground on an elite field.

Lanto Griffin ($5,600): Anytime you have a 30-man field, you're going to have to toss a curve ball in order for your lineup to stand out. Enter Griffin, who I last saw slipping into the Olympia Fields clubhouse Sunday afternoon with a Coors Light in hand as he celebrated making the Tour Championship for the first time. Griffin's breakthrough win came 10 months ago in Houston, but he has backed it up with solid play since that has included four top-25 finishes since the break. He cracked the top 10 last week and finished T-19 at Harding Park, proving that he can hang with the best on punishing layouts. Griffin's stat line isn't especially notable, but he also doesn't have any glaring weaknesses and will start the week at 2 under, tied with or ahead of half of the limited field. He's a reliable pick, and one that likely won't factor into many other lineups this week.

Will Gray

Will Gray manages betting, fantasy and DFS content for NBC Sports EDGE across Golf, Soccer and NASCAR. He has covered the PGA Tour since 2013 and regularly contributes golf betting insight and analysis across multiple digital platforms. Gray has been with NBC Sports since 2007 and recently served as a writer, video analyst and podcast host for Golf Channel. You can follow him on Twitter @WillGrayGC