10 Players to Watch: Tour Championship

  1. Dustin Johnson, United States — Johnson is the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup favorite of the oddsmakers and just about everyone else after winning three of his last eight tournaments – including the U.S. Open at Oakmont, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone and the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick in his last outing. By winning the third event of the playoffs, he took the lead in the FedEx Cup standings and he also is second in the World Golf Rankings, thanks to 14 finishes in the top 10, the most on the PGA Tour this season. Johnson is making his seventh start in the Tour Championship and placed in the top 10 in the last three, tying for 10th in 2012, finishing fifth the following year and closing with a 64 last year at East Lake to tie for fifth, five strokes behind winner Jordan Spieth.
  1. Adam Scott, Australia — The only player who has finished in the top 10 in all three playoff events this year, Scott is third in the FedEx Cup standings, so he would take home both trophies if he wins the Tour Championship. He already has a victory at East Lake, having won in 2006, leading much of the way by posting four scores in the 60s to beat Jim Furyk by three strokes the year before the PGA Tour went to its playoff system. The Aussie is making his 10th start in the finale and has three other tops 10s, a tie for seventh in 2005, a tie for sixth in 2011 and a tie for ninth last year. Scott has finished fourth in all three playoff events, but hasn’t won since capturing the Honda Classic and WGC-Cadillac Championship on consecutive weeks earlier this season.
  1. Patrick Reed, United States — At second in the point standings, Reed is one of five players guaranteed to take home the FedEx Cup with a victory this week in the Tour Championship. He won the playoff opener, The Barclays, then tied for fifth in the Deutsche Bank Championship and tied for 13th in the BMW Championship. Reed has 11 results in the top 10 this season while rising to No. 6 in the World Golf Rankings and making the U.S. Ryder Cup team for the second straight time ahead of the matches against Europe next week at Hazeltine. He is making his third appearance in the Tour Championship, but has yet to really get the hang of East Lake, having tied for 19th in 2014 and finished 27th last year, playing his eight rounds in a total of 18-over-par.
  1. Jordan Spieth, United States — The defending champion of the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup will need some help from the players ahead of him if he is to steal away with both trophies again because he ranks seventh in the point standings. Spieth wrapped up a brilliant season a year ago when he carded four scores of 69 or better and claimed his fifth victory of 2016 by four strokes over Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Danny Lee. That came after he missed the cut in the first two playoff events, but he built such a big lead earlier that it didn’t matter in the long run. Spieth, who also tied for seventh at East Lake in 2013, actually has played better in the first three rounds of the playoffs this year as he tied for 10th in The Barclays, tied for 21st in the Deutsche Bank Championship and finished ninth in the BMW Championship.
  1. Jason Day, Australia — The top-ranked player in the World Golf Rankings is back for the Tour Championship after withdrawing after eight holes in the final round of the BMW Championship because of chronic back injury. The withdrawal knocked him out of the running for the 2016 Vardon Trophy, given to the player with the lowest stroke average on the PGA Tour, but he still can claim the FedEx Cup if his back is right with a victory at East Lake because he is fourth in the point standings. Day, who has three victories this season including the Players Championship, is making his sixth start in the Tour Championship and has never finished outside the top 20. Among those results were a tie for sixth in 2011, a tie for a tie for fourth in 2014 and a tie for 10th last year.
  1. Paul Casey, England — If an Englishman was going to make a run for the FedEx Cup, almost everyone would have figured it would be Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose, who surprisingly didn’t even make it into the 30-man field for the Tour Championship. Casey is the biggest surprise to come into the finale in the top-five in the point standings, which means he can take home both trophies if he wins the tournament. His only PGA Tour victory came in the Shell Houston Open and his career has been short-circuited by injuries, but he finished second behind Rory McIlroy in the Deutsche Bank Championship and was the runner-up again in back of Dustin Johnson in the BMW Championship, the last two playoff events. Casey has a good history at East Lake, tying for fourth in 2010 and tying for fifth last year.
  1. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland — After winning the Deutsche Bank Championship in week two of the FedEx Cup playoffs, Rory tied for 42nd in the BMW Championship and slipped out of the top five in the point standings by one spot. That means he will need help to claim the Cup, even if he wins the finale at East Lake. He skipped the FedEx Cup playoffs several times a few years ago, but has played well in the Tour Championship with a tie for 10th in 2012, a tie for second in 2014 and a tie for 16th last year, when he faded out of the top five in the final round with a 74 in the final round. McIlroy was tied for the 54-hole lead with eventual FedEx Cup winner Billy Horschel two years ago before closing with a 71 to finish three shots back.
  1. Phil Mickelson, United States — Even though he and Tiger Woods are the only two-time winners of the Tour Championship, Lefty has never taken home the FedEx Cup. He beat runner-up Woods by two strokes in 2000, but that was seven years before the PGA Tour added its playoff schedule. In 2009, he won it again by finishing three shots ahead of Woods, who again finished second, but Tiger had enough points to win the FedEx Cup and they shared the stage on the final green at East Lake. Mickelson is making his 14th start in the season finale, but he has only three other results in the top 10, the best a tie for third in 2008. He is 13th in the point standings and will need plenty of help to take home the FedEx Cup, even with a third victory at East Lake, as his best result in the playoffs was a tie for 13th in The Barclays.
  1. Emiliano Grillo, Argentina — One of two rookies in the 30-man field of the Tour Championship, Grillo is No. 9 in the FedEx Cup standings and probably will wrap up the PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year award if he finishes ahead of No. 18 Si Woo Kim of South Korea, the other first-year player. The Argentine won the Web.com Tour Championship a year ago and then followed it up in his next start by becoming the first player since Russell Henley to win in his first start on the PGA Tour when he captured the Frys.com Open to start the 2015-16 season. He has only one other top-10 finish, a tie for second behind Patrick Reed in The Barclays to open the playoffs, but has posted nine results in the top 25 and tied for eighth at Rio de Janeiro in the Olympic Games, which is considered an unofficial event.
  2. Bubba Watson, United States — Bubba is ranked seventh in the World Golf Rankings, but is only 24th in the FedEx Cup standings and amazingly might need a victory in the Tour Championship to earn the final spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, which will be picked by captain Davis Love on Sunday night. The two-time Masters champion won the Northern Trust Open in March and was second in the WGC-Cadillac Championship in his next start, but does not have a top-10 finish since, unless you count a tie for eighth in the Olympics. Watson tied for 13th in The Barclays to start the playoffs, but missed the cut in the Deutsche Bank Championship before tying for 20th in the BMW Championship. In six previous starts at East Lake, his only results in the top 10 were two ties for fifth, in 2012 and again last year.

–Courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

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