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Deutsche Bank Championship

Round two of the Fedex Cup play-off series gets underway on Thursday at TPC Boston, though it will have to go some to match the excitement of the opening event. The upshot of that three-way play-off is that Vijay Singh already holds a substantial lead for the $10M bonus, and will take some catching.

Should Vijay win any of the final three events he?ll be all but over the line, and there?s every chance he will on courses he knows well and likes. The others near the head of the points list are still in the thick of it, but they will need to win an event to challenge, as the place rewards alone won’t be enough. I suspect that by the end of this week, the slogan ?anyone can win? will be redundant, and we’ll be left with no more than a handful of contenders.

Its not just that the scoring system will make it very hard for an outsider to win from far off the pace, but also the nature of this week?s event, which is usually one of the most accurate reflections of the formbook seen all year. In three of the last four renewals, different permutations of Singh, Tiger Woods, and Phil Mickelson have filled the first two places.

Those previous results at TPC Boston show a distinct advantage to the longer hitters due to the fairly generous fairways. Ultimately, its a second-shot course, which usually favours the top players. However, in Woods? absence there are more contenders than usual.

Mickelson and Sergio Garcia are vying for favouritism, but both are overlooked for different reasons. With Mickelson, after last week?s lacklustre effort the time may have come to accept that I?m never going to pick him on the right week. In any case, 10/1 is hardly huge given the fact he hasn?t really set the PGA Tour alight this summer, and also has to contend with being defending champion.

Sergio probably deserves the favourite?s tag more after yet another runners-up spot at the Barclays. This time it was impossible not to have sympathy for Garcia, who did little wrong and couldn?t legislate for Singh?s putter suddenly catching fire. A change of luck will surely arrive soon, but Garcia has never been a player who produces his best week in, week out.

Vijay certainly has impeccable claims, finishing 1st, 2nd and 4th amongst his four attempts on the course. On the flipside, his last five starts read two wins and three missed cuts, so again he can hardly be considered certain to repeat last week?s superb form. I doubt he’ll be far away though.

The only other player under 20/1 is Padraig Harrington, who maintained his lifeless form outside the Majors last week. There?s a very strong chance Harrington won?t even make the final cut of 30 before the Tour Championship. As for Antony Kim, while it wouldn?t surprise me in the least if he returned to the brilliance shown earlier this summer, it was discouraging to hear him talk of swing troubles in his interview after finishing 12th, (hardly a disaster), on Sunday. Of greater concern is his missed cut last year in this event.

Nobody appeals more this week than PAUL CASEY. Quite simply, Casey is playing the most consistent golf of his life and looks a winner waiting to happen. He?s made the top-15 in five of his last six events, all of which have been very high class affairs. Apart from Firestone, where 8th place represented a miraculous comeback, none of the courses concerned particularly suited his power game. He?s at a slight disadvantage making his debut at TPC Boston, but I reckon it will suit him down to the ground.

Several Australians can boast impressive course form credentials, with ADAM SCOTT and ROBERT ALLENBY the best picks. Geoff Ogilvy has twice finished top-6 here, and would have been fancied were it not for a disappointing run since June. Likewise, Aaron Baddeley failed to build last week on an improved showing at the PGA, and is therefore overlooked despite finishing 5th and 7th in the last two Deutsche Bank renewals.

As I?ve said before this year, Allenby is long overdue a fifth PGA Tour title to bring his worldwide tally to 20. He was right in the thick of it going into Sunday at the Barclays, before blowing his chance early on with a triple-bogey. In four events here, Allenby has finished 4th, 8th and never worse than 19th, all in less impressive years than 2008. He hasn?t missed a single cut since the opening event of the season, a run which includes seven top-10s.

With Scott, we have to forgive a truly atrocious eleven over-par second round at Ridgewood on his way to an embarrassing missed cut. I?m prepared to do so because Scott would be much shorter than 33/1 without it, such is his record in this event. He won the inaugural Deutsche Bank Championship in 2003, and finished tied for second the following year. And despite last week?s debacle, I?m still of the view that Scott has made great progress this year, and is now as good as anyone outside Majors.

I?m also giving another chance to CAMILO VILLEGAS, as again TPC Boston really suits his long-driving, attacking game. Prior to missing last week?s cut he?d produced a Majors personal best in the USPGA, and has looked to be on the verge of a breakthrough for some time. Villegas made the top-10 last year, the start of an excellent run through to the end of the play-off series. An equally encouraging fact is that he finished 12th here as a rookie back in 2005.

Another up and coming big-hitter to make this week?s staking plan is ANDRES ROMERO at 66/1. Romero isn?t a player I?m ever too keen to back because he?s so inconsistent, but he is always worth noting on courses that reward long driving. This will be his course debut, so there?s an element of guesswork but on the basis of his penultimate result, 7th at the USPGA, the young Argentinian is still in the same form that has produced wins on either side of the Atlantic in the last 13 months.

Others who came in for consideration included Steve Stricker, who has finished top-10 here two years running. My only criticism of Stricker is that he seems very nervy in the lead nowadays, as seen last week when blowing a 4 shot lead to finish outside the top-15. Recent winner Carl Pettersson could also go well and give Faldo a last-minute headache as he considers those wild-cards. And Rory Sabbatini and Sean O’Hair only just missed the staking plan, after taking the eye at different times recently and because they’ve both played well on this course previously.

Instead, I?m having a speculative punt on BUBBA WATSON at three-figures. Still without a win, Bubba only ever enters my thoughts on courses where his huge, sometimes reckless, driving is an asset. In fairness though, Ridgewood wasn?t such a course and he did well to finish 12th there, his best finish since consecutive top-6s in June. Watson has already shown he can prosper at TPC Boston, finishing 12th on his course debut in 2006, and even if he doesn?t win he looks likely to accumulate more valuable Fedex Cup points.

Good Luck!

ADVISED BETS

DEUTSCHE BANK CHAMPIONSHIP

1.5pts ew PAUL CASEY @ 33/1 (GENERAL, 40/1 CENTREBET)

1.5pts ew ADAM SCOTT @ 35/1 (BET365, CENTREBET, PAGEBET)

1.5pts ew ROBERT ALLENBY @ 40/1 (GENERAL)

1.5pts ew CAMILO VILLEGAS @ 45/1 (BOYLESPORTS, CENTREBET, PADDY POWER)

1pt ew ANDRES ROMERO @ 66/1 (GENERAL)

0.5pts ew BUBBA WATSON @ 100/1 (GENERAL, 125/1 LADBROKES)