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TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP

After a couple of weeks break, the Fedex Cup reaches its conclusion at the usual Tour Championship venue of East Lake. We’re not quite going to see the drama hoped for by the sponsors though, as Vijay Singh merely needs to play all four rounds in last place to be ensured of the $10M first prize.

Consequently, the event is a bit of a damp squib. In the pre-Fedex days, the Tour Championship was an important event but not just because of the huge prize money. Limited to the top-30 money earners, it was always more or less a contest between the best 30 players.

However because of the Fedex Cup scoring system, numerous big-names have missed the final cut and we’re left with a field that doesn’t even vaguely reflect the PGA Tour’s top-30. Instead of Harrington, Scott, Goosen and Ogilvy, we’ve got Dudley Hart, Ryuji Imada, Briny Baird and Billy Mayfair.

At least there are ten of America’s new Ryder Cup heroes in attendance, along with Sergio Garcia from the European side. Its never easy predicting how players will respond just a few days after such an emotionally draining experience, and nobody will have had the perfect preparation. The Americans certainly deserved to celebrate for a couple of days.

Inevitably, there will be a much greater media focus than usual on them, particularly star debutants Antony Kim and Hunter Mahan. If either player can carry their outstanding form over to East Lake, they would go very, very close. However, because of their relative inexperience and these extra media commitments, I’m looking elsewhere.

These circumstances call for experience, and after his best ever Ryder Cup, JIM FURYK looks just the ticket for East Lake. Furyk was quite outstanding over the weekend, and for the first time in ages had the putter working. When he putts well, ultra-reliable, ultra-accurate Furyk is virtually impossible to keep out of the frame. Having finished 2nd and 3rd in previous much stronger runnings of this event, he must go very close.

Normally, I’d run a mile from 6/1 chances that aren’t named Tiger Woods, but given the lack of serious opposition, its actually a fair price about Vijay. His East Lake record is outstanding, never finishing worse than 9th and winning the event in 2002. Fresh from a couple of weeks off, Singh looks set for a strong run at his fourth win since the start of August.

Many of the other Americans have struggled on this course before. Stewart Cink, Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry have never made a top-10 here in numerous attempts. Ben Curtis and Steve Stricker struggled last year and showed little over the weekend to justify support now. Nor have overseas stars such as Robert Allenby and KJ Choi ever threatened at East Lake.

Phil Mickelson has won at East Lake, but three of his five efforts here were poor. In any case, Lefty was the least impressive American on Saturday and Sunday, and probably can’t wait for his holidays. Equally, Sergio Garcia cannot be backed after his Valhalla performance. All of this could present a great chance for emerging star Camilo Villegas to add to his latest breakthrough win with back-to-back titles, but 14/1 looks plenty short enough for what would be a rare and impressive feat.

East Lake has never really favoured big-hitters, so my other two selections are short and straight, very steady types. MIKE WEIR finished 4th on his last visit in 2004, and has rediscovered his touch in this late-summer period. The Canadian could easily have won either of the first two play-off events, and has made four top-10s since the start of June. He won on the PGA Tour for us around this time last year, and could very well repeat the trick.

Supporters of TIM CLARK have been driven to distraction in recent times following his vain pursuit of a first PGA Tour title. His repeated failures on the final day in the States are hard to dismiss purely as a lack of bottle, because he’s looked rock-solid in that department when winning on the European and South African tours. Though my patience is wearing thin, I will persist with him because I’m convinced he’s too good for that run to continue. His ultra-accurate game is well suited to East Lake, and top-15s in the two latest play-off events reads very well in this small, limited field.

Good Luck!

ADVISED BETS

TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP

8pts win VIJAY SINGH @ 6/1 (GENERALLY AVAILABLE)

4pts win JIM FURYK @ 12/1 (LADBROKES, BETFRED)

2.5pts ew MIKE WEIR @ 22/1 (GENERAL, 25/1 STAN JAMES, BETDIRECT)

1.5pts ew TIM CLARK @ 33/1 (GENERAL)