We’re down to 100 runners in the race for the Fedex Cup, and as last week’s topsy-turvy leaderboard illustrated, anyone left can genuinely retain hopes of winning that $10M first prize. For a number of reasons, however, I’m not so sure the second play-off event is anywhere near as wide-open as The Barclays.
Firstly, while 100 may be left in, I wonder how many of those would be teeing it up in Boston if this event wasn’t so important. There are bound to be players carrying niggling injuries, struggling for form or just not particularly confident about this layout. But when the prize money is so huge, and influential towards rankings and other playing privileges, they would be mad to miss out on such an opportunity.
Then there’s previous results at TPC Boston. Last year produced a bunch finish, but most previous renewals at TPC Boston strongly suggest that class tends to prevail here. 2005 champion Olin Browne, who won in a particularly weak year, rather stands out as inferior to the other previous champions – Woods, Singh (twice), Mickelson, Stricker and Scott. Of the 14 players to have bettered 270 here, half were major winners.
COURSE AND KEY STATS
In the early days of this tournament, which started in 2003, driving distance tended to offer an advantage, though more recently putting average, scrambling and par-five performance have been more important. Much will depend on the conditions. If rain arrives, the long-hitters could again thrive, especially as the rough here is not too penal. It may also take the sting out of greens currently reading 11.5 on the stimp-meter. Perhaps more importantly, wind is expected to be a significant factor throughout.
6pts win TIGER WOODS @ 8/1 (GENERAL, 9/1 TOTESPORT)
Unthinkable as a bet on Woods may have been a fortnight ago, he looked a completely different player at Ridgewood. I cannot remember the last time he topped the driving accuracy stats, and sixth for greens in regulation was also a marked improvement. Take away that bizarre triple-bogey on Saturday’s opening hole, that effectively ended his challenge, and Tiger would have finished third. The fact he could throw in nine poor holes during his second round showed he is still below his best, but it certainly seems that the more competitive golf he plays, the closer he comes to the man who has dominated this sport over the past decade. His Boston record is excellent, winning in 2006 and thrice making the top-three.
4pts win STEVE STRICKER @ 12/1 (GENERAL)
As with Woods, that tendency for the best players to dominate here bodes well for Stricker. Indeed, only Woods’ reputation is keeping Stricker out of the favourite’s slot, as his weekend golf was outstanding. He is defending champion, and has finished no worse than 13th in the last four years. Another big run looks pretty much guaranteed.
1pt ew JASON DAY @ 50/1 (SKYBET, BETFRED, CORALS)
Good recent form could be particularly important during this Fedex Cup series, with all events played in fairly similar conditions and other players out on their feet or just struggling. Day is flying right now, and beginning to show just why he carried such a big reputation into his professional career. Since winning his maiden title at Las Colinas, the 22 year-old Aussie has made all eight cuts, registering four top-15s, including consecutive top-tens in his last couple at the USPGA and Barclays.
1pt ew JUSTIN ROSE @ 60/1 (TOTE, BLUESQ)
Both Justin and Paul Casey have plenty of incentive to show their best this week, after being left out of the European Ryder Cup team. Few pundits picked Rose, but I would have been highly tempted after he played so well alongside Ian Poulter last time. Twice a recent winner, Rose is a big candidate for the Fedex Cup, and Sunday’s 15th showed he remains in good form. He’s twice made the top-four at TPC Boston previously.
1pt ew RICKIE FOWLER @ 80/1 (GENERAL)
This layout tends to produce a world-class champion, and while Fowler may lack the trophy cabinets of those former winners, I’m sure he’ll catch up eventually. He hasn’t done much since a magnificent debut in the Open Championship, when playing as well as anyone over the last three days, but was on the fringes of contention going into Sunday at The Barclays. That performance at St Andrews shows he can handle the expected windy conditions.
Phil is a former Deutsche Bank champion, but struggled on both visits since. Last week’s missed cut was extremely disappointing on what appeared a very suitable layout, and while he can never be written off, its hard to make a convincing case.
Initially I expected to be backing Johnson here, but odds below 20/1 are just too short for me. He was fourth last year and is evidently well suited to the layout. There must be a question mark over Dustin’s temperament following his US Open and USPGA disasters and another disappointing final day performance at Ridgewood.
Just as Day and Fowler are picked as players likely to reach the heights of those classy former winners, there is an obvious case to be made for McIlroy. Nevertheless, I can only re-iterate that the bookies are giving nothing away about a player with only two professional victories to his name, especially on his course debut.
Nobody has been more consistent this year than Kuchar, so Sunday’s title was richly deserved, especially after such a magnificent weekend performance. He now looks the man to beat in the Fedex Cup, and having finished 15th last year, looks likely to enjoy another good week.
Furyk’s Fedex Cup hopes took quite a hit when he was disqualified in bizarre circumstances from the Barclays for missing the pro-am. Luckily, he’s still in a competitive eighth spot on the points list, and must have high hopes having finished top-eight here in the last two renewals.