Following a week off to recuperate from the rigours of the first three play-offs, the remaining 30 participants in the FedExCup race head to East Lake for this lucrative finale. The points earned so far have been reset to ensure all 30 retain a mathematical chance of winning the series and claiming the $10 million bonus prize, though obviously the further up the list, the better the chance of winning. The top five; Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, Steve Stricker, Charley Hoffman and Paul Casey; have their fate in their own hands, and would automatically win the FedExCup were they to win this event. A full explanation of the points reset, and what each player has to do in order to win, can be found at pgatour.com/2010/fedexcup/09/12/reset_explainer/index.html
Recent Tour Championship leaderboards have been very strong, as one might expect given the status of the event. Phil Mickelson held off Tiger Woods last year in a thrilling finish to the FedExCup race, while the previous three had gone to leading in-form candidates Camilo Villegas, Tiger and Adam Scott. Very few outsiders have even got in a blow here since Bart Bryant’s shock win in 2005.
Course and stats
No one stat has been particularly more important than the rest in recent East Lake renewals, but there are still some conclusions to be drawn. Driving accuracy is more important than usual, as is scrambling. Ultimately, this classic par 70 is a second-shot course, as a controlled approach is required to hold the greens or better still, set up birdie position on tricky, sloping surfaces. In that respect, driving distance can prove an advantage by enabling a shorter iron into the green, but only if finding the fairway.
7pts win PHIL MICKELSON @ 7/1 (GENERAL)
It is a very rare moment when I am prepared to back Phil Mickelson, but compared to his usual odds, 7/1 against these 29 opponents represents fair value. In seven tries at East Lake, he’s won twice and registered four top fives. This is one of those courses where his peerless approach play and scrambling are always likely to be rewarded. Of course this hasn’t been his most successful year, but he still has a plausible chance of winning the FedExCup, and found some form last time out with a top ten at Cog Hill. With the Ryder Cup next week, Mickelson could be timing his run to perfection.
3pts ew ADAM SCOTT @ 16/1 (GENERAL)
Scott’s victory here in 2006 was one of the best performances of his career, and his form throughout the FedExCup suggests he’s not far off reaching that level again, making the top 15 in all three play-off events. Given that many of the 30 players here have no experience of this course, or have never looked like challenging on previous visits, Adam’s combination of recent and course form elevates him to a select group of obvious candidates.
Placed 15th at Cog Hill was Nick’s best effort since that final-round disaster at the USPGA. That must be overlooked as Watney is hardly the first young player to fluff his lines when presented with his first Major-winning opportunity, and he remains one of the best prospects in the US. He also has the right combination of very long and generally straight driving to thrive at East Lake, and 13th last year was a respectable debut.
0.5pt ew MARTIN LAIRD @ 100/1 (GENERAL)
Laird may be the rank outsider, but the Scotsman is not a completely forlorn hope to round off an amazing PGA Tour campaign for Europeans. His record at this time of year is notably impressive, and may be explained by his high ball-flight. As the summer greens dry out, few are better at holding them than Laird. That meant he very nearly won the Barclays, broadly proving his temperament under pressure in the process, before hitting three good rounds out of four to make another top 25 at Boston.