This week marks the 44th event of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season, as the Tour continues the playoffs with the BMW Championship. A field of 69 players will tee it up this week at Cherry Hills Country Club, which is hosting the event for the first time.
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Zach Johnson returns to defend the title he won a year ago over Nick Watney at Conway Farms. Here are 10 names to watch this week in Denver:
1. Rory McIlroy: The Ulsterman's (relative) struggle at Ridgewood was clearly the exception, not the rule. McIlroy got back on track last week at TPC Boston, and while he failed to win for the fourth time in five events, he had extended stretches of play that showed why he won three events in a row earlier this summer. With the top spot in the standings in his sights, McIlroy should thrive amid the thin air and extended yardages of Cherry Hills.
2. Jason Day: Day has shown himself to be great at playing his way into position through 54 holes this postseason, but not-so-great at closing the deal. Still, the Aussie now has three top-15 finishes in a row, including a T-7 result last week in Boston, and appears to have put his injury-plagued summer behind him.
3. Justin Rose: After a week off, Rose returns to action in Colorado refreshed and largely in form dating back to June. His tee-to-green skills will prove a huge asset this week in the altitude, as he sits fourth in the Tour's new strokes gained tee-to-green stat and should be able to put up another high finish with even a decent week around the greens.
4. Jim Furyk: The highest-ranked player in the FedEx Cup standings without a win this season, Furyk is still looking to break out of a winless drought that extends to 2010. It was at this event - albeit a different venue - that Furyk carded his 59 a year ago, only to come up short in the final round. He heads to Denver on the heels of eight straight top-25 finishes, dating back to the Memorial.
5. Sergio Garcia: Like Rose, Garcia skipped the Deutsche Bank Championship last week and should be well-rested for the third leg of the playoffs. While he has cooled somewhat since his run of three straight runner-up finishes in June and July, he still ranks second on Tour in scoring average and strokes gained tee-to-green. At No. 23 in the standings, the Spaniard needs a solid week to protect his spot at East Lake and should be able to advance easily.
6. Adam Scott: The former world No. 1 was nowhere to be seen last week after an opening 73 in Boston, but he still managed a T-16 finish in what has become a theme of the second half of his season: solid results, without much time truly in contention. Still, he tops the Tour's all-around ranking, sits third in both scoring average and birdie average and ranks 10th in total driving - a pretty solid combination.
7. Rickie Fowler: Fowler's career year continues, as his T-23 finish at TPC Boston was solid but still his worst result since the Memorial. While his season-long stat line isn't as impressive as many of the names on this list, he has shown time and again an ability to step up and perform against elite fields, and chances are he will deliver once again at Cherry Hills.
8. Chris Kirk: Along with Bill Haas, the most notable Ryder Cup snub Tuesday in the wake of his Deutsche Bank win. Kirk now tops the FedEx Cup standings and played his final 37 holes without a bogey at TPC Boston. Riding some serious momentum, he'd probably love nothing more than to lift the season-long trophy next week at East Lake and make Tom Watson wish he had a do-over.
9. Jordan Spieth: Spieth is one of two players in the field who saw Cherry Hills during the 2012 U.S. Amateur (Hideki Matsuyama is the other), and Spieth carded rounds of 69-69 before getting bounced in match play. He showed flashes of a return to his former self last week, especially during an opening-roun 67, and has at least a bit of experience on a course that many are seeing this week for the first time.
10. Henrik Stenson: Don't count out the defending FedEx Cup champ just yet. Stenson quietly closed with a final-round 65 at TPC Boston, creating a bit of momentum for this week's start. He'll likely need a top-four finish to move on to East Lake and defend his season-long title, but Stenson is a bomber off the tee and remains accurate with his shorter clubs, a combination that should prove handy at Cherry Hills.