Punch Shot: Most pressure to make Tour Champ.?

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One event remains before the 2013 season-ending Tour Championship. Seventy players in this week's BMW Championship will try and finish among the top 30 in the FedEx Cup points standings to earn a trip to East Lake, which offers much more than some free money. GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with who is under the most pressure to make it to the season finale. (Click here for full FedEx Cup playoff standings)


By WILL GRAY

Charles Howell III. Few players have as strong a bond with the Masters as does Howell, a native of Augusta, Ga. After a torrid start to the 2013 season that included a playoff loss at the Humana Challenge, the 34-year-old came agonizingly close to qualifying for the season’s first major via the world rankings system. Since that push, though, Howell has struggled to maintain his form, and as a result enters the BMW Championship ranked 91st in the world.

This week in Chicago, though, Howell is presented with another avenue through which he can earn a trip down Magnolia Lane. Currently 31st in FedEx Cup points, he would receive an invite to each of the first three majors next year should he crack the top 30 and earn a place at next week’s Tour Championship. Otherwise faced with winning an event or making another uphill climb through the rankings to get inside the top 50, a strong week at Conway Farms is likely Howell’s best opportunity to earn just his second Masters invitation since 2009.


By REX HOGGARD

Now comes the hard part.

Exhausted following a pressure-packed final round last Monday at the Deutsche Bank Championship Brendon de Jonge had nothing left.

“There’s nothing more I can do,” he said of his Presidents Cup chances.

De Jonge finished tied for ninth at TPC Boston, enough to land one of International captain Nick Price’s two wildcard picks. But following four consecutive weeks on the road, he’s under the gun to make one final push to secure his first trip to the Tour Championship.

De Jonge is 26th on the FedEx Cup points list, just 131 points ahead of No. 31 Charles Howell III. If he’s going to punch his maiden ticket to East Lake, and with it his first trip down Magnolia Lane, he will need another solid week at the BMW Championship.

But after pouring his heart and soul into making Price’s team, summoning the energy for another clutch week may prove to be harder than wrapping up his spot in October at Muirfield Village.

Following his most consistent season as a professional – he has 11 top-25 finishes and missed just five cuts in 28 events – anything short of a Tour Championship start would be a disappointment.

Impressing Price was rewarding, but now comes the hard part for de Jonge.


By JASON SOBEL

The player with the most pressure to reach the Tour Championship is Roberto Castro.

Common sentiment may claim the answer is Rory McIlroy or Luke Donald or Ernie Els – each outside the top 30 entering this week’s BMW Championship – but let’s face it: If those guys don’t reach the field at East Lake, they can simply fly home in a private jet and curl up on a big pile of money for the week. None of them will lose anything – riches, fame, future tournament qualifications – by failing to get there.

The same can’t be said for Castro.

A graduate of Georgia Tech who still lives in Atlanta, qualifying for the Tour Championship would signify a home game. And more importantly, it would lead to another semi-home game next April, as inclusion in the Tour Championship field comes with the unique perk of a Masters invitation, along with spots in both the U.S. Open and Open Championship. That alone would outnumber his current career total of two major championship appearances.

Castro enters this week’s event at 25th on the current FedEx Cup list, meaning he owns an inside track on getting to the finale, but he’s hardly a lock. Unlike more prolific players who aren’t competing with as much on the line, he has plenty of pressure on his shoulders to advance to the next event.