Picking a FedEx Cup Playoff winner and a long shot

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 21, 2013, 1:30 pm

The FedEx Cup Playoffs begin this week at The Barclays. Considering past playoffs haven't always gone according to script, GolfChannel.com writers pick their FedEx Cup champion plus a long shot who could take home the $10 million bonus.


Winner: Tiger Woods

The 2013 FedEx Cup is Tiger's to win or lose, and not just because of his 766-point lead heading into the post-season opener this week in New Jersey.

With five wins and top-10 finishes in more than half his starts this season (seven), the world No. 1 is the most dominant player in golf regardless of his record the last five years in major championships.

And while that massive lead in points will be mitigated by the PGA Tour’s built-in reset before the Tour Championship, Woods’ playoff history is almost as dominant as his regular-season play.

He finished second at The Barclays the last time it was played at Liberty National, hasn’t finished outside the top 11 at TPC Boston since 2006, has made a career winning events in Chicago (site of the BMW Championship), and in his last five starts at the Tour Championship has finished second, second, first, second and tied for eighth.

Long shot: Hunter Mahan

As for the longshot – remember Brandt Snedeker won the cup and a cool $10 million after beginning last year’s post-season 19th on the points list – Mahan (at No. 21 on the points list) is the most likely candidate.

Mahan has advanced to East Lake every year since the playoffs started in 2007 and finished runner-up there in 2011. 


Winner: Zach Johnson

This one doesn’t seem to make sense for a few different reasons. First, Johnson ranks only 18th on the points list entering the playoffs. And second, he’s skipping the first one to serve as best man at his brother’s wedding this weekend.


If we’ve learned anything about the system in recent years, it’s that a player doesn’t need to be ranked very high coming into the playoffs to still find success. As for missing the first one, that could light a bit of a fire under him, sort of like a player who bogeys the first few holes out of the gate and spends the remainder of the day playing aggressively. Hey, it worked for Jim Furyk a few years back.

Despite some great play as of late, Johnson still doesn’t have any hardware to show for it. But with some good courses coming up for him – including East Lake, where he once shot 60 – he may not only claim some hardware, but a few big-time paychecks, too.

Long shot: Luke Donald

You say Donald isn’t a great pick because he’s struggled at times this year. I say he is a great pick, because he’s too good to struggle for too long.

At 55th on the points list, behind the likes of David Lingmerth, Chris Stroud and David Hearn, the former world No. 1 hasn’t had a stellar season. Of course, that should speak more to his abilities than his results, because four top-10s in just 13 starts doesn’t exactly qualify as failure.

Donald also has a little ace up his sleeve. The third playoff event will be held at Conway Farms, which serves as his home course. Most other players in the BMW Championship field know little about the venue, if anything at all. That inside knowledge could prove valuable for Donald, who could parlay a big week at home into a big week at East Lake, where he’s finished in the top three each of the past three years.


Winner: Webb Simpson

It’s too easy to go with Tiger here, so we’ll go down the list and take Simpson, who is 17th in points and fits the mold of the last three good-but-not-great FedEx Cup winners. More than that, though, he enters the playoffs in good form, with three consecutive top-25 finishes. The last time The Barclays was held at Liberty National, in 2009, he led midway through the tournament before finishing solo eighth. Looking ahead, his last two starts at TPC Boston are promising (T-18 and win), most players are getting their first crack at Conway Farms, and Simpson was T-5 a year ago at East Lake, host of the Tour Championship. Remember, all it takes is one well-timed victory to win the FedEx Cup.

Long shot: Rory McIlroy

At No. 49 in the standings, Rory has work to do just to make it to East Lake for the Tour Championship. His T-8 at Oak Hill was his most encouraging performance since his runner-up in San Antonio in April. His stats this season are better than his position indicates – 22nd in adjusted scoring, T-23 in all-around – and he’ll have good vibes at both the Deutsche Bank, where he won last year, and the Tour Championship, where he shot three rounds in the 60s. Sure, there may have been swings-and-misses in the majors this season, but there’s still time to salvage his year.


Winner: Phil Mickelson

Mickelson has yet to win the FedEx Cup, but if he is ever going to do so, this is set up as the year.Yes, picking Lefty to consistently contend in four consecutive events is asking much, because he can run so hot and cold. But with all the tools that have come together for him this year, here’s betting that he runs hot through this FedEx Cup’s post season, to finally win the playoffs in his seventh try. He’s fourth in the FedEx Cup standings. Yes, he didn’t follow up his back-to-back victories at the Scottish Open and British Open with much last month, but the thinking here is that he’s rested up to make this the best year of his career with a major and a FedEx Cup title giving him his first PGA Tour Player of the Year award.

Long shot: Jonas Blixt

He is way down at No. 29 in the FedEx Cup standings, but the guy has won twice in the last year and is coming off a fourth-place finish at the PGA Championship.


Winner: Henrik Stenson 

As Rory McIlroy proved last year, the season’s best player does not necessarily win the FedEx Cup. So while he hasn’t lifted a trophy yet this year, Stenson has played some of the best golf this summer of anyone on the planet and is certainly capable of stealing the show in Atlanta. He enters the playoffs ranked ninth in points, on the heels of four consecutive top-three finishes worldwide and boasting a tee-to-green proficiency that is almost unrivaled this year. Just check the stat sheet – the Swede ranks second on Tour in GIR percentage this season, third in total driving and sixth in fairways hit. Stenson is in the midst of a meteoric return through the world rankings, a rise that will be further buoyed by a FedEx Cup title at season’s end.

Longshot: Lee Westwood

Westwood begins this week in 35th place in the FedEx Cup standings, a position determined more by his lack of starts than by poor play as the Englishman has made just six PGA Tour appearances since The Players Championship. A year ago, Westwood began his first career playoff run in 51st place and made it all the way to East Lake, finishing 10th in the final standings thanks to top-15 finishes in each of the first three events. With top-10 finishes this year at TPC Sawgrass and Augusta National to go along with his near-miss at the Open Championship, Westwood can still compete at a high level against the game’s best, a trend that should continue across the next four events.

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Woods talks about Ryder Cup prospects in third person

By Ryan LavnerAugust 21, 2018, 1:47 pm

Conversations between Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods have gotten a little awkward.

That’s what happens when Woods, the U.S. Ryder Cup vice captain, needs to assess the prospects of Woods, the player.

“We’re talking about myself in the third person a lot,” he said with a chuckle Tuesday at the Northern Trust Open. “That’s one of the most interesting conversations I’ve ever had and I’m having a lot of fun with it.

“I’m one of the guys on the short list, and sometimes I have to pull myself out of there and talk about myself in the third person, which is a little odd.”

The Northern Trust: Articles, photos and videos

After placing second at the PGA Championship, Woods finished 11th on the U.S. points list with just eight months of tournament results. Three of Furyk’s four captain’s picks will be announced after the BMW Championship in three weeks, and barring a late injury, it’s almost a certainty that Woods will be one of those selected.

Still, Woods was named in February as an assistant for his third consecutive team competition, even though he told Furyk at the beginning of the year that he envisioned himself as a player on the 2018 squad.

“I’m very close to making that happen,” he said. “It’s been a long year, and that’s been one of my goals, to make the team. To be a part of that team you have to be one of the 12 best players, and I’m trending toward that.”

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Woods on busy schedule: 'It's about pacing myself'

By Ryan LavnerAugust 21, 2018, 1:34 pm

At the beginning of the year, Tiger Woods was anxious to see how his fused back would hold up to tournament play.

Now he’s in the midst of one of his busiest stretches in years.

With the Tour Championship and Ryder Cup likely to be added to his schedule over the next few weeks, Woods could play seven events in a nine-week span.

The Northern Trust: Articles, photos and videos

“That is a lot of golf,” he said Tuesday at The Northern Trust. “It’s about pacing myself and making sure I don’t practice too much, don’t overdo it and make sure my training schedule goes well.

“One of the hardest things this year has been finding the right balance. As the summer has gone on, I’ve gotten better and felt better. This is a pretty important stretch.”

Woods has already played 14 events – his most since 2013, when he had 16 starts.

He’s committed to playing the first three playoff events, beginning with this week’s event in New Jersey. There’s a week off after the BMW Championship, and at No. 20 in the FedExCup standings, Woods doesn’t need to do much to punch his ticket to East Lake. He’s also virtually assured of being a U.S. captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup, held in France the week after the Tour Championship.

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Tiger Tracker: The Northern Trust

By Tiger TrackerAugust 21, 2018, 1:00 pm

Tiger Woods begins his FedExCup Playoffs run at this week's Northern Trust. We're tracking him at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J.

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Stock Watch: Will Bjorn buy or sell slumping Sergio?

By Ryan LavnerAugust 21, 2018, 12:07 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.


Sneds (+9%): It doesn’t always happen, a Tour player shooting 59 and then finishing it off with a W, so it was satisfying to watch Brandt Snedeker go wire to wire at the Wyndham. An in-form Sneds now should edge out Kevin Kisner for one of Jim Furyk’s final captain picks.

Viktor Hovland (+6%): Watching the Oklahoma State junior maul the field at the U.S. Amateur, a question arose: How does the fifth-ranked player in the world not win more often? The U.S. Am was just his second title, anywhere, outside of Norway. That could all change, after he proved to himself that he could handle the best field and the stiffest challenge.

Lexi (+4%): She once again was penalized – for playing preferred lies in a different fairway – but Thompson still shot 17 under and tied for 12th in her first start since a self-imposed break to recharge her batteries. In the media tent she was refreshingly honest about the difficulties of being a 23-year-old superstar who never went to college and whose life is consumed by golf. Here’s hoping she can find a better balance (like, say, Michelle Wie) over the next few years.

Tyler McCumber (+3%): The world rankings don’t reflect it, but McCumber is playing the best golf of anyone in the world right now. In his past four starts on the Canadian circuit, he’s gone win-win-3rd-win and shot 90 under par with a scoring average of 65.88 and just two rounds higher than 68.

Nick Taylor (+1%): Playing for his Tour card, Taylor shot a bogey-free 63 Sunday at the Wyndham – with an eagle and birdie in his last four holes – to jump from 129th to 119th in the standings. That’s clutch.


Billy Hurley III (-1%): A winner two years ago at Tiger’s event, Hurley is now headed back to second stage of Web.com Q-School after finishing 201st in the standings – by a point. A tough break for one of the game’s good dudes.

Kevin Stadler (-2%): He reminded us of the dangers of slamming clubs, after the head of his 7-iron flew off and struck a spectator in the head, requiring stitches. It was a scary scene – “It’s been a while since I’ve seen so much blood,” said playing partner Shaun Micheel – that could have been even worse.

Sepp Straka (-3%): There were plenty of stories of heartbreak at the Web.com Tour regular-season finale, perhaps none as crushing as Straka, who went 5 over for his last seven holes (including three consecutive bogeys to finish) to drop outside of the top-25 bubble.

Sergio (-4%): At last, some signs of life – his tie for 24th in Greensboro was his best finish on Tour since March – but he still didn’t make the playoffs, and it still might not be enough to sway Thomas Bjorn. For the captain it may come down to a question like this: Who would you rather have in Paris, Sergio or Russell Knox?