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FedEx Cup Sleepers Who Will Challenge Rory McIlroy at Tour Championship

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FedEx Cup Sleepers Who Will Challenge Rory McIlroy at Tour Championship
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Twenty-nine other golfers will do their best to keep Rory McIlroy from taking home two trophies again this week.

The TOUR Championship has arrived, the event for all the $10 million FedEx Cup marbles.

Rory McIlroy has won the past two events of the PGA Tour playoffs, but plenty of top-tier talents are primed to take down the prohibitive favorite at East Lake Golf Club.

It's hard for anyone to fly under the radar in an extremely strong field of just 30 golfers. There are plenty of obvious choices to challenge the Northern Irish prodigy, namely Tiger Woods, who will be paired with McIlroy for the first two days.

Some golfers who aren't as "big" of names, though, may be playing well just at the right time to give McIlroy a run for the ridiculous sum of money at stake.

Of course, they will need a lot of help from other top golfers to have a shot at winning, too. At PGATour.com, you can read all the scenarios for players to win the ultimate prize. The top five in the standings (McIlroy, Woods, Dustin Johnson, Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker) can win the Cup outright by winning the tournament.

As for the rest, well, that's what makes this week so exciting.

Here are some sleepers to keep an eye on as the FedEx Cup comes to a climactic conclusion on Sunday in Atlanta. The scenarios will be included, and each of these players must win the TOUR Championship in order to win the FedEx Cup.

 

Robert Garrigus

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One of the longest hitters on the planet, Garrigus played particularly well at the BMW Championship. However, an early double bogey and a bogey at the par-3 17th hole proved costly at Crooked Stick. He still finished T-4.

Putting is typically Garrigus' nemesis, but he did a brave, wonderful thing in abandoning the belly putter in favor of the conventional setup. It worked wonders, and let's hope Garrigus keeps it that way. He is one of the most likable, exciting, up-and-coming players and not using the long pole to putt doesn't hurt his chances of gaining more popularity.

Another element that wouldn't hurt his stock would be winning the FedEx Cup, of course. His celebration would be contagiously exuberant, and beating such a short list of amazing players would do wonders for Garrigus moving forward.

 

What Must Happen (in addition to winning the TOUR Championship):

• Rory McIlroy (No. 1) finishes in a three-way tie for 12th or worse
• Tiger Woods (No. 2) finishes fifth or worse
• Nick Watney (No. 3) finishes in a three-way tie for third or worse
Phil Mickelson (No. 4) finishes third or worse
• Brandt Snedeker (No. 5) finishes in a three-way tie for second or worse
• Louis Oosthuizen (No. 6) finishes T-2 or worse

Despite currently sitting at No. 20 of 30 in the FedEx Cup standings, Garrigus undoubtedly still has a chance. It would be a bit of a slouch for McIlroy given his recent form, but then again, this is a field of 30 of the best players in the world.

Maintaining his form on the greens will go a long way in determining whether Garrigius will simply contend or emerge victorious.

 

Jason Dufner

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Between Tiger Woods and his three wins and the recent dominant stretch by Rory McIlroy, it's easy to forget about Dufner. His on-course aura isn't nearly as magnetic, as the late-blooming American has one of the coolest temperaments in golf history.

Other than his World No. 1 and 2 counterparts, though, Dufner has played the best golf of anyone in 2012.

He used his failure to hold a lead at last year's PGA Championship as a learning experience, and Dufner notched his first two wins on Tour, and added a runner-up finish, eight Top 10s and 20 of 21 cuts made. Oh, he qualified for his first Ryder Cup team, too.

Not a bad year, especially because Dufner got married in the midst of his rapid ascent, and still played quality golf throughout the season.

The playoffs haven't been quite as kind. Dufner skipped The Barclays to start, then finished T-18 and T-28 in the next two events. Combine that with his constantly unassuming demeanor, and Dufner is the perfect sleeper pick at East Lake.

 

What Must Happen (in addition to winning the TOUR Championship):

• Rory McIlroy (No. 1) finishes fifth or worse
• Tiger Woods (No. 2) finishes in a three-way tie for third or worse
• Nick Watney (No. 3) finishes in a three-way tie for second or worse
• Phil Mickelson (No. 4) finishes T-2 or worse
• Brandt Snedeker (No. 5) finishes second* or worse

As you can see, the players atop the standings don't have to massively mess up for Dufner to have a legitimate shot. If he's on his game, Dufner is as good of a ball-striker as anyone. That alone should put him squarely in the mix come Sunday.

 

Justin Rose

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If you ever watch an interview, feature, or any sort of media ordeal involving Rose and don't instantly gravitate towards him, you must either be green with envy or a hater of supremely polite people.

Rose is one of the classiest acts on the PGA Tour and has managed to work his way into the Top 10 in the world after such a tough start to his professional career. This year was arguably his best. It included a victory at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and a tie for third at the PGA Championship, his best finish in a major.

A wonderful season could be capped off with a win in Atlanta and hopefully two trophies in hand. A lot needs to happen for Rose, though, as he is definitely the deepest sleeper of this trio.

 

What Must Happen (in addition to winning the TOUR Championship):

• Rory McIlroy (No. 1) finishes 17th* or worse
• Tiger Woods (No. 2) finishes in a three-way tie for fifth or worse
• Nick Watney (No. 3) finishes in a three-way tie for third or worse
• Phil Mickelson (No. 4) finishes T-3 or worse
• Brandt Snedeker (No. 5) finishes in a three-way tie for second or worse
• Louis Oosthuizen (No. 6) finishes T-2 or worse

In addition to being a seemingly great guy off the course, Rose leads the PGA Tour in greens in regulation percentage. Such a mediocre showing from McIlroy is hard to fathom, but crazier things have happened in the game of golf.

The missed cut at the Deutsche Bank Championship is a big reason why Rose enters the week in 24th position.

Otherwise, he has been one of the best players in 2012, and has proven as recently as March that he can beat a selective, world-class field. Don't be surprised if Rose finagles his way into the winner's circle, or if he somehow wins the entire FedEx Cup.

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