The 2013 Deutsche Bank Championship gets off to its annual unconventional Friday start for Labor Day weekend, serving as the the second leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs in Norton, Mass.
TPC Boston is once again the venue for the tournament, where world No. 4 Rory McIlroy is the defending champion.
McIlroy, though, has struggled. He's gone winless this season and hasn't been ranked this low in almost two years.
Adam Scott, last week's winner at The Barclays, ascended to a career-best ranking of second in the world—the same position he holds in the point standings behind Tiger Woods. That duo will play with Phil Mickelson for the first two rounds, forming a trio that should be extremely captivating to watch.
Woods is battling back spasms, and Mickelson is back on track after struggling a bit since winning the British Open. The 43-year-old veteran Mickelson fired a final-round 65 to shoot up the leaderboard last week and into a tie for sixth.
Those are essentially the storylines behind golf's biggest names, but several other stars will be grouped together due to the FedEx Cup standings.
To get ready for what will ultimately serve as the halfway point in the PGA Tour's postseason, here is a look at when the action starts and a closer analysis of the marquee groups for the first 36 holes.
Statistics, video and tournament information are courtesy of PGATour.com.
When: Friday, Aug. 30, to Monday, Sept. 2
Where: TPC Boston in Norton, Mass.
Tee Times: First group is off at 7:40 a.m. ET. For a complete list of tee times for the first two rounds, visit PGATour.com.
Purse: $8 million
FedEx Cup Points: 2,500
TV Schedule (h/t PGA.com)
Friday: Golf Channel 3-6 p.m. ET
Saturday: Golf Channel 3-6 p.m. ET
Sunday: Golf Channel 1-3 p.m. ET, NBC 3-6 p.m. ET
Monday: Golf Channel 1-3 p.m. ET, NBC 3-6 p.m. ET
Groups to Watch
No. 13: Graham DeLaet, Bill Haas and Jordan Spieth
What has to trouble the rest of the tour about the 20-year-old Spieth is that he has such a complete game at such a young age. And he still has room to improve.
Ball-striking is definitely Spieth's strong suit, but he is second only to Woods in all-around ranking. That's elite company. It's also rather shocking because until Spieth won his first tour event at the John Deere Classic, he wasn't even eligible for the playoffs.
Spieth is extremely aggressive and should thrive at TPC Boston since it tends to yield a lot of birdies.
The same goes for DeLaet, who matched Mickelson with the best final round at The Barclays en route to finishing just a shot behind Scott. DeLaet is first in total driving and third in greens in regulation for the season, so he's going to be a force at a venue like this.
There is also still a chance for DeLaet to be the first to lead the tour in total driving and GIR percentage since 2000, when Woods was in his heyday:
While DeLaet and Spieth are a bit less proven, there is no doubting Haas' pedigree. The 2011 FedEx Cup champion is in the hunt for the hardware for the second time in three years, and his enviable steadiness in 2013 has him boasting a tour-best nine top-10 finishes.
No. 14: Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson
The aforementioned ailing back caused Woods to collapse during the final round of The Barclays after he hit his second shot on the par-five 13th.
That shot found the water, led to bogey and helped diminish Woods' chances of getting into a playoff with Scott, which Woods missed out on by one stroke.
It took a lot of players falling back for Scott to pick up his second win of the year, adding to his Masters triumph. Not to take away from how well Scott played overall, but the Aussie really has to putt better to continue being a consistent competitor in big events.
Robert Lusetich of FoxSports.com highlighted the struggles Scott had on the green, even in victory:
In 2003, the Deutsche Bank Championship was the site of Scott's first win on the PGA Tour.
Watching Mickelson is always a treat, as it's difficult to tell what he will do. In the first year of the FedEx Cup, Lefty won this event. He tied for 10th in 2011 and tied for fourth in 2012.
No. 22: Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose and Brandt Snedeker
Red flags are up for Kuchar. A disastrous round of seven-over 78 to close out The Barclays put a damper on an otherwise impressive week after he had shared the 54-hole lead with Gary Woodland.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that the blowup down the stretch was an aberration, though, considering Kuchar's trademark consistency. He's still very much a factor at fourth in the FedEx Cup standings.
Rose is the reigning U.S. Open champion and hadn't put together a complete tournament since then until last week's effort, where he tied for second after missing a short par putt on the final green that would have gotten him into a playoff.
As for Snedeker, the defending FedEx Cup winner, he shares the same label as Kuchar—namely, being one of the better players on the planet not to have won a major. That title should be shed eventually, though it's key for him to snap out of the funk he's been in over the past month.
The Deutsche Bank Championship is a great place to do it. Since 2010, Snedeker hasn't finished outside the top six at this tournament. That should bode well for him in a bounce-back performance that would shake off his mini-slump since winning the RBC Canadian Open.
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