And then there were 30.
Although the golf season never really stops—seriously, the 2014 season starts in October—the 2013 PGA Tour season will officially conclude on Sunday. The 30 best and brightest players of this PGA campaign have descended upon East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta for this week's Tour Championship, where we'll see a $10 million crown placed atop the FedEx Cup champion's head.
Started in 2007 to give the PGA its own "playoff" system, the FedEx Cup has served its purpose in creating intrigue in the once-mundane end to the season. The initial three tournaments act as a paring-down process that leaves us with 30 golfers before the Tour Championship—the PGA's attempt at creating a Super Bowl-like atmosphere.
Coming into Thursday's opening tee, each of the golfers remaining has a mathematical shot at coming away with the $10 million prize. Some of those ways are so convoluted you'd think M. Night Shyamalan wrote the formula, but every last golfer in the field has hope.
Well, except for you, Dustin Johnson. There's no way Tiger Woods is finishing 29th or worse.
For everyone else? The shot at glory still remains.
Last season saw Brandt Snedeker parlay his Tour Championship victory into a pilfering of the FedEx Cup points lead from Rory McIlroy. Snedeker joined Bill Haas and Jim Furyk, marking three years running that a golfer has pulled off a win in the final week to shock the world.
Will someone pull off a similar feat in Atlanta this week? It's very possible.
Until then, let's check in with the complete updated standing and break down the favorites for this week's Tour Championship.
Tiger Woods (5-1)
I hope you're sitting down for this: Tiger Woods is the favorite coming into a golf tournament. For roughly the umpteenth billionth time, the world's top-ranked golfer comes in with the halo of pressure hanging over his head.
And, again, you might be better off staying away than taking the 5-1 odds.
The last time Tiger won this event was in 2007, when he blasted the tournament record with a score of 23 under. While it seems like just yesterday that Woods was destroying golf courses across the world, winning major championships and hoisting trophies, the reality is that hasn't been the case.
We've all heard ad nauseam about Woods' five-year major drought. Well, it's been nearly as long since Eldrick won a FedEx Cup.
The $10 million champion in two of the first three playoff events, Woods is looking at four years without a massive influx of cash to his bank account. (Something tells me he's doing okay.) Now there are some extenuating circumstances—both professional and personal—that go into Woods' lack of FedEx Cup success. But he was in a similar position last season coming into the playoff system and watched as the field went zooming by.
This season, Woods' performance has been all over the place in FedEx Cup events. He finished tied for second at the Barclays, played miserably en route to placing 65th at the Deutsche Bank, and was in a position to win this past week at the BMW before struggling in the final round.
I'm not prone to hyperbole nor a believer in past results preordaining future performances, but Woods' final-round inefficiencies have been jarring. While he was always a better front-runner than come-from-behind golfer, Tiger is averaging a score of 71.43 in Round 4s this season. That's nearly three strokes worse than his pre-cut average and ranks 118th on tour.
Essentially, Tiger goes from the world's best golfer to D.J. Trahan on average. Go ahead, I'll give you time to Wikipedia D.J. Trahan.
Tiger obviously clinches the FedEx Cup with a win and is in a pretty good position if he finishes anywhere inside the top five. At this point, as strange as it is to say, Woods is going to have to prove it before justifying the Vegas curve he gets.
Adam Scott (12-1)
It's always been a bit difficult to figure out Adam Scott. The sweet stroke off the tee and with the irons along with the belly putter have made him one of the most consistent forces on tour. He finished inside the top five in three of the four major championships this season and was in contention at the U.S. Open before falling apart.
But for all the contention and being in the hunt, Scott has just two wins this season: The Masters and Barclays tournaments.
In fact, at age 33, Scott only has 10 PGA Tour wins. Without looking, it's likely that the average fan would have doubled that when asked about his career total.
Always the best man, never the groom? Okay, you're right. I'll table that.
But it's hard to feel comfortable pegging Scott as the FedEx Cup champion when he'll likely need a win this week to pull it off. For all of the pessimism peddled about Tiger—some of it admittedly by yours truly—he's a near-guarantee to be in the mix. Tiger Woods may not win huge golf tournaments as readily as he once did, but he'll at least show up and be in contention.
Scott's chances are essentially nil without a win.
He can finish in second place and hope for the best Tiger-wise, but anything worse than a tie for fourth and he's mathematically eliminated from contention. With Scott's last two efforts post-Barclays a tie for 53rd and a tie for 28th, let's just say optimism isn't that high here either.
One bright spot in Scott's favor: One of his 10 wins came in this event in 2006—the year before it became a part of the FedEx Cup.
Then again, he's only had one top-10 finish since that triumph seven years ago, so we're not talking about a consistent track record of success here.
Phil Mickelson (14-1)
Since winning the Open Championship in July, Lefty has had a bit of a problem: He hasn't been very good.
In five tournaments since his fourth-round triumph at Muirfield, Mickelson has just one top-10 result and has an average finish of about 35th, rounding to the nearest decimal.
There are many ways Lefty's season-ending struggles harken back to the way he played to start 2013. Folks forget now because of his scintillating midseason run that hit its apex at the Open Championship, but there was plenty of speculation about where Mickelson fit in golf's hierarchy right around mid-April.
It was then when Mickelson went 76, 77 in Rounds 2 and 3 at the Masters en route to finishing in a tie for 54th at his favorite event. At age 43, the glare of Father Time is no longer looming; it's there and will continue to push Mickelson further from contention in major events.
Remember, he was the oldest major winner since Ben Crenshaw in 1995 when he won at Muirfield. Even with the beaucoup improvements to medical science and club technology, Mickelson's win was a once-in-two-decades anomaly. That Muirfield moment was always more likely to be one last hurrah than some late-career renaissance.
Nevertheless, we've learned far too many times that counting out Phil Mickelson is a fool's errand. Just when everyone assumes we can start packing it in on a tournament or his career as a whole, he pulls us back in.
I'm not expecting that to happen this week. He has to win to have a shot, and he needs a little help even if he does. But would anyone be surprised if he went out, dominated the whole tournament and walked away $10 million richer?
Didn't think so.
Information and stats courtesy of PGATour.com. Odds are for the Tour Championship and are courtesy of Bovada.
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