Tiger Woods has put himself in the driver's seat for winning the FedEx Cup. But there are 29 other guys who want to bump him out of the way. The difficulty of overcoming the field is what motivates him to play golf.
"The challenge of just trying to pull off a shot and the challenge to try and beat all the guys in the field is exciting for me. That is my rush when I play," Tiger Woods said. "It's practicing and the prep and all the work that goes into it, and to somehow pull it off at the end and execute and end up with the title is the rush and excitement of it all."
Woods, like anyone in the top five—Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Zach Johnson or Matt Kuchar—can win the FedEx Cup and $10 million with a victory at the Tour Championship for a total of $11 million and change. No one else has a realistic shot unless those five golfers play poorly.
Surprisingly enough, that's happened two of the last three years. The top players did not perform at their best, and someone else emerged. Since the points system was revised to eliminate a FedEx Cup victory prior to the Tour Championship being played, Jim Furyk won from 11th and Bill Haas won from an amazing 25th place. That proves those down the list have a chance if they play well, particularly in Haas' victory.
However, having someone in 25th place go on to win makes picking a winner even harder than it was before.
Using the new Nick Faldo method of picking the low score on Sunday from the previous week, that would put the spotlight on Nick Watney, who is No. 12 on the points list. Watney has to rely on the players ahead of him finishing farther down the list. He would need Tiger Woods to finish 19th or lower and other top players to finish somewhere below 10th or 15th to get themselves mathematically eliminated.
To figure it out, take each player's points and add the points for each finish.
After Watney, the Faldo method says the next best was last week's BMW winner, Zach Johnson, followed by a trio of players: Jason Day, Keegan Bradley and Billy Horschel. Will the winner come from that group? Maybe.
At this point in the season, for the last tournament, one that will decide leading money winner and Player of the Year, you also have to measure that intangible called "Want To." Who wants to win, for whatever reason.
Phil Mickelson wants to win because it would give him a shot at Player of the Year, something he's never achieved. He could win the Tour Championship and still not win FedEx Cup as was the case in 2009. Or he could win both. He might get the votes for Player of the Year with a win, never mind where he finished points-wise. Adam Scott is in a similar position.
Tiger Woods, with a victory, probably locks up the Player of the Year honors as well as the FedEx Cup.
It may be that we have a Woods/Mickelson double this year, as was the case in 2009, where Mickelson won the Tour Championship and Woods won the FedEx Cup.
Who is a less likely FedEx Cup winner?
Matt Kuchar has been in position to win the FedEx Cup with a victory at the Tour Championship and with less than a victory at the Tour Championship in previous years, and he has yet to capitalize on it. That doesn't mean he won't. It means that if past performance is an indicator, he's less likely to win it this year.
Rounding out the top dozen, Steve Stricker, while he's done well in many FedEx Cup Playoffs, including winning Deutsche Bank in 2009, has pulled back from a lot of competition. He may not have the Want To, other than Want To Be Hunting Deer.
Graham DeLaet has the playoff beard working, and it's hard to bet against a Canadian with a playoff beard. It's a hockey kind of thing. However, hockey players with playoff beards may end up rivaling members of ZZ Top since hockey playoffs go half the season. Luckily in golf, playoffs are over within six weeks. He'll be clean-shaven by Canadian Thanksgiving.
Justin Rose may not need to win the FedEx Cup or the Tour Championship, now that he has his first major. He may glide for a while, understandably.
Brandt Snedeker is in 10th place and won the FedEx Cup last year. In its short six-year history, the FedEx Cup has not had a repeat winner.
And once again Jim Furyk is in 11th, exactly the place he was in the year he won it all. Once again, rain is predicted for Sunday, just as it was when Furyk made a final putt with his hat backwards because rain was cascading off his golf cap. Do you smell deja vu? Or is that just the scent of tournament sponsor Coca-Cola?
Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.
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