Two years ago, Rory McIlroy parlayed a PGA Championship into back-to-back wins at the Deutsche Bank and BMW Championships en route to his first FedEx Cup title. McIlroy's journey starts Friday if he hopes to make history repeat itself.
A quick illustration of how much better he's considered than the field: No one else has single-digit odds this week or for the FedEx Cup, per Vegas Insider. The separation between Rory and his contemporaries is nearly Tiger-esque.
Although McIlroy's streak of three straight wins ended at last week's Barclays event, he was able to keep himself nestled at the top with a tie for 22nd. Hunter Mahan's surprising win vaulted him all the way from 62nd to the head of the big kid's table, with the rest of the standings mostly filling out as expected. Cameron Tringale also made the leap from outside the top 60 to inside the top 10.
The great thing about the FedEx Cup is that it awards consistency as much as excellence. One win can vault an also-ran into elite status. One missed cut can send a superstar packing before the Tour Championship next month.
With that in mind, let's quickly preview what to expect this week in Massachusetts.
Deutsche Bank Championship Information
When: Friday, Aug. 29, to Monday, Sept. 1
Where: TPC Boston in Norton, Massachusetts
FedEx Cup Points: 2,500
Purse: $8 million ($1.44 million winning share)
|Round 1 (Friday)||2:30-6:30 p.m.||Golf Channel|
|Round 2 (Saturday)||3-6:30 p.m.||Golf Channel|
|Round 3 (Sunday)||1-3 p.m.||Golf Channel|
|Round 4 (Monday)||11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.||Golf Channel|
|8:20 a.m.||Scott Langley||Henrik Stenson||Shawn Stefani|
|8:32 a.m.||Russell Henley||Ben Martin||Brian Stuard|
|8:44 a.m.||Seung-Yul Noh||J.B. Holmes||Camilo Villegas|
|8:56 a.m.||Kevin Stadler||William McGirt||Marc Leishman|
|9:08 a.m.||John Senden||Keegan Bradley||Gary Woodland|
|9:20 a.m.||Webb Simpson||Martin Kaymer||Hideki Matsuyama|
|9:32 a.m.||Robert Garrigus||Jason Kokrak||Scott Stallings|
|9:44 a.m.||Ian Poulter||Andres Romero||Carl Pettersson|
|12:40 p.m.||Brandt Snedeker||Morgan Hoffmann||Bo Van Pelt|
|12:52 p.m.||Ryo Ishikawa||Phil Mickelson||Justin Hicks|
|1:04 p.m.||Steven Bowditch||Angel Cabrera||Russell Knox|
|1:16 p.m.||Brendon Todd||Stuart Appleby||Bill Haas|
|1:28 p.m.||Cameron Tringale||Rickie Fowler||Zach Johnson|
|1:40 p.m.||Matt Kuchar||Bubba Watson||Jim Furyk|
|1:52 p.m.||Gonzalo Fdez-Castano||Billy Horschel||Jeff Overton|
|2:04 p.m.||Robert Streb||Billy Hurley III|
|8:20 a.m.||David Hearn||Brendan Steele||Stewart Cink|
|8:32 a.m.||Charl Schwartzel||Matt Jones||George McNeill|
|8:44 a.m.||Erik Compton||Freddie Jacobson||Daniel Summerhays|
|8:56 a.m.||Kevin Na||Adam Scott||Chris Kirk|
|9:08 a.m.||Jason Day||Patrick Reed||Jordan Spieth|
|9:20 a.m.||Hunter Mahan||Rory McIlroy||Jimmy Walker|
|9:32 a.m.||Ben Crane||Brendon de Jonge||Luke Donald|
|9:44 a.m.||Michael Putnam||Geoff Ogilvy|
|12:40 p.m.||Jason Bohn||K.J. Choi||Scott Brown|
|12:52 p.m.||Will MacKenzie||Jerry Kelly||Kevin Chappell|
|1:04 p.m.||Chris Stroud||Kevin Streelman||Ryan Palmer|
|1:16 p.m.||Graham DeLaet||Tim Clark||Ernie Els|
|1:28 p.m.||Charles Howell III||Matt Every||Charley Hoffman|
|1:40 p.m.||Harris English||Ryan Moore||Brian Harman|
|1:52 p.m.||Chesson Hadley||John Huh||Pat Perez|
|2:04 p.m.||Andrew Svoboda||2:04 p||Andrew Svoboda|
Deutsche Bank Championship Preview
Much like we've done with Woods the last decade-and-a-half, any tournament featuring McIlroy begins with the world's top talent. McIlroy's return to the top of the sport has come at the perfect time. Woods' career hit its nadir in 2014, Phil Mickelson has descended into near anonymity (save for the PGA Championship), and Adam Scott could never quite take the reins as the world's best player.
After his own downturn in 2013, McIlroy has ascended to his rightful throne.
With his win at the PGA, he became the first player since Woods in 2006 to win three straight events. Two of those tournaments were majors, allowing him to join an aspirational list of greats who have taken four or more of golf's biggest tournaments before age 26.
"Golf's a funny place at the minute. You are getting so many different winners and there are not as many guys dominating the sport like in the past like Tiger, Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson," McIlroy told reporters earlier this month. "I’d like to establish myself as that sort of player. Someone’s got to step up, so I’m trying to be that person."
The last four years have seen a rather eclectic group, featuring PGA Tour veterans and seeming also-rans taking their moments in the spotlight. For every Jim Furyk, there is a Bill Haas. Neither Henrik Stenson nor Brandt Snedeker was able to use his FedEx Cup title and turn it into a star-making vehicle. Like so many things in golf, a four-week gauntlet can bring out the best and the worst in a player.
Mahan, in a weird way, would be a perfect successor to Snedeker and Stenson. He entered last week's Barclays with only a handful of wins on his PGA Tour resume, none coming in major championships. He is, for all intents and purposes, a consistent pro. Someone who can be cut or finish in eighth place in any given week without many batting an eye.
"Obviously, this means a lot and this is kind of the biggest win in the sense of what comes with it, having a chance to win the FedEx Cup," Mahan told reporters, citing last week as the biggest win of his career. "A lot has changed from Saturday to Sunday. That's for sure."
Mahan enters a field that's missing some pretty prominent faces. Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell decided to skip out on the FedEx Cup's second event. Each should have more than enough points to qualify for next week's BMW Championship, which takes only 70 of the best remaining players in the field.
The TPC Boston was also very nearly without Mickelson, whose 78th-place finish at The Barclays continued a season full of frustrations. Lefty has not won in 19 events on tour this year and has only one top-10 finish. After being a second-day cut at Ridgewood, Mickelson told Golf Channel's Jason Sobel he was "barely keeping [his] sanity."
The five-time major champion ultimately decided to make the trip to Massachusetts, but it'll be interesting to monitor his mindset.
Scott is going through his own bouts of frustration, inasmuch as the world's most consistent player can be frustrated. His back-to-back 15th-place finishes at the PGA and The Barclays broke a streak of five straight events finishing in the top 10. If he's going to get in position for his first FedEx Cup crown, now would be as good a time as ever.
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