Why the Smart Money Is Still on Rory McIlroy to Win the 2014 FedEx Cup

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Why the Smart Money Is Still on Rory McIlroy to Win the 2014 FedEx Cup
Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Monday at the Deutsche Bank Championship just wasn't Rory McIlroy's day, as the world No. 1 shot a 70 and finished tied for fifth, four strokes behind winner Chris Kirk.

But don't be fooled—the four-time major champion played some great golf over the course of the four days at TPC Boston, and in the process, he re-established himself as the firm favorite for the FedEx Cup.

I mean, after the golf that McIlroy's played over the last two months, do you really want to bet against him?

As reported by Doug Ferguson of The Associated Press, via The Globe and Mail, even though McIlroy has had a momentous last two months and is firmly the best golfer of 2014, he's not overlooking the FedEx Cup playoffs. He's here to win:

I could just say, ‘Look, I’ve had a great year, it’s been an awesome summer. I’m going to just see what happens for the next few weeks and not really work hard,' McIlroy said Wednesday. 'But I want to finish the season well. I want to be up there in contention week in and week out. I feel like the season I had deserves a finish like that. So I’m going to just grind it out every week that I can until I get a bit of a break after the Ryder Cup.'

McIlroy came to the second event in the FedEx Cup playoffs looking for his fourth win in his last five starts. After winning the British Open, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship, McIlroy looked a little out of sorts last weekend, as he finished tied for 22nd at The Barclays to kick off the FedEx Cup playoffs with a whimper.

Much to the chagrin of the rest of the field, however, his mini-slump didn't last long. McIlroy shot a 64 on Sunday in Massachusetts that skyrocketed him up the leaderboard to 10 under par and put him in the hunt on the Monday Labor Day finish.

Unfortunately for McIlroy fans, his one-under 70 didn't get the job done, as his playing partner Kirk shot a 66 to finish at 15 under par and leap into the top spot on the Fedex Cup playoffs leaderboard.

Very little went right for McIlroy on this day, and it was still pretty impressive for him to hold onto a top-five finish.

But McIlroy is still a strong second on the FedEx Cup playoff standings, and as Kevin McNamara of The Providence Journal wrote before the Deutsche Bank Championship, his recent resume puts him head and shoulders above the rest: 

It would not be smart to bet against McIlroy. He’s currently second on the FedEx Cup points list, trailing Hunter Mahan, but with nine top-10 finishes in 14 events, he’s been the most consistent player in the world. That’s led to more than $7 million in earnings and other trappings of golf success, from cameos on the late-night talk shows (one with an injured Tiger Woods) to a lunch date a few days ago with Bill Clinton.

Last year, McIlroy did not do well in the FedEx Cup playoffs—he didn't finish in the top 10 in any of the events and didn't even make the cut to participate in the Tour Championship.

But this year is a lot more reminiscent of 2012, when McIlroy came into the playoffs in great form after winning the PGA Championship. That year, he won the Deutsche Bank Championship and the BMW Championship and went into the Tour Championship in the driver's seat. However, he tied for 10th at the Tour Championship and ended up finishing second in the FedEx Cup standings to Brandt Snedeker.

McIlroy thinks he's a much better golfer than he was back in 2012, and he has a much better shot at walking away with the FedEx Cup.

David J. Phillip/Associated Press
McIlroy after his PGA Championship win.

"My golf game feels probably a little more in control now than it did back then," he said, as reported by BBC Sport. "Certain shots that I'm able to hit now that I maybe wasn't able to hit back then. And I'm definitely driving the ball as good as I ever have, if not better."

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After the BMW Championship next week, the top 30 players in the playoff standings will move on to the Tour Championship and the points will be redistributed to make it so that, technically, every player in the field will have a chance to win the FedEx Cup. However, the top five golfers in the field will be guaranteed a FedEx Cup victory if they win the Tour Championship—no outside help will be needed.

So with all respect to Hunter Mahan, who won The Barclays last week, and Kirk, who won this week, in a situation like that at the Tour Championship, a guy with the experience, steadiness and shot-making prowess of McIlroy will be the guy to beat.

McIlroy's determined to win the FedEx Cup this year, and after two events, he's still in a good position to do just that. Count him out at your own peril. 

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