Ten Golfers Who Could Win The Tour Championship In Atlanta

Ron FurlongAnalyst IISeptember 17, 2010

LEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 11:  (L-R) Luke Donald, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter of England walk off the fifth tee during the third round of the BMW Championship at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club on September 11, 2010 in Lemont, Illinois.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

With a field of only 30 for the final of the FedEx Cup playoffs, it may be the one golf event that you can actually pick the winner. Usually for a PGA event the field is considerably larger, and when you don't have one or two guys dominating the tour, trying to pick a winner is a considerably easier task.

Did I say easy? Check that. Considerably less difficult, is that better?

There are actually only a few players that are on top of their games heading into the Tour Championship in Atlanta. Many in the field of 30 ended up backing into the event instead of claiming a spot.

Several players played their way out of the Tour Championship with poor performances at Cog Hill, including J.B. Holmes and Rory McIlroy.

Some other notable players who didn't make the final of the Fed Ex Cup Playoffs include Ryder Cup picks Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler, and Stewart Cink, as well as names like Ian Poulter, Anthony Kim and David Toms.

Four players played their way into the championship with strong showings at Cog Hill. They are Kevin Na, K.J. Choi, Ryan Moore, and Camilo Villegas.

Below I've broken the field down to the top one-third that has the been chance to win the $1.3 million prize, and maybe the $10 million prize that goes for the FedEx Cup standings winner. $11.3 million would be a nice weekend's work. I wonder, is that time and half?


10. Ernie Els: For much of the year the veteran Els was having the best year on tour. Although he cooled a bit down the stretch Ernie could still end up walking away with the Player of the Year. I don't think it would have to be a win in Atlanta, but it probably needs to be top three.


9. Phil Mickelson: Always a threat to win a tournament, even if he missed the cut the week before (which he didn't). His game can be on or off at the blink of an eye. But when it's on, he can win any tournament at any time. Played well for the first time in awhile at the BMW in Chicago.


8. Justin Rose: This Rose smelled a heck of a lot sweeter in the early summer when he was playing better, but he still has a chance. Playing, like Paul Casey, with a bit of a chip on his shoulder for getting snubbed by European Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie, Rose is dangerous.


7. Bubba Watson: Playing with confidence, Watson should be a factor in Atlanta. Working against him is the fact that East Lake Golf Club is not terribly long at just over 7,100 yards. Bubba tends to excel at the longer courses.


6. Luke Donald: Without a win this year why do I think he could win here? Why not? He's had a quietly consistent, strong year. Donald will be a big part of the European Ryder Cup team in Wales in a couple weeks. Playing well of late, Donald has two second-place and two third-place finishes to his credit this year. He's so close.


5. Tim Clark: Okay, here's my long-shot. The little fellow with the big swing from South Africa has had a very strong year, and seems to be turning it on at the right time. One win (The Player's Championship)and one second-place finish this year, Clark, on this shorter course, may be a good dark-horse candidate.


4. Dustin Johnson: Lot of people think this is the smartest pick. I won't go quite that far, but it wouldn't be a bad choice. Johnson is one of only a few guys who could walk away with both prizes, the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup. If he wins you might even throw in the Player of the Year just for fun. This would be fairly remarkable for a guy who shot 81 on the final day of the U.S. Open with the lead, and then had the "What bunker?" gaff at the PGA Championship.


3. Steve Stricker: Hard to ever bet against this guy. Steady, consistent, neatly dressed. One could even say, boring? Okay, that matters nothing, I know. Stricker has slightly stumbled through the end of the year, but even with that could win the tri-fecta, just like Johnson.


2. Matt Kuchar: Odds on favorite to win the Fed Ex Cup, and not a bad choice in Atlanta either. Kuchar is playing great golf, which bodes well not only for his chances at the Tour Championship, but a week later in Wales playing for the U.S. If there is to be a winner of the all three (Tour Championship, FedEx Cup and Player off the Year) Kuchar would likely be the man.


1. Paul Casey: Right now Casey, shot for shot, may be playing the best golf in the world. I might even go as far as to say he is the best golfer in the world right now. Who would have thought that this would be good news for the U.S. Ryder Cup team and not the European Ryder Cup team, as captain Monty left him off the Euro squad. Everyone together now: "Thank you, Monty." Casey is playing determined and hitting wonderful shots. Go with him.


In 2007 East Lake Golf Club has poor greens for the Tour Championship. They actually had to cancel the pro-am and practice rounds, to protect the greens for the tournament. Following the tournament superintendent Ralph Kepple went about converting the bentgrass greens to bermudagrass.

The conversion has been a great success. Once again Kepple and the staff at East Lake are battling dry conditions heading into the big event.

"It's dry and we're firming up," he told the Golf Course Superintendent's Association (GCSAA). "We could use one good rainfall, but we just keep missing them. This past weekend everybody around here got 1-2 inches and we only go five hundredths of an inch. The last significant rain we received was Aug. 19."

The GCSAA went on to say that Kepple has the smooth bermudagrass greens at the home course of Bobby Jones rolling 12 feet on the Stimpmeter and the thick bermudagrass rough at two-and-one-quarter inches tall.

East Lake has hosted the Tour Championship every year since 2004. It was also the site of the 1963 Ryder Cup.