Dark Horses to Watch During the 2013 FedEx Cup

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistAugust 18, 2013

Dark Horses to Watch During the 2013 FedEx Cup

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    The favorites don't always win in golf, especially in the biggest tournaments of the year.

    There were three first-time winners in the majors this year, and the FedEx Cup playoffs are not necessarily going to belong to stars like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar or Brandt Snedeker, either.

    There are several dark horses beneath the top four in the FedEx Cup standings who will have a chance to win the competition.

    A young player like Jordan Spieth may be viewed as a favorite by some because he ranks eighth in FedEx Cup points.

    However, Spieth was enrolled at the University of Texas a year ago and was concerned with college tournaments. He may have gotten off to a brilliant start as a rookie, but he will be competing against the best players.

    Here's a look at seven dark horses who have a chance to emerge in the FedEx Cup, which begins Thursday with The Barclays and will be played at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J.

Rickie Fowler

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    Rickie Fowler is among the darkest of the dark horses.

    Fowler ranks 42nd on the FedEx point list with 822 points. While that puts him right at the cusp of the top third of point leaders among those eligible for the playoffs, Fowler has had a rather ordinary year.

    He has four top-10 finishes, and his best showing was coming in third place at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Fowler's only top-10 finish since then was a tie for 10th in the U.S. Open. It's clear Fowler has been off his game.

    However, he still has a chance to make a run in the playoffs. Fowler has a swagger on the course like he belongs with the best players in the world. His game may not be overly consistent, but he has the self-confidence to make a strong run.

    Eye-catching stat: Fowler knows how to play out of the greenside bunkers. He ranks seventh in sand saves, and that's his big advantage over the majority of the field.

Robert Garrigus

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    Robert Garrigus has not had the season he would have liked after having four second-place finishes in 2012 and earning $3.2 million.

    Garrigus has had just one top-10 finish this year, and it was very early in the season in the Farmers Insurance Open. Since then, Garrigus has struggled quite a bit, failing to make the cut in seven of 20 events and sitting 73rd in the FedEx Cup point standings.

    But Garrigus has shown signs of finding his game in each of the last two weeks. In the PGA Championship, Garrigus got out of the gate with a 67 in the first round and a 68 in the second. While he couldn't sustain that excellence, he made a slew of excellent shots at the tough Oak Hill Country Club and tied for 25th.

    He tied for 11th at the Wyndham Championship, breaking 70 in all four rounds. Garrigus should feel some relief that his game is coming around at the right time, and he may be able to make some noise in the FedEx Cup playoffs.

    Eye-catching stat: Garrigus is one of the tour's biggest hitters. He's averaging 301.1 yards per drive, ranking 10th on the tour.

John Huh

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    John Huh enjoyed an excellent rookie season in 2012, winning once and also adding a second-place finish as he earned nearly $2.7 million.

    Huh has struggled this year, and he had four consecutive missed cuts going into this week's Wyndham Championship.

    But then it happened. The same form that was missing all year suddenly came back to Huh. He was in contention for the title until the 72nd hole, when a chip shot that would have put him in a playoff came up short.

    Still, Huh shot an impressive 12-under-par 268 and tied for third place. That earned him $307,400 and put him at the $1.3 million mark in earnings for the year.

    More importantly, his strong showing moved him up dramatically in the FedEx Cup point standings. He shot up from 91st to 65th after his solid run at Wyndham.

    Eye-catching stat: Huh is an accurate hitter. He finds the fairway on 66.50 percent of his drives, and that ranks 25th.

Bubba Watson

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    Bubba Watson became one of the top stars on the tour in 2012 when he won the Masters. Not only did Watson take his first major, but he did it with a unique style by bombing the ball down the fairway and playing a fearless brand of golf.

    Watson is clearly one of the most charismatic players on the tour, and his followers will support him enthusiastically. However, the 2013 golf season has not been a good one for him. He has just three top-10 finishes, and his $1.5 million in earnings is about a third of what he earned last year.

    Watson ranks 38th in FedEx Cup points. He failed to make the cut in the PGA Championship after tying for 27th a week earlier in the Bridgestone Invitational.

    Watson still has a chance to turn his season around in the FedEx Cup playoffs. He has the game to get on a roll and beat the best players in the world. The key is finding a way to keep his ball in the fairway and on the green. He is only finding the fairway on 52.1 percent of his drives.

    Eye-catching stat: Watson is averaging 304.1 yards off the tee, and that ranks third on the tour.

Kevin Streelman

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    You may not know Kevin Streelman, but he has had one of the best years among those under the radar.

    Streelman has first-, second- and third-place finishes this year and has more than $2.7 million in earnings. He is 11th in FedEx Cup point standings.

    The 34-year-old earned the first victory of his career at the Tampa Bay Championship in March, a victory that brought him $990,000. He also had a second-place showing at the Players Championship.

    Streelman is not a big name, but he has the game to become a contender in the playoffs.

    Eye-catching stat: If Streelman can stay in contention heading into the final round, he has an excellent chance. He ranks fifth in final-round scoring with an average of 69.71.

Jason Day

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    Jason Day has not won on the tour this year, but he has done just about everything else. He has been one of the most consistent players, making the cut in all 17 of the tournaments he entered.

    Day has earned $2.9 million this year and ranks 13th in FedEx Cup points. His best performances have come in the majors. Day finished third in the Masters, tied for second in the U.S. Open and was eighth in the PGA Championship.

    Day's best attribute is his ability to rise to the moment. He plays well under the heavy pressure of the biggest tournaments, and his hunger to excel overcomes any nerves he may be feeling.

    Day could be one of the best dark horses in the FedEx Cup playoffs.

    Eye-catching stat: Day gets excellent club-head speed, and that enables him to hit the ball an average of 298.4 yards off the tee, a figure that ranks 21st on tour.

Jordan Spieth

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    If you want to catch Jordan Spieth as an underdog or a dark horse, you better do it this year.

    Spieth is enjoying a spectacular rookie season on tour. He lost a playoff in the Wyndham Championship to Patrick Reed Sunday, but there was no reason for Spieth to hang his head. He made a spectacular par putt on the first extra hole that allowed him to extend the tournament. It was the kind of pressure putt that great players tend to make.

    Spieth has earned more than $2.6 million this year and sits eighth in FedEx Cup points after his showing at Wyndham.

    Spieth clearly has the look of a player who could become one of the game's greats in years to come. Even if that assessment is premature, Spieth is currently riding a hot streak that makes him a threat in any event he enters.

    He is hungry to win and has the game to compete with the best players.

    Eye-catching stat: Spieth is finding the fairway 66.86 percent of the time, ranking 20th among his competitors.

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