FedEx Cup 2014: 10 Burning Questions After Completion of First Week

Mike DudurichContributor IAugust 26, 2014

FedEx Cup 2014: 10 Burning Questions After Completion of First Week

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    Henrik Stenson won the Deutsche Bank in 2013 but hasn't been a factor yet this year.
    Henrik Stenson won the Deutsche Bank in 2013 but hasn't been a factor yet this year.Associated Press

    One week down, three weeks to go.

    The FedEx Cup got off to a great start with Hunter Mahan roaring from behind thanks to a five-birdie back nine on Sunday to shoot 32 and win the Barclays.

    Now it's on to the Deutsche Bank, which gets started on Friday and goes through Monday because of the Labor Day holiday.

    What are the most important questions heading to Boston?

    Can Jim Furyk bounce back from another disappointing Sunday?

    Can Mahan make it two in a row?

    Check out the following list for 10 burning questions.

Will Phil Mickelson Play This Week in the Deutsche Bank?

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    Will Phil Mickelson be able to rebound from a poor Barclays performance?
    Will Phil Mickelson be able to rebound from a poor Barclays performance?Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

    So much for those wondering if Phil Mickelson's sparkling performance in the PGA Championship was going to be a springboard to a big playoff run.

    The big lefthander made headlines around the world by missing the green by 50 yards on the short par-four fifth hole at Ridgewood Country Club. Twice. And both times he played shots from a hospitality deck, one hit the green, the other flew into a bunker on the other side of the green.

    Those two shots made for great highlight clips but you can bet he's not pleased to be hitting shots from a hospitality tent.

    His scores got worse in each of his three rounds: 71, 72 and 75.

    And, as he told Golf Channel's Jason Sobel after that 75, he wasn't sure what he was going to do next: “I’ve got four or five days off here with the late start (the Deutsche Bank is a Friday through Monday event)," Mickelson said. "We’ll see when I get back home. I’m frustrated with my game, but I love playing in Boston; I love the golf course."

    Considering the disarray of his game and the fact he flew back to California, I'm guessing we won't see him until Cherry Hills next week.

Rory's Streak Ends; What Next?

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    Rory McIlroy makes a young fan happy with a golf ball.
    Rory McIlroy makes a young fan happy with a golf ball.Darren Carroll/Getty Images

    Did you really think Rory McIlroy was going to keep winning every time he teed it up?

    It may have looked that way as he breezed through three straight starts and added two majors and a World Golf Championship to his already glittering resume.

    But even those who play at the highest level aren't spot-on each time out and McIlroy was a bit off at the Barclays. Specifically, his putting was off, and that was what kept him from mounting a charge of any kind. "I can't really fault that (his tee-to-green game)," he said, per Hank Gola of the New York Daily News. "The only thing that let me down was my putting. I just didn't convert the birdie opportunities I was giving myself, and I had plenty of them over the weekend."

    McIlroy said he's looking forward to the Deutsche Bank this weekend because "I've played well there, and I feel like my game is in good shape."

    Expect him to play well in Boston and be there at the end.

    You can also expect him to play at Cherry Hills the next week where he'll be bombing drives at altitude. He also plans to be at the Sunday Night Football game between Indianapolis and Denver.


What to Make of Ryder Cup Battle?

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    This is no time for Keegan Bradley to rest. He'll need to play well this week to get on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
    This is no time for Keegan Bradley to rest. He'll need to play well this week to get on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Most of those contenders for a spot on the United States Ryder Cup team hoping to catch Tom Watson's eye last weekend most likely made Watson cover his eyes at their performances in the Barclays.

    Hunter Mahan's stirring back-nine surge to victory in the Barclays would seemingly have clinched a spot on that team, but the rest did nothing to make themselves stand out.

    Keegan Bradley may be the leader for the second of three captain's choices, based on his experience of playing in the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club. He also racked up some points with Watson when he took advantage of an offer from the captain to go to Gleneagles in Scotland, site of this year's Ryder Cup, and play the course.

    He and Jim Furyk were the only players to accept the offer. Ryan Moore, Brandt Snedeker and Webb Simpson missed the cut at the Barclays.

    Brendon Todd was on the leaderboard but faded badly with a 76.

    A win by any of those this weekend might be the difference in the battle for a Ryder Cup spot.

How Will Jim Furyk Come Back from Sunday's Disappointment?

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    Jim Furyk remains upbeat after letting another 54-hole lead slip away.
    Jim Furyk remains upbeat after letting another 54-hole lead slip away.David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Jim Furyk has eight top-10 finishes in 2014, a total that includes three runner-up finishes.

    In the final rounds of those three disappointments, he shot rounds of 65, 66 and 69.

    At least he didn't blow tournaments in the final round like he did in 2012. So he's got that going for him.

    Furyk still hasn't won with a 54-hole lead in eight chances and hasn't won since 2010.

    He's a bulldog and will continue to battle for the next three weeks. 

    It's not like he played badly in the Barclays; expect him to come back strong this week.

    "You know, I'm close," Furyk said, per Hank Gola of the New York Daily News. "And I'm not going to hang my head and I'm not going to walk away from here." 

Will Stuart Appleby Be This Year's FedEx Cup Surprise?

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    Stuart Appleby came from nowhere to contend at the Barclays on Sunday.
    Stuart Appleby came from nowhere to contend at the Barclays on Sunday.Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

    Hopefully, anybody who saw Stuart Appelby's final-round 65 coming on Sunday also went out and purchased a lottery ticket after the golf was over.

    Appleby hasn't won since 2010, and since the Players Championship his finishes have gone something like this: T77, WD, T53, T18, T46, MC, MC, MC, T38 and T2. Not much to build a lot of confidence from there, is there.

    He doesn't have much of a history at the Deutsche Bank; his best finish a T33 in three appearances.

    Like Furyk, he's a grinder. And he can be a great putter, as well, but is much more of a streaky putter than Furyk. 

    He birdied five of the first six holes on the back nine but couldn't make one on the final three holes.

    Appleby definitely has a chance to be this year's playoff surprise.

How Will Hunter Mahan Follow Up His Barclays Win?

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    Hunter Mahan salutes the crowd after winning Barclays.
    Hunter Mahan salutes the crowd after winning Barclays.USA TODAY Sports

    Hunter Mahan might be considered a breath of fresh air in the FedEx Cup playoffs.

    He's never missed a FedEx Cup event but had also gone almost 30 months and 48 tournaments since his last win.

    And this year, Mahan has not really been near the center of anyone's radar for any length of time. He'll be in contention and then on a streak where he misses cuts in three of six starts. 

    But all of a sudden, he got hot, posting T15, T7 and then a win at the Barclays.

    ''To get a win in an event like this and the timing, it feels unbelievable,'' Mahan said, per Doug Ferguson of ''So I'm extremely proud of myself. I felt great the last few weeks. My game was starting to come around. I knew this was around the corner, but to do it, and to do it today with a 65, feels great.''

    Will he go off on a Rory-like tear through the rest of the playoffs? Never say never, and if he continues to hit 80 percent of the greens, that possibility remains in play.

    With his confidence and game back, he'll be a factor the rest of the way out.

Who's Playing, Who's Not in Boston?

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    Graeme McDowell (pictured) and Paul Casey will miss the Deutsche Bank.
    Graeme McDowell (pictured) and Paul Casey will miss the Deutsche Bank.Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

    The fact that the Deutsche Bank Championship is a Friday-through-Monday event (to take advantage of the Labor Day weekend) allows players an extra day to decide whether or not to play this week.

    Of course, that decision is one usually reserved for players high enough on the points list to be able to skip a week and still be in a good shape to play in the third playoff event, the BMW Championship at Cherry Hills.

    After a disappointing and frustrating week at the Barclays, Phil Mickelson flew home to California and suggested he might not be back for Deutsche Bank.

    Graeme McDowell (40th) and Paul Casey (85th) won't be in Boston for the same reason. Both players will be with their significant others during childbirth. McDowell's wife gave birth on Monday, Aug. 25, and Casey's fiancee is scheduled to give birth a week later.

    Don't be surprised if some members of the two Ryder Cup teams take a week off. The Ryder Cup will be played the week after the Tour Championship, meaning those players could play five straight weeks.

Is Ernie Els for Real?

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    Ernie Els has caught fire at the right time of year.
    Ernie Els has caught fire at the right time of year.Hunter Martin/Getty Images

    Ernie Els?

    At age 44, playing his sixth straight week, shooting 66 in the final round of the Barclays and finishing three shots behind Hunter Mahan?

    Come on. Really?

    Since Els drilled a spectator in the face with his opening drive of the Open Championship his season has been up and down, to say the least. He missed the cut in the Open, and his last three starts have been T7, T64 and a T5 this past week.

    He's changed from his belly putter to a conventional one and has been putting much better. So much better, in fact, that Els is not only thinking about some noise in the FedEx Cup playoffs, but he thinks he can still win a major.

    Els told Jason Sobel in a story, “The whole energy feels different now. I feel I can still pull out a major I think in the next couple of years, so keep grinding.”

    Look out for Ernie Els the next three weeks.

Not Even a Whimper from Adam Scott?

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    Adam Scott's game has been very quiet since May.
    Adam Scott's game has been very quiet since May.Darren Carroll/Getty Images

    Adam Scott's results for 2014 are very interesting.

    He won the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial at the end of May, which started a run of five straight top-10 finishes. And then his last two starts have been T15s.

    But all that good play has come about very quietly.

    Yes, he got run over by the Rory McIlroy Express in July, dropping out of the top spot in the world rankings, but he's never really been in serious contention to the point that a Scott run was feared.

    Remember prior to the PGA Championship when Scott said he was going to become more aggressive, especially in the majors? 

    "My strategy at times is more conservative, less chances, less mistakes but it might not compete against a Rory McIlroy at full throttle who is not making an error," Scott told the AAP, via the Sydney Morning Herald.

    That newfound aggression has been nonexistent, although his recent good play has made him a bunch of money this year, over $3.5 million.

    If he's going to be a factor in the FedEx Cup playoffs, he's going to have to make some noise.

How Long Can Rickie Fowler Stay Hot?

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    Rickie Fowler's roll continued at the Barclays.
    Rickie Fowler's roll continued at the Barclays.USA TODAY Sports

    Fifteen of Rickie Fowler's last 20 rounds have been in the 60s, which would go a long way toward explaining how Fowler has now put up five straight top-10 finishes.

    The amazing thing about this streak is that you might think he'd have some eye-popping statistics, but in the Barclays, he hit only 60 percent of his fairways and 65 percent of the greens. Fairly good numbers, but nothing that would knock your socks off.

    The man has been putting lights out for a while now and has moved from No. 13 in the Official World Golf Ranking to 11th, one spot ahead of Tiger Woods.

    Every time he tees it up, he gets more and more confidence, and the swing he's gotten from coach Butch Harmon gets more and more natural for him.

    Right now he's very comfortable as a top-10 guy and, considering he hasn't won since 2012, it wouldn't be a surprise if he adds a W to that streak soon.


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