Justin Rose: He's collected a solid if not outstanding stat profile in 2011 (headlined by that nifty eighth-place standing in GIR), and you like that he's 18th in final-round scoring - Rose isn't wilting when the lights are brightest. He didn't play well in Boston, but he's been in the mix in the other playoff events, with last week's win and a T6 at The Barclays. It almost seems like he's been around the pro game for 20 years, but he's still just 31. We'll gladly spend the extra buck, or Euro, on Rose in 2012.
Luke Donald: He circled the wagons after the choppy 75, cruising to a 66-67-68 finish and securing a solo fourth by the time the smoke cleared at the BMW Championship. Donald is still the clear favorite as they get under way at East Lake, and a victory here might be enough to secure Player of the Year honors (it's the most intriguing POTY chase since the 1990s).
Chez Reavie: The Arizona State grad has saved the best for last, grabbing three Top 10 checks in his last four starts, including a playoff loss at Boston and last week's eight-place finish. Knee surgery cut his season in half last year, so it's not a big surprise that it's taken him this long to find his best stride. Reavie should be an undervalued commodity in a lot of leagues next season.
Sergio Garcia: He's not at the final dance but it was a positive campaign for Garcia: he missed just one cut in 16 PGA Tour starts, and he seemed more decisive and calm on the course in most instances. The pressure of greatness submarined Garcia through most of his 20s, but this looks like a player who will be able to take a step forward through his 30s - more secure in his own skin and life, and no longer earmarked as the game's next bright star.
Jim Furyk: It seems strange to have a Tour Championship without Furyk, but he never cashed a Top-3 check this year and his midsummer slump put him too far behind the 8-ball. That said, Furyk also finished the year with eight straight made cuts, and he's far too young, at 41, to be done as a significant contender for majors. You might be able to get him at a modestly discounted price next year.
Steve Stricker: A neck problem forced his in-progress withdrawal last week, and Stricker wasn't anything special at East Lake last season (T25 in the 30-player field). It would be a notable surprise if Stricker can find a way to grab a Top-5 check at the exclusive dance.
Phil Mickelson: He never got a call at the BMW Championship, carding an uninspired 72-73-71-75 en route to a T56 finish. Mickelson's overall body of work for the season got him to the Tour Championship, but it would be a surprise if he won this week - he's clearly not confident in his putting.
Martin Laird: He was the last man cut out on the FedEx Cup point standings - sitting 31st on the chart after the BMW Championship ended. Laird's fate was sealed when he started the final day plus-5 for his opening 12 holes; a late birdie run left him one shot short of the Tour Championship. Laird's always been a bomber off the tee (16th in accuracy), but too often he doesn't know where the ball is going to land (140th in fairways hit). He putted much better in 2011, we'll say that for him.
Steve Marino: Another winless year, and he never got close after the second-place run at the Arnold Palmer gathering in March. Marino's wonderfully balanced stat profile once and forever makes him look like a breakout waiting to happen, but something happens to him when Sunday comes along: he ranked 168th in final-round scoring this year. There's nothing wrong with the skills here, it's simply a matter of staying calm under pressure and not trying too hard. Of course, it's easy for us to say that from the press tent.