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Tour Championship Preview: FedEx Cup Showdown

Greg Vara

Greg Vara

Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the 2013 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. In addition to producing the weekly preview and the bulk of the draft kit content, Vara participates in Yahoo!'s "Experts Picks" where he routinely dominates. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.

It wasn't that long ago - just a couple months back - when Rory McIlroy was completely out of sorts. It was also about that time that golf truly resembled golf - completely unpredictable. The change on both counts began at the PGA Championship, and the script has completely flipped in just a handful of events. Prior to the PGA Championship there was an unusually long string of first-time major winners, which McIlroy broke when he picked up his second in the last two years. That could have been a fluke, though. After all, it was one good performance out of many not-so-good performances this season. But he didn't stop there. He pressed on and enters this week on a streak of two in a row. To win the FedEx Cup, he'll likely need a third consecutive win, and who would bet against him? It's funny, who would have thought we'd be talking about McIlroy in this manner just a couple months after his worst slump as a pro? Better yet, who would have thought we'd ever look at a field vs. one golfer and lean toward the lone golfer again? It's been a while since one man stood this far above the field, and his work isn't quite done yet, but with one more win this Sunday, Rory McIlroy can start to think about the rarefied air that was once reserved for Mr. Woods.

This week:
TOUR Championship

Last Year:
Bill Haas shot a final-round 68 on his way to a playoff victory over Hunter Mahan.

Players to Consider:

1. Rory McIlroy

It's McIlroy's first visit to East Lake this week, but honestly, who cares? McIlroy has met every challenge during this fantastic run, and there's no reason to think he'll slip up. My only hesitation is the extra week off, but then again, everyone's in the same boat.

2. Tiger Woods

Woods has a strong track record at East Lake, including a run of four consecutive top-2 finishes. When we last saw Tiger, his game looked sharp. If that version of Tiger shows up this week, he'll likely continue his streak of top-2 finishes.

3. Phil Mickelson

Mickelson looked to be near top form when we last saw him two weeks ago. Unless the break messes up his game, he should carry some of that momentum to East Lake. Mickelson's history here is all over the place, but he won this event in 2009.

4. Lee Westwood

Westwood also will make his first start at East Lake this week, but just like McIlroy, it probably won't affect his game negatively. Westwood has played well during the first three weeks of the FedEx playoffs, and there's no reason to think that will change this week.

5. Dustin Johnson

It's time to put course history to the test. Johnson's track record at East Lake is not good - he's never cracked the top 20. He's on a roll, however. At least he was two weeks ago. If he plays like he did the first three weeks of the FedEx Cup, he should not only crack the top 20, but the top 10 as well.

Players to Avoid:

1. Scott Piercy

I hate to pick on the weaker players in the field, but only 30 players are teeing up this week, and I need to find five to avoid. Piercy's had a great season, but he can't compete with the best of the best this week.

2. Zach Johnson

Johnson's game simply hasn't been there the first three weeks of the playoffs. Unless the week off did him wonders, he'll struggle to find the top-10 again this week.

3. Bubba Watson

Watson has played the TOUR Championship three times and has never cracked the top 15. Watson's track record is similar to Dustin Johnson's, but his game isn't. That's why he's down here and DJ is in the top 5.

4. Matt Kuchar

Always a dangerous player to avoid, but there's nothing in either his course history or his current form that suggests he will play well this week.

5. Rickie Fowler

Fowler looked strong early on at the BMW, but he faded on the weekend. He might put a couple rounds together again this week, but it's doubtful he makes a run at the leaders Sunday. His game just isn't all that sharp.

YAHOO! FANTASY GOLF

This week:
TOUR Championship

Group A

1. Phil Mickelson
2. Nick Watney

As expected, plenty of talent in Group A this week, but surprisingly, only one of my top-5 come from this group. Mickelson seems like an obvious pick after his showing at the BMW, but the second pick wasn't as obvious. I'm going with Watney, who won the first FedEx event a month ago and has a knack for stringing together good performances.

Group B

1. Rory McIlroy
2. Brandt Snedeker
3. Lee Westwood
4. Hunter Mahan

As you can see, I am severely handcuffed this week without the services of Tiger or DJ, but I've pieced together a pretty decent squad anyway. McIlroy should be on every team this week and, fortunately, I have one start left from him. Westwood should also be on a lot of teams this week as well as Snedeker, who is one of the five players who can win the FedEx Cup with a victory this week. The final pick was difficult, but I decided on Mahan who finished runner-up here last year. He's not on top of his game now, but a week off could change that.

Group C

1. Louis Oosthuizen
2. Jason Dufner

Not a lot to choose from in Group C this week and even less for those who have burned through all their Dufner starts. I happen to have one of those left, so Dufner is in. Oosthuizen is the only other big name left in the group, and considering he nearly won a couple weeks ago, he's probably the top pick in the group this week.

Starters Round One

1. Phil Mickelson
2. Rory McIlroy
3. Lee Westwood
4. Louis Oosthuizen

A straightforward approach to round one this week - use the big guns. Mickelson in Group A. He's coming off his best event in a while and you know he'd like to steal some of that spotlight back from Tiger and Rory. Westwood and McIlroy in Group B because they are simply heads above the other two players on my team this week. Oosthuizen in Group C because Dufner hasn't shown his top form in a while and Oosthuizen has.

Round Two and Going Forward:

No cut again this week, so you can stick with the same four players all the way through. I just might do that as my starting four appear much stronger than anyone I have on the bench. A quick start from any of the reserves could change that, but one player will get four starts this week and that's McIlroy. Mickelson likely will get four starts as well, but that could change if he starts slowly. There could be a change in Group C as well if Dufner decides to bring his game this week. As always, though, I'll have to see it first.

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