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Tour Championship Preview: One Win Away

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.

No doubt when fall rolls around football is king. The PGA TOUR realized this long ago, and to beef up its viewership it came up with the FedEx Cup Playoffs. The idea was to make the time between the PGA Championship in August and the start of the following season relevant. Whether the FedEx Cup has actually worked is another story, but let's not make it into something that it isn't. Each year at this time, cliched stories emerge about how the FedEx Cup is a waste of time and that the only people who care are die-hard fans who follow every shot of the season-ending Q-School event. But that argument is based on the notion that the PGA TOUR believes it is competing against the likes of college football and the NFL. While golf is in the same time-slot most weekends, the PGA TOUR knows it can't possibly take down the giants of autumn. The FedEx Cup isn't about winning a war against football; it's about keeping the brand out there for as long as possible. In that sense, the FedEx Cup has succeeded - those who think otherwise have short memories of what the fall or "silly" season used to look like.

What the BMW Championship means:

Webb Simpson: Simpson's stretch the last few months might be the best we've seen on the PGA TOUR since Tiger was Tiger. Another top-five last week at the BMW, and there's no reason to think he'll miss on a top-five this week, either.

Justin Rose: With his win last week, Rose moved into the top-five, which means a win at the TOUR Championship this week and he's the new FedEx Cup champion.

Jim Furyk: Speaking of FedEx Cup champions, Furyk made a nice run late in the season, but it wasn't quite enough. His bid to repeat as the FedEx Champion ended last week at the BMW Championship.

This week:
TOUR Championship

Last Year:
Jim Furyk shot a final-round 70 on his way to a one-stroke victory over Luke Donald.

Players to Consider:

1. Luke Donald

Donald has quietly had a nice little run during the FedEx playoffs. It's been good enough to place him fourth entering this week, which means a win this week and he's the new FedEx Cup Champion.

2. Webb Simpson

Probably the favorite entering this week, and with good reason. Even when he's not winning, he's in the mix. With everything on the line this week, expect a solid effort from Simpson.

3. Phil Mickelson

I'll be honest, I was a bit surprised to see that Mickelson had enough points to remain in the top-30 - it seems like he's been off his game for a while now - but if we are to see his best effort during the Fed Ex Cup, it's going to be this week at East Lake where he's won twice.

4. Justin Rose

It's hard to argue with Rose this week after what he did last week. Think of it this way: not only did he win, but only two golfers were within five strokes last week. Considering the competition, that's quite a feat.

5. Geoff Ogilvy

It feels like I am always on the wrong side when picking Ogilvy, so take this for what it's worth. I have a feeling, though, that Ogilvy is going to build of his good showing last week at the BMW.

Players to Avoid:

1. Dustin Johnson

The stars were aligned for Johnson to play well last week, but that didn't happen. Now he comes back to East Lake where he's had little success. Johnson surprised me once already this fall, but I don't see it happening again.

2. Brandt Snedeker

Snedeker's hot streak appears to have ended as he shot 73-74 last weekend at the BMW Championship. His record at East Lake isn't all that great, either, with a T29 in his only showing here.

3. Keegan Bradley

Bradley was in contention last week at the BMW for an instant, but a Sunday 76 knocked him all the way out of the top 15. Bradley's list of accomplishments this year is long, but don't expect him to add anything to that list this week.

4. Vijay Singh

Singh posted four rounds well over par last week at the BMW Championship. Not exactly the form you want heading to East Lake.

5. Adam Scott

It's seems like Scott is having trouble finding that extra gear lately. You know, the one he found the first week with Steve Williams on his bag? Well, it's been MIA since that week. And let me clarify, I'm talking about the extra gear needed to win, not just finish in the top-10 as he's done twice since his win in August.

Yahoo! Fantasy Golf:

This week:
TOUR Championship

Group A

1. Luke Donald
2. Phil Mickelson

Donald was an easy choice this week, but the second spot was tough as two of my top-five are in Group A. The decision came down to Mickelson or Ogilvy, and considering my previously mentioned inability to properly peg Ogilvy, I am going with Mickelson.

Group B

1. Justin Rose
2. Webb Simpson
3. John Senden
4. Hunter Mahan

Yikes, beyond Rose and Simpson, I am not at all fond of the players in Group B this week. Even if I could choose Stricker, I am not sure that I would. And Vijay Singh and Bubba Watson look to be heading the wrong way. I chose Senden because of his play last week with the realization that a repeat of last week is highly unlikely, and Mahan, who if nothing else has a lot of experience on this course as one of three golfers to play here the last four consecutive years.

Group C

1. Jason Day
2. Chez Reavie

As I pulled up the player list for Group C this week, I was a little worried that I had handcuffed myself by putting Adam Scott and Brandt Snedeker on my "Avoid List," but, to my surprise, two solid players were just waiting to be selected. Day has not performed to his peak during the FedEx, but that could change at any moment, and Reavie has played extremely well the last two weeks.

Starters Round One

1. Luke Donald
2. Webb Simpson
3. Justin Rose
4. Chez Reavie

Only one surprise this week with the starting four. I'm going with Reavie in Group C. Day has not shown his best game lately, while Reavie has, so damn the name, I'll take the hot player. As for the other groups, pretty straight forward with Donald in Group A and Simpson and Rose in Group B. I realize my starters from Groups A and B happen to be the players who finished first, fourth and fifth last week and the odds of a repeat performance are low, but there is something to be said for momentum.

Round Two and Going Forward:

Outside of Group C, I am going to have a hard time pulling any of my starters this week. Sure, Mickelson could go low early and force my hand, but he'll have to be near the lead for that to happen. Donald has played too well lately and has too much on the line this week for me to pull him on a hunch. Simpson and Rose are clearly the class of Group B this week, and considering the trouble I had just filling out the roster, I don't see much shuffling in Group B. Group C should see plenty of movement, however, if Day comes to play. Reavie should play well this week as he's at the top of his game, but Day has a higher upside, and I'll find a spot for him if he shows that upside.