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Tour Championship Preview: Time for Tiger to Strike

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.

When word came down that Jim Furyk had been left off the President's Cup roster, there was a bit of shock, followed by an "OK, I guess that makes sense" moment. For all the experience and as well as Furyk has played the last 12 months, there seemed to be something missing. When Jim Furyk failed to win on the PGA Tour last year after having multiple quality chances, we figured he was in a rut. It happens to the best of them; he simply ran into some bad luck, be it a series of unfortunate circumstances or tougher competition, whatever the reason, he wasn't winning. When he failed to seal the deal in his Sunday Ryder Cup match, we started to wonder if this rut was something more. This wasn't the bulldog we were used to. Furyk has always had the rep of a cool customer, someone you could count on come Sunday. When he again failed to close-out a 54-hole lead at the PGA Championship earlier this year, our suspicions were confirmed - something is wrong, between the ears. As if we needed more evidence, Furyk again found himself in position A heading into the final round and again he came up short. There's probably a legitimate excuse for each time Furyk has failed to come through in the clutch the last couple years, but when taken as a whole, there's only one conclusion that makes sense. Be it a lack of confidence or concentration, whatever the case, there was a reason Fred Couples left Furyk off the President's Cup team. After Furyk shot a 59 on Friday at the BMW Championship, that decision looked questionable. After another final-round failure Sunday, that decision looks about right.

This week:
Tour Championship

Last Year:
Brandt Snedeker shot a final-round 68 on his way to a three-stroke victory over Justin Rose.

Players to Consider:

1. Tiger Woods

He's not at the top of his game entering this week, but with the FedEx Cup on the line this week, you can be sure that Tiger will be ultra-focused. Factor in top-2 finishes in four of his last five starts at East Lake Golf Course in Atlanta and you can bet he'll be a factor come Sunday afternoon.

2. Luke Donald

It's hard to classify anyone as a sleeper in a field of the top 30 on the PGA Tour, but considering he's been a little off all year, Donald qualifies this week. He enters the week at No. 29 in the rankings, but he has momentum off a top-5 last week. Oh, and did I mention that he's finished no worse than third here the last three years?

3. Jim Furyk

A winner here in 2010 and no worse than 11th in his last six tries, Furyk probably won't win this week. But the way he's playing, he'll likely be a factor on the weekend.

4. Henrik Stenson

First time at this event for Stenson, but the way he's played the last couple months, it shouldn't matter. Stenson is among the top-5 entering this week, so a win here and he's your new FedEx Cup champion.

5. Justin Rose

Rose sits just outside the top-5 entering this week, so he'll need a win and some help this week to win the FedEx Cup trophy. And while he can't control what the other players do, he certainly could win this week - he almost did last year.

Players to Avoid:

1. Zach Johnson

Johnson's game is certainly in good shape entering this week, but he's rarely played well on this course. Only two top-10s in six tries. Remember, only 30 players in the field this week, so there are bound to be some big names on the Avoid List.

2. Steve Stricker

As much as I hate to put Stricker on this list, there are only 30 players to choose from and, quite frankly, his track record here stinks. In five of his last six tries here, Stricker has finished 15th or worse.

3. Bill Haas

It's impossible to top Haas' winning percentage here - he's 1-1, his lone appearance at the Tour Championship in 2011 resulted in a win - but his game has been off this entire playoff run, and I doubt he'll turn around this week.

4. Jason Dufner

Dufner entered the FedEx Cup Playoffs with a lot of steam, but he really hasn't taken advantage of the momentum from his PGA Championship win. He enters this week on a run of five consecutive rounds in the 70s, and East Lake has never suited his eye.

5. Matt Kuchar

Although he hasn't done much since the start of the playoffs, Kuchar remains one of the fortunate-five heading into this week at East Lake. Unfortunately, Kuchar hasn't fared well here in his three starts, just one top-10.


Group A

1. Tiger Woods
2. Brandt Snedeker

As expected, there aren't many players to choose from in Group A this week. Fortunately, I saved one start for Tiger. Although I don't expect to need a backup, it's nice having the defending champion on the bench.

Group B

1. Hunter Mahan
2. Jim Furyk
3. Justin Rose
4. Luke Donald

With the limited field, I expected every group to be a little thin, but that's not the case in Group B this week. Not only did I find four quality options, but I actually had to leave a couple good players on the sidelines. As for who I have - Furyk seems like an easy pick, he's playing very well. Donald is a bit of a sleeper, but enters with some momentum. Rose finished runner-up here last year and has a legitimate shot at the title, and Mahan has played well here the last two years with two top-10s including a runner-up in 2011.

Group C

1. Henrik Stenson
2. Jason Day

Again, no Adam Scott for me this week as I'm out of starts with him. Stenson and Scott would be the optimal pairing, but since I can't take Scott, I'll go with Day this week over Spieth. Day has played well during the playoffs and could sneak up on some people this week with a win and possibly the FedEx title.

Starters Round One

1. Tiger Woods
2. Luke Donald
3. Jim Furyk
4. Henrik Stenson

The last start for Tiger this week, and you can bet that he'll be in the lineup at least three days, one of which being the first day. Furyk seems like an easy choice in Group B as even though he failed to close again last Monday, his game overall, is still in pretty good shape. Donald finally has some momentum entering a week, and I'm not about to let that slip by without taking advantage. A little risky using Stenson out of the gate as this is his first trip here, but his game is too sharp to leave on the bench.

Round Two and Going Forward:

As mentioned, Tiger is locked for three rounds, if not four this week. It really depends on how Snedeker plays; more precisely, if Snedeker is in bonus range come Sunday. Furyk has a pretty strong hold on one spot in Group B this week, until Sunday that is. Donald could see four rounds this week if he starts well. If not, Rose is probably the first one in off the bench. Stenson could also see four starts in Group C if he gets a feel for the course early on. If not, I'll have no problem inserting Day into the lineup as early as Friday.

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