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Picks and Preview: The Tour Championship

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The FedEx Cup Playoffs, the finale of the PGA Tour, heads back to East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Ga., which has been the home to the Tour Championship since 2004. The points have been rearranged, so mathematically every player in the 30-man field has a chance at the $10 million prize, but not likely.

“It’s all about being in top 5” said Tiger Woods, who leads the standings.  “Just ask Sneds.”

Brandt Snedeker held his own fate at the 2012 Tour Championship. He entered the event in fifth place in the standings, so a victory at East Lake meant both a Tour Championship victory and the playoff title, which is exactly what happened.

The top 5 players this year will have the same luxury–a Tour Championship win will mean a playoff victory. A spot in the top five doesn’t guarantee the title, however, as previous playoff winners Bill Haas and Jim Furyk won from the 25th and 11th spot, respectively. The tournament setup allows for players to make up ground if they catch fire.

East Lake is a par-70 that covers 7,154 yards, and it’s certainly not the toughest test the players see all year. It will be a pin-hunting shootout, following the trend of the previous three tournaments in the playoffs.

Catch the PGA Tour finale Thursday-Friday, 1-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, 10 a.m.-noon (GC), noon-3:30 p.m. (NBC). Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (GC), 1:30-6 p.m. (NBC)

Now, let’s try to figure out who’s going to win, and who isn’t.

From the Top-5

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Tiger Woods: 5/1*

Unfortunately for Mr. Woods, this year will be remembered for rules infractions, missed putts, underwhelming major performances and the image ingrained in our minds of him collapsing at The Barclays with back spasms. With five wins this season, against stacked fields at The Players and WGC events, however, he’s regained his dominance in golf. He also has a history of retaining leads in big events fairly well.

If he can manage to oblige to USGA rulings, make a few more 4-footers for par and stay on two limbs, you can put this one in the win column for Tiger. He can finish 29th and still mathematically pull out the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

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Henrik Stenson: 16/1

He’s been crazy hot since The Open Championship where he finished second, tallying a third place finish at the PGA Championship and a win at the Deutsche Bank to align himself for a chance at the Cup. Despite a T33 that knocked him down a place in the standings last week, expect Stenson, who ranks fifth in driving accuracy and first in greens in regulation, to find himself somewhere in the mix on Sunday.

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Adam Scott: 12/1

He won the masters and broke the Aussie’s glass ceiling at Augusta, but he won’t win the FedEx Cup.  The leaderboard backed up allowing him to win at The Barclays by default, and his putting with his famous Scotty Cameron brookstick remains too much of a question mark.

Scott’s a classy competitor and proven champion, but his putter won’t hold up this week. I like him to crack the top 10 with solid play, but coming off a T28 last week (albeit with a Sunday 67), and a T53 at the Deutsche Bank, his recent form lead me to look elsewhere to find the playoff winner.

Zach Johnson of the United States tees o

Zach Johnson: 18/1

He pieced apart the field last week with his iron play and mid-range putting and has five top 10’s in his last six events, but he may be physically and emotionally drained from his win last week.

The victory put him in a great position, and back-to-back wins in the playoffs aren’t uncommon. Tiger, Rory, Vijay, Camilo all have repeated, but this week is different with the delay forcing the BMW Championship into Monday. Look for Johnson to start slow and fail to regain momentum on the weekend.

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Matt Kuchar: 20/1

Let’s get this out of the way: I don’t trust Kuchar in the big moments. He has six career PGA Tour wins, but he’s never won anything that makes me think he’s ready to win the Tour Championship and claim $10 million. He suffers from Snedeker Syndrome–everyone thinks he’s too soft in the big events–but we saw how that worked out in the 2012 FedEx Cup, so maybe I’ll eat my words come sundown on Sunday.

From outside the top 5:

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Phil Mickelson: 14/1

Other than a T6 at the Barclays, he’s finished outside the top 20 in every event since his groundbreaking Open Championship victory. However, if we’ve learned one thing about Phil over his career, it’s that he lives for the big moment. He’s a gambler at heart, and his eyes are probably flying saucers for the $10 million prize. He’s in the eighth spot and a win is no mathematical guarantee, but don’t sleep on Phil.

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Graham Delaet: 40/1

He grew out the playoff beard, and publically admitted he’s just happy to be in Atlanta. The laid back Canadian isn’t putting too much pressure on himself, and it’s a fact that avoiding razors during playoff season improves his chances (right?). If the beard doesn’t put fear into his playing competitors, he’s also tallied a T2 and third place finish already in the Playoffs. Look for him to sneak up on the leaderboard and have a chance on Sunday.

Jordan Spieth

(Sleeper pick) Jordan Spieth: 28/1

He’s managed 12 top 25’s in 22 starts this year, which means that Spieth is no average rookie. He’s also the youngest player to reach the Tour Championship since Tiger Woods in 1997. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Spieth win, and properly represent the new school of golf the way we wish Rickie Fowler would. He could also finish dead last, either one.

Bad bets

U.S. Open - Final Round

Steve Stricker: 20/1

He fell outside the top five in the standings by tying for fourth in disappointing fashion. These days, Stricker is semi-retired, playing a limited schedule and has bad case of the Kuchars. He’s a great putter, but something happens in the biggest moments. Look no further than the 2012 Ryder Cup. With a second place finish and a T4 already in the Playoffs, a top-10 finish this week is a sure bet, but Stricker and the trophy are going to be repelling forces come crunch time.

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Brandt Snedeker: 22/1

He’s back this year to defend his title, something no other FedEx Cup playoff champion can claim. Lingering injuries, a missed cut at the Barclays and a T47 at the Deutsche Bank show where his game is of late. A T8 last week solidified a chance at the Tour Championship, but his recent form leads me to believe a top-15 finish is about all we can expect.

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Jim Furyk: 18/1

Mr. 59 Jr. In typical Furyk fashion, he shot 59 but failed to win the tournament last week, costing him a chance at a top-5 position in the standings. That was so Furyk of him. He grinds harder than anyone on Tour, but somehow manages to miss putts or chunk chips at the least timely moments. He’s a workhorse and a newly inducted member of the 59 club, but he will not win his second FedEx cup.

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Dustin Johnson, Luke Donald, D.A. Points, Brendon de Jonge, Sergio Garcia and Roberto Castro: 25/1 (Garcia)

The happy-to-be-there crew. They have about the same odds of winning the playoffs as Harris English, who sits in 31st place in the standings watching the Tour Championship from his couch.

Even if one of these guys do win, I can’t see Tiger finishing outside the top 15, which is what they all need to happen. Dustin needs Tiger to finish 29th or worse in the 30-man field, which basically means that if Tiger completes four rounds this week, Dustin has no shot.

*Odds provided by Bovada

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He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team and earned a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. joro

    Sep 18, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Probably you know who.

  2. Nate

    Sep 18, 2013 at 8:55 am

    “The happy-to-be-there crew. They have about the same odds of winning the playoffs as Harris English, who sits in 31st place in the standings watching the Tour Championship from his couch.”

    This gave me a good chuckle

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19th Hole

I wasn’t ready for the 2019 Rules of Golf

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We weren’t ready. We thought we were, but we weren’t.

For the last year, the USGA reminded us that in 2019 Rules of Golf were coming, but we didn’t listen. We heard the flag stick could remain in and we heard that you could take a penalty drop from knee-height.

But we didn’t listen.

I bet none of you have even practiced using your putter to flatten the entire green between your ball and the cup. You can do that now.

I’m also sure that you and I will continue to hover our club in all hazards, er, penalty areas. Yeah, we’re calling it a penalty area now.

The USGA went to the extreme depths of changing words all to simplify the game for you.

I don’t think the USGA listened either.

The rule changes were intended to speed up play and simplify golf for amateurs. Seems like a good idea. In turn, they may have bamboozled the PGA Tour while confusing the only amateurs who kind-of, sort-of knew the rules.

The pros didn’t need a new rule book, the amateurs just needed a simple one.

Us “locals” as the USGA refers to amateurs, do have one extremely fluid perk. When hitting a ball OB, or following a lost ball, you can drop with a two-stroke penalty instead of walking back to the tee. This of course, is dependent on your course, head professional, tournament conditions, and other factors including and not limited to what phase the moon is in.

If that’s somewhat confusing, read up, ask about your local rules, and buy a few extra sleeves. Reason being, in 2019, the limit on searching for a golf ball has been cut from five to three minutes.

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But wait, there’s good news.

Thanks to the USGA, if you accidentally move your ball as you frantically high-step through fescue, it’s no longer a penalty! What an exciting 180 seconds that will be!

If you somehow don’t find your golf ball in the hazard penalty area, the USGA tried to help us out, which they did, yet regrettably took away a more iconic portrait on the golf course.

The rigid, stoic stance and forceful drop of a ball at shoulder-height.

And we let it happen.

Now, we’ll watch a defeated man deliberately bend to his knees and gingerly drop his ball…Which, by the way, appears to be a convenient way for cheaters to “take a drop” that ideally doubles as “identifying my first ball”.

Don’t even get me started on the back issues this could flare up.

We heard in late 2018 that Bryson DeChambeau would use the flagstick when the odds were in his favor. He even laid it out simply for us.

“It depends on the COR, the coefficient of restitution of the flagstick.”

Simple.

We didn’t listen Bryson, we didn’t believe. We also have absolutely no clue what you’re talking about.

But hey, as Bryson would say, don’t hate the player, hate the game. Yeah, he’d clearly never say that, but here’s to hoping!

We heard he would do it, but we didn’t believe it. We had to see to believe. What we saw was DeChambeau first in strokes gained putting in the very first round he was allowed to do it.

Obviously, this trend will continue for DeChambeau, and others may join in, because what is golf if not a constant chase for a marginally better opportunity at success.

Watch your back, because those others that may join in could be closer than you think. You may turn around to find a fellow member asking for the flag on their next 12-footer.

It should be a fun year of commentary and confusion at your local club and on the PGA tour. Professionals will have constant questions for rules officials, and commentators will consistently question Bryson’s methods.

There is one real question I hope is answered this April.

What will we do when Bryson banks in a downhill putt at No. 2 of Augusta?

Will we be ready? Will Augusta?

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News

Stewart Cink pens multi-year deal with Ping

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Ping Golf has announced that six-time winner on the PGA Tour, Stewart Cink, has signed a multi-year deal with the company.

The deal will see the American play a minimum of 11 Ping clubs, as he looks to end an almost decade long winless streak on the PGA Tour. Cink had previously been an equipment-free agent (having been a Nike man prior to that) although he had been using Ping clubs for the majority of the last season.

Speaking on the addition of Stewart Cink to Team Ping, company president John K. Solheim stated

“Stewart has a long track record of success and overall consistency, evidenced by his wins, top 10s in majors, and the fact that he has competed on five U.S. Ryder Cup teams and in four Presidents Cups.

“He has instant credibility, and we know him well because he has played Ping irons for many years. Our tour staff has been impressed by his professionalism and his knowledge of equipment. We’re delighted to be associated with Stewart.”

Cink will make his first start as a Ping staff player at this week’s Sony Open. According to the company, the 2009 Open Championship winner is expected to have Ping’s G400 LST driver, G400 fairways woods, i25 irons and Sigma 2 Arna putter in the bag this week at Waialae Country Club.

No details of the financial terms of the arrangement have been disclosed.

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Equipment

Charles Howell III’s winning WITB: 2018 RSM Classic

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Driver: Titleist TS3 (10.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei AV Blue 65

Fairway woods: Titleist TS2 (15, 21 degrees)
Shafts: Fujikura ATMOS Tour Spec Black 8X, Fujikura ATMOS Tour Spec Black 9X

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB 4-iron, Titleist 718 AP2 (5-7), Titleist 718 CB (8-PW)
Shafts: Project X LZ 6.5 (hard stepped)

Wedges: Vokey SM7 (52, 56, 60 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold S400

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Align

Ball: Titleist Pro V1 (proto)

SEA ISLAND, GA – NOVEMBER 17: Charles Howell lll tees off on the eighth hole tee box during the third round of The RSM Classic at the Sea Island Resort Seaside Course on November 17, 2018 in Sea Island, Georgia. (Photo by Ben Jared/PGA TOUR)

RELATED: See what members are saying about CH III’s equipment in the forums.

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19th Hole

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