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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

My "5 to Watch" at the Tour Championship

Let's make sure we're clear here: I'm NOT picking the FedExCup winner, just the Tour Championship winner. The points race is too unpredictable while the scoring is straightforward. (Which probably explains why the Tour is adopting the "staggered start" for next year's event.)

Bryson DeChambeau, Tiger Woods and Justin Rose

We've only got 30 players to choose from this week, so my odds should be a bit better than usual. (Although better odds haven't helped me much in the recent past!) And after a week off to rest and recuperate, it's hard to say whether any player's form will match how he played at the BMW Championship.

Still, I'm going to give it a go.
  • Bryson DeChambeau has won two of the three Playoff events, so I have to give him a nod. A scientific player is something new to theTour these days, and I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. You do know that he was trying to simulate morning dew on the range earlier this week, don't you? You've got to love that kind of thoroughness!
  • Rory McIlroy has won this event before, back in 2016. He knows what it takes to beat East Lake and his game seems to be back in shape. I know that everyone believes he needs a wet course to win right now but I'm not convinced. I like his chances this week.
  • Justin Thomas has firepower. I know you can say that about a lot of the players this week but JT has demonstrated the ability to unleash it more easily than any of the other players in the field -- at least, he has over the last year or so. And I wouldn't underestimate how last year's loss at East Lake irritates him. Remember, he called the $10mil a "consolation prize."
  • Rickie Fowler is something of a wild card to me. I'm still wondering just how well that injury has healed, whether he'll be able to hold up under the physical strain if he has to do something special to go for the win. He'll have the Ryder Cup in the back of his mind, after all, and he'll want to guard against re-injury. Still, he played very well at the BMW and I can't help but pull for him this week.
  • And for my flier, I'm taking Keegan Bradley. His win at the BMW was a surprise even to him, and there are many unanswered questions in the wake of that win. Has he found something, or is he still in the "lightning in a bottle" stage? Will he be too emotionally drained to get the best from his game this week? Or is he primed to win again if he can just stay out of his own way, now that he knows he CAN still win? Many questions remain, but you can't argue with wins.
It's a stacked deck at East Lake but, when push comes to shove, I'm going with Justin Thomas. While the other players have a lot going for them -- as do players like Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson, who could break out at any event -- I can't help but feel that JT has something to prove this week. And, as Rory said, JT's got a little meanness in him.

I expect to see some junkyard dog from him this week!

The Tour Championship begins its GC broadcasts Thursday at 1pm ET. And PGA Tour Live will be streaming starting at 10am ET, if you've got their app.

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