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Monday, September 8, 2014

TOUR Championship - Preview and Power Ranking

The 2013-14 PGA TOUR season comes to a climactic end at the TOUR Championship. The field of 29 players turn their attention to East Lake GC with the FedExCup title at stake.

East Lake is a par 70 that can stretch out to 7,307 yards. It featured a pair of par 5s, four par 3s and a dozen par 4s. Beginning in 2005, the winners of the TOUR Championship are Bart Bryant ('05), Adam Scott ('06), Tiger Woods ('07), Camilo Villegas ('08), Phil Mickelson ('09), Jim Furyk ('10), Bill Haas ('11), Brandt Snedeker ('12) and Henrik Stenson.

That list of champions is primarily comprised of elite ball-strikers, with Snedeker the glaring exception. Conventional wisdom would say that, typically, a great ball-striker having a hot week with the putter is the type of player that will come out on top.

With such a small field, I've diverted from my regular research methods and have placed a higher emphasis on my gut instinct as it relates to a player's current form and course history. Billy Horschel's win last week is a great example as to why I've done this. While he did not rank high statistically last week, I reached to include him in the Power Ranking and it paid off.

Here is a ranking of the entire field:

  1. Billy Horschel - He's hot, with a T2 and a win in his last two starts, and that works at a course like East Lake. He's only played here once, and that resulted in a T7 last year. He's clearly found something with the putter of late.
  2. Rory McIlroy - Only prior TOUR Championship went for a T10 in 2012. It's not hard to envision him winning the tournament and the FedExCup title this week. 
  3. Jim Furyk - Not only is he one of the elder statesmen in this event, but his history is excellent. He has a win to go with three other top-three finishes and nine top 10s in 15 tries. Tied for fourth last week at the BMW.
  4. Sergio Garcia - His season has been full of close calls, with the latest coming in the form of a T4 last week. He has four top 10s in eight tries at East Lake. 
  5. Rickie Fowler - A lot has changed for the better since his T23 in 2012, and he enters this week off a T4 at the BMW.
  6. Adam Scott - Past Champion. Elite ball-striker. Enters off a T8. Class player. Next.
  7. Bill Haas - Has been the king of above-average finishes without contending this season. Famously won the playoff over Hunter Mahan back in 2011 to win the FEC.
  8. Jordan Spieth - Converging trends, with a T2 at last year's TOUR Championship meeting T8 at last week's BMW.
  9. Bubba Watson - Was floundering late in the season until a runner-up at the BMW has put the train back on the tracks. Owns a T5 at East Lake back in 2012.
  10. Matt Kuchar - While he's almost always a safe play, East Lake hasn't been his sweet spot. His best finish in four starts was a T10 in 2012. Trending in the wrong direction (T5-T29-T46 in last three starts).
  11. Morgan Hoffmann - Similar to Billy Horschel last week, Hoffmann is on fire at the right time. While he's never won on the PGA TOUR or played in the TOUR Championship, a 62-63 weekend at Cherry Hills has to have been a big boost for his confidence.
  12. Justin Rose - His form is not the best considering his class, but he's never finished outside of the top 20 in this event including a runner-up finish.
  13. Webb Simpson - He's been extremely good on courses where his history is strong this season, which bodes well for East Lake. His last two trips have gone T5 and 4. A bit feast or famine this year, which is why he isn't higher.
  14. Jimmy Walker - No history at East Lake. Has the game and form to contend.
  15. Hunter Mahan - Fallen off the map since his Barclays win, but has a P2 here back in 2011.
  16. Chris Kirk - Predictably experienced a fall off (T36) last week after his win at TPC Boston. Hard to imagine him contending this week with the additional pressure of winning the entire FEC.
  17. Zach Johnson - A value at this spot with three top 10s in seven East Lake visits. The big finishes have dwindled as the season closed.
  18. Ryan Palmer - His 28th (out of 30) in 2012 was too hard to ignore even with his nice performance at Cherry Hills last week.
  19. Martin Kaymer - Seems to have found his form of late with a T7 and a T16 in his last two starts. No history at East Lake.
  20. Patrick Reed - One of two or three guys that I could see finishing first or last this week. 
  21. Jason Day - Would be inside the top five if not for his back injury and WD last week. Hard to know what to make of that.
  22. John Senden - Has experienced a great year on TOUR this season, but two finishes of 25th or worst in three starts at East Lake are alarming.
  23. Russell Henley - See Patrick Reed. Henley has a knack for par-70 and par-71 layouts and is known as a good putter. 
  24. Cameron Tringale - First trip to East Lake. 
  25. Hideki Matsuyama - His T20 last week was nice, but hardly noteworthy for the East Lake first-timer.
  26. Geoff Ogilvy - Hasn't finished worse than 19th or better than 11th in five TOUR Championships. There isn't much value for anything other than top 10s this week.
  27. Gary Woodland - Decent form. Decent course history. Yawn.
  28. Brendon Todd - Has fallen off of late. 
  29. Kevin Na - Well, he finished 30th in one of his two trips here, and someone has to be last in the ranking.
We will return tomorrow to talk one-and-done. Until then, best of luck to all!

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