Five To Watch At The 2013 TOUR Championship: FedEx Cup Playoff Finale

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2013 Tour Championship: Five To Watch At The FedEx Cup Finale

Tour Championship
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It all comes down to this. The TOUR Championship begins on Thursday, and despite the smallest field of the year, it will be the most competitive as all 30 players in attendance compete to bring home the $10 million grand prize and the title of 2013 Champion.

The PGA Tour season is long, but that only adds to the allure of this playoff finale. Over the last nine months, we’ve seen the rise of young stars like Billy Horschel and, of course, Jordan Spieth. The winners of all four majors – Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson and Jason Dufner – will be represented in Atlanta. And of course, no story about the 2013 season would be complete without talking about Tiger Woods. Despite an amazing five wins, he failed yet again to take a major title, but winning the FedEx Cup for a record third time would be history in itself.

If last week’s BMW Championship was a shootout playing with no cut, this week will be an all-out sprint from start to finish. Don’t think that East Lake won’t be able to hold its own, though. The Donald Ross-designed course was absolutely torched by Woods in the first FedEx Cup finale in 2007, but has played much more difficult since the following year’s renovation. The tournament may very well come down to the final hole. A rare par-3 finish, the 18th at East Lake stretches over 230 yards and averaged over par in recent years, so any narrow lead at the end could easily be lost.

With such a competitive field, anybody could win this week, and it’ll surely be one of the most entertaining events of the year. Let’s take a look at my final top-five for the 2013 season.

Brandon Raper is a golf writer for “Like” him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @Brandon__Raper, and add him to your Google+ network.

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5) Phil Mickelson

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Mickelson has failed to crack the top 30 each of the last two weeks, after a tie for sixth at the Barclays opened his Playoffs on a high note. Still, don’t count out Lefty. He missed the cut at the Greenbrier Classic before winning twice in Europe and bringing home his first Claret Jug at Muirfield. At eighth in the standings, he’s not guaranteed the FedEx Cup with a win, but with just a little help, he could easily take the season title.

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4) Hunter Mahan

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Hunter Mahan has improved each week in the playoffs, working his way up to a tie for fourth at last week’s BMW Championship. Mahan is winless in 2013 – although he was looking great at the RBC Canadian Open before his wife went into labor – but also has playoff experience on his side, as the only player on Tour to play every tournament in FedEx Cup Playoffs history. Look for Mahan to finish well, but he’ll need the leaders to stumble a bit to take the cup from 15th place.

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3) Brandt Snedeker

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Snedeker started off the playoffs with his momentum going all wrong. Since his win at the RBC Canadian Open, he missed two cuts and didn’t even crack the top 30 until something finally clicked in his game last week at the BMW. Snedeker will be properly motivated to hold onto whatever that feeling was, as he has a chance to repeat as the FedEx Cup champion. The scenarios are complicated, but crazier things have happened.

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2) Jim Furyk

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Five top ten finishes in his last six starts, including a runner-up at the PGA Championship and third place at last week’s BMW Championship, show that the veteran has his game back in shape, and just in time for East Lake. Furyk hasn’t finished worse than 11th in any of his five Tour Championship appearances in the Playoff era, and will be looking to repeat 2010’s results, which saw him win the tournament and the FedEx Cup.

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1) Tiger Woods

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With the season’s ultimate prize on the line, it would be crazy to leave the best player in the world off this list, despite some up-and-down play over the last month. Woods is known for playing well at his favorite courses – Augusta, Torrey Pines, and Bay Hill come to mind. Add East Lake to that list. Facing the smallest, yet most competitive field of the year, Tiger has won the Tour Championship once and finished second three times in his last five appearances. He doesn’t have to win this week to win the FedEx Cup for a record third time, but with that advantage, look for Woods to step up and bring everything he’s got to Atlanta.