The Favored Five — the group that this week at the Tour Championship will work the term “control your own destiny” like a Grand Canyon mule — come to East Lake in fine fettle.
In fact, their fettle is pretty fantastic.
At last week’s playoff semifinal, the BMW Championship, the top five in FedEx Cup points were a combined 71 under par. Put them together in a best ball, and they might have driven the scorecard to seek therapy.
“It shouldn’t be too hard to wipe the floor with these guys this week, right?” smiled Henrik Stenson, queuing up some choice sarcasm.
“There’s no one who’s playing great and is sky high on confidence and no one with a bunch of majors and no one who hits it 330 off the tee. So, it shouldn’t be that hard.”
Conditions at East Lake willing, there is no reason to believe that they all suddenly will turn to 18-handicappers now. Even if the scores inch up slightly from a week ago.
These are the five who will require no help to claim the FedEx Cup and its $10 million bounty. They are the darlings of the short-attention-span fan, the ones who keep it simple. Win the Tour Championship, and they win the obscene bonus, too.
Otherwise, mathematics wins, and who wants that?
A scouting report on the five in the crowded driver’s seat at East Lake:
1. Jason Day
World ranking: 1
FedEx Cup playoff finishes: Won Barclays, 12th Deutsche Bank; won BMW Championship.
Tour Championship history: Four appearances. Average finish, 11.57. Best finish, fourth (2014).
Stats: second in scoring average (69.16); second in money winnings ($9.17 million); second in putting average (1.71); third in driving distance (314.5).
Season highlights: Broke through in a big way with his first major victory, shooting a record 20 under to win the PGA Championship. One of five players to have at least five PGA Tour victories in a season since 1980, joining Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, Nick Price and Vijay Singh.
He said it: “I’m walking through the locker room and people are going: ‘You’re playing off the ladies’ tees, or you’re playing a different golf course, or every time you stand up there and hit a drive it’s downwind for you.’ I’d like to say all of those things are true, but they’re not. It’s good to see that the guys are recognizing I’m playing good.”
Of note: He has broken 70 in 22 of his past 24 rounds.
2. Jordan Spieth
World ranking: 2
FedEx Cup playoff finishes: Missed cuts at Barclays and Deutsche Bank; 13th BMW Championship.
Tour Championship history: Two appearances. Average finish, 14.5. Best finish, second (2014).
Stats: first in scoring average (68.98); first in money winnings ($10.55 million); first in putting average (1.70).
Season highlights: Sparked grand-slam talk when he won the first two majors of the year. Was the second youngest Masters winner ever. And the second youngest with two career majors since Gene Sarazen in 1922. Posted four PGA Tour victories
He said it: “I’m still lacking a bit of confidence in my game to really get through a lot of shots, which means I’m lacking a bit of consistency. … My misses are just further off than they normally are, and that’s what’s killing me.” — On the state of his game following the BMW Championship.
Of note: At 20 in 2013, he was the youngest ever to play in the Tour Championship, shot 64 in his final round to finish second.
3. Rickie Fowler
World ranking: 5
FedEx Cup playoff finishes: Missed cut Barclays, won Deutsche Bank; fourth BMW Championship.
Tour Championship history: Two appearances. Average finish, 15.5. Best finish, 8th (2014).
Stats: fourth in money winnings ($5.58 million); 10th in putting average (1.73); 27th in scoring average (70.27).
Season highlights: Two-time winner on PGA Tour this season. Climbed to the top 5 of the world ranking for the first time in his career. Shortly after an anonymous players’ poll named him the most overrated player, he won the Players Championship in stirring fashion, positioning himself in a playoff by playing the final four holes in 5 under.
He said it: “The main goal was to win. We got a few of those. Playing well through the playoffs, getting here to East Lake for the Tour Championship (was another). Really, the only one that I didn’t get was winning a major. So, I guess we’ll keep that one on the list for next year.” — On goals met and missed this season
Of note: Fowler officially joined the legion of young stars, becoming the fourth player 27 or younger to win multiple times on the PGA Tour. So much youth has not performed so well since 1997.
4. Henrik Stenson
World ranking: 6
FedEx Cup playoff finishes: second Barclays, second Deutsche Bank; 10th BMW Championship.
Tour Championship history: One appearance. Average finish, 1.00. Best finish, 1st (2013).
Stats: first in greens in regulation percentage (73.61); first in scrambling from rough (70.37); 12th in driving accuracy (69.67 percent).
Season highlights: Two of his three runner-up finishes this season were in the playoffs. He is the only member of the top five players without a victory this season.
He said it: “I’m coming in there undefeated, one-for-one (at Tour Championship). I just know it’s a golf course I really enjoy playing. It’s Bermuda and that really gives you a good advantage if you hit a lot of fairways and greens, and that’s obviously what I did in ’13. We’ll see if I can bring a solid long game that sets up nicely for the week, and then it’s down to how well you chip and putt.”
Of note: Stenson, from Sweden, is the only European to win both the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup.
5. Bubba Watson
World ranking: 4
FedEx Cup playoff finishes: third Barclays, 29th Deutsche Bank; 10th BMW Championship.
Tour Championship history: Five appearances. Average finish, 17.8. Best finish, fifth (2012).
Stats: second in driving distance (316.9); third in club head speed (123.63); fourth in scoring average (69.34).
Season highlights: Won his first start of the season (World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions), holing out from bunker for eagle on the final hole to force a playoff. Also won Travelers Championship in a playoff over Paul Casey.
He said it: “This course always beats me up. Very tricky for me with the rough, the kind of grass it is. It catches fliers all the time for my swing. … I want to perform at a high level here, and me and Teddy (caddie Ted Scott) have looked at it, and we’re trying to figure out how we can attack this course the right way, and play more conservative.”
Of note: Watson has been all around the leaderboard this season, with seven top-three finishes, three times a runner-up.
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