Tomorrow is the start of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston. The unusual Friday start sets up for a Labor Day finish on Monday. This week is guaranteed to bring potentially more excitement than last weeks Barclay’s which saw over 20 guys within four shots of the lead entering Sunday. This is the second of four playoff events in the Fedex Cup, 100 players start the week with a chance for the $10 million bonus, but only 70 will advance. In addition, this is the last week before both the European and American Ryder Cup teams will be cemented, with three captains picks still available for those who didn’t qualify on points. So there are some major story lines this week to follow.
AMERICAN RYDER CUP HOPEFULS
The nine American’s who qualified on points are: Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Jim Furyk, Jimmie Walker, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Speith, Patrick Reid, and Zach Johnson. Many stalwarts of the past several Ryder Cup and President’s Cup members failed to qualify which leave Captain Tom Watson with some difficult choices ahead. I believe Hunter Mahan has all but assured himself of a pick with last weeks impressive win at the Barclay’s barring an injury this week in Boston. That leaves essentially two spots for guys like: Brandt Snedeker, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley (who played exceptionally well with Phil in 2012 at Medinah), Bill Haas. These are huge names on the PGA tour, who have won multiple major championships and Fedex Cups (remember Bill Haas from out of the water at East Lake a few years ago). The American team will be without Jason Dufner who has a bulging disc in his neck and obviously Tiger Woods whose back is hurt yet again. There are also plenty of young guys who are seeking a pick to make their Ryder Cup debut. Most notably Harris English. He has won each of the past two years on tour and won a Web.com Tour event while still an amateur playing at Georgia. He also has team competition experience, playing on the 2011 Walker Cup team, arguably the most prestigious amateur event in the game. Ryan Moore has been coming into his own the past couple of seasons on tour who is well deserving of a pick after finishing 11th on the points list. Brendan Todd played great last week early but stumbled on Sunday, however another great week will put pressure on Watson to leave him off the team. I think Tom Watson wants to pick two of the first four players I mentioned but none have shown great form of late. However, the caliber of players they are, I look for each of those guys to throw up a ton of birdies to make a run at the title and give Watson a reason to pick them.
EUROPEAN RYDER CUP HOPEFULS
To start off again the nine who are currently qualified on points for the Euro squad are: Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, Victor Dubuisson, Jamie Donaldson, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose, Thomas Bjorn, and Graeme McDowell. Again there are some massive names and Ryder cup stalwarts who are looking for a pick from Captain Paul McGinley. The Match Play Assassin that is Ian Poulter, former #1 Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, the most interesting man in the world Miguel Angel-Jimenez, and Francesco Molinari. Poulter has to have a big this week to show some form for McGinley, but he will probably be a pick anyway purely due to his match play skill. Lee Westwood didn’t qualify for this weeks Deutsche Bank, which leaves his pick very much up in the air. Luke Donald has been making swing changes all year with his new swing coach, but I look for him to put it together this week. The biggest wild card however isn’t even playing in America this week. Stephen Gallacher will be playing in Italy this week. He has torn up Gleneagles, which hosts the Ryder Cup, the past several tournaments he’s played in. He was -18 in last years tournament, and something like -43 in his last 16 competitive rounds there. If he comes in 1st or 2nd this week he can qualify and knock out Graeme McDowell, but a good week for him will make it hard for him not to be picked, leaving a seasoned Ryder Cup player off of the already stacked Euro Squad.
This week obviously has some great story lines with the Ryder Cup at the heart of most of them. As I said before I expect those guys to play well. Henrik Stenson won last year finishing at -22, with the highest winning score of the past five years was -15. They are going to go low this week. I also look for Adam Scott and Jason Day to continue their great play from last week. My pick though is Rory McIlroy. The guy has played some unbelievable golf this summer by hitting his driver ungodly distances. While last week was not his best performance, he had spent the previous week celebrating his two major championship victories. After putting in a little extra time on the range last Thursday he came out with a 65 on Friday, tied for second lowest of the event. After shaking that little bit of rust off, Rory will go low. When he is on top of his game the guy can lap the field. This week with lower rough, at a course the players know well, a missed drive will not cost him as much as it did last week at Ridgewood Country Club where the rough was cut down to a mere 3.5 inches. His outstanding driver play and confidence will bleed into the putter, the weakest and streakiest part of his game in my opinion. I’m looking forward to watching him hit 350 in the fairway setting him up with plenty of wedges to set him up for birdies. Winning score -23. Runner Up: another big hitter in Keegan Bradley.
As Kenny mentioned, Rory will certainly go low but I’m looking for the second-most consistent guy on the PGA Tour to win this week: Rickie Fowler. He’s finished in the top 10 in each of his last five tournaments, including his runner-up finishes at the US Open and Open Championship, and his third place finish at the PGA. In the four majors plus the Barclays, Fowler has average a 69.2 per round, expect him be hanging around on Sunday. I see him winning with a score of -20.