Tour Championship experts' picks

September, 19, 2012
Each week of the season, our experts will share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories: Horse for the Course (a golfer who knows the track inside and out), Birdie Buster (a guy who could take it low this week), Super Sleeper (a player who could unexpectedly contend) and Winner.

This week's tournament: The Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Ga.

Want another opinion? Check out's FOREcaster page.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, senior golf writer: Tiger Woods
Sounds strange when you say it out loud but it's true. We haven't seen Tiger at East Lake since 2009, when he finished second. He has done that four times previously in his career (to go along with two wins). Twelve times he has teed it up and seven of those times he has finished in the top 10. He'd be the favorite to win it all again this week if it wasn't for one guy.

Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Phil Mickelson
Lefty's resurgence of late comes after two top-5s in the past two playoff events. It's the best golf he has played since the beginning of the year. He has won the Tour Championship twice at East Lake.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Tiger Woods
Second to Rory McIlroy in FedEx points, Woods returns to the Tour Championship for the first time since 2009. In his past four appearances in the tournament, he has three seconds and a victory.

Kevin Maguire, senior golf editor: Luke Donald
The Brit finished in the top five at East Lake three times in a handful of appearances, including T-3 last year and a second-place finish in 2010.

Birdie Buster

Michael Collins: Phil Mickelson
Talk about a late-season resurgence. Since missing the cut at the Open Championship, Phil has steadily gotten his golf legs back under himself. After two straight top-5s (T-4 and T-2) including weekends of 8 under and 10 under, respectively, Mickelson now gets to play a track he has won on twice and had five top-10s. Bodes well for the lefty going in to the Ryder Cup.

Farrell Evans: Dustin Johnson
What player without a win has had a better past few weeks than this long-hitting 28-year-old from Myrtle Beach? Top-5s in the first two playoff events helped him lock up one of Davis Love III's four captain's picks to the Ryder Cup at Medinah. Then he rode that high to a tie for sixth at the BMW.

Bob Harig: Rory McIlroy
The FedEx Cup leader has been making birdies like they are no big deal, winning the past two playoff events with a total combined score of 40-under par. This is his first visit to East Lake.

Kevin Maguire: Jim Furyk
No one wants to feel like they have to justify their selection as a Ryder Cup captain's pick, but the reality is, most people usually do. So I suspect Furyk will have a little extra motivation this week and next. It doesn't hurt that he won the Tour Championship back in 2010.

Super Sleeper

Michael Collins: Bo Van Pelt
Only one man at the Tour Championship has as many top-10s this year (9) as Bo and that guy is leading the FedEx Cup playoffs. If you play fantasy golf, this guy could be your workhorse (15 top-25s in 19 cuts made). This is the third year in a row he has made the final 30 and after a ninth-place finish last year, it's a place he is very comfortable.

Farrell Evans: Ryan Moore
After starting the playoffs 64th in the standings, the 29-year-old former U.S. Amateur champion had T-10s at the Deutsche Bank and the BMW to squeak into the Tour Championship in the 28th position. He was only one of two players to play his way into Atlanta at Crooked Stick.

Bob Harig: Scott Piercy
He got the last spot in the field and is playing with house money now. Regardless of how he fares this week, just getting to East Lake is a nice financial bonus.

Kevin Maguire: John Huh
It's hard to pick a true sleeper in a field of only 30 players. For the only rookie to make it to the Tour Championship, pulling out a "W" would be a bit of a shocker, even though he just finished T-16 at the BMW Championship.


Michael Collins: Rory McIlroy
If you pick anyone else, after the way he has looked in four of the past five events he has played (threes wins and fifth), you might just want to stop watching golf. Don't think for one second he doesn't know he could become the first to win three playoff events in FedEx Cup history. I can't wait for all the chatter after he does something not even Tiger has done.

Farrell Evans: Rory McIlroy
I know I sound like a broken record, but the 23-year-old, two-time major champion is in a league of his own right now. The only thing that can keep him from taking both the Tour Championship and the $10 million that goes to the playoffs winner is if Tiger or Phil show up with their A games for four days.

Bob Harig: Phil Mickelson
Lefty's on a roll of late, posting consecutive top-4s at the past two playoff events after a lackluster summer. He has been good at East Lake as well, with a pair of victories. A win would mean the overall FedEx Cup title.

Kevin Maguire: Tiger Woods
In the years since the Tour Championship formally moved to East Lake in 2004, we've mostly seen big names win there (save Bart Bryant that first year). Expect the star trend to continue as Woods at least tries to make a case that he deserves some consideration for 2012 PGA Tour player of the year honors.


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