AND then there were 100. Yet another stellar cast head for the Dell Technologies Championship at TPC Bostonthe second event in the season-ending FedEx Cup Playoffs with the top five in the standings having already committed to the tournament. Dustin Johnson, Justin ThomasBrooks Koepka, Justin Rose and Bubba Watson are the men in prime position to pick up the $10m bonus that goes to the man who wins the series, but all five know that a couple of good weeks can see somebody from further down the standings steal the main prize.
The tournament was won in 2010 by Charley Hoffman, by Webb Simpson in 2012, by Rory McIlroy in 2012 and 2016, by Henrik Stenson in 2013, by Chris Kirk in 2014, by Rickie Fowler in 2015 and by Thomas last year. Thomas was the player of the year in 2017 and his victory here helped him to claim the FedEx Cup. He will now attempt to become the first man to defend the cup, and there are few who would bet against him doing precisely that.
However, he will have to be at the top of his game if he is to do it again. McIlroy sat out the Northern Trust and has been working hard on his game as he attempts to rediscover the spark that makes him the most exciting golfer in the world when he is at the peak of his powers. It has been yet another “nearly” season for the Northern Irishman. He came close to winning The Masters before a disappointing final round and finished second at The Open Championship. But he was bitterly disappointed with his performance at the US PGA Championship at Bellerive and decided that he needed to do something about it rather than keep trying to convince himself and everybody around him that there was nothing wrong with his game.
His driving – normally the strongest part of his game – has betrayed him time and again throughout 2018, while he continues to have problems dialling in his distance control with a wedge in his hand. And, of course, hit putting woes are well documented. So the question is: has he used the past two weeks well? McIlroy is a determined character. He attracts a great deal of criticism for his tendency to let his shoulders lump when all is not going well, but it is only because he sets such incredibly high standards for himself.
McIlroy used his second win at TPC Boston in 2016 to propel him to his first FedExCup title and will be back at the season’s second of four FedExCup Playoffs events in hopes of becoming the first player ever to win the Dell Technologies Championship three times. In 14 starts on the PGA TOUR this season, McIlroy has a victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard and four additional top-10s and is No. 19 in the FedExCup standings.
It is highly likely that he will be the man to beat this week, although a certain Tiger Woods may well have something to say about that. The 42-year-old will be returning to Boston for the first time in five years as he chases his third FedExCup title. Woods, the only two-time winner of the FedExCup, is fresh off a runner-up finish at the US PGA Championship, where he posted his lowest final-round score in major championship history with a six-under 64. With three top-10s in his last four starts, Woods said that he feels he’s right on the verge of earning his 80th career PGA TOUR title and believes that could come during the FedExCup Playoffs. Woods has always talked a good game, even when he has been struggling with his game. But this is different. Now, he is playing some astonishing golf, reminiscent of the play he produced when he dominated the game between 1997 and 2008.
“I feel my next wins are coming soon,” Woods said. “How soon? I don’t know, but I’m putting myself there in tournaments now. I’ve done it two of the last three tournaments I’ve played in and they were big events, so I’m not that far away from getting it done.”
Jordan Spieth will be making his sixth appearance at the Dell Technologies Championship after nearly winning a year ago . Entering the final round last year two shots behind Thomas, Spieth started birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie to take the lead and added another birdie at the seventh to reach the turn in 30. But three bogeys and a birdie on the back nine proved his undoing as Thomas won by three shots thanks to an eagle on the par-four fourth and birdies at the 13th and 15th holes. With his runner-up finish, Spieth maintained his lead in the FedExCup, but was ultimately passed by Thomas in the season-finale at the Tour Championship in Atlanta. Prior to 2017, Spieth’s best appearance in Boston had come in his initial start at the Dell Technologies Championship when he finished T4 in 2013. It is all a far cry from Spieth’s fortunes in 2018. He has endured a disappointing campaign but can salvage something from his season and will be absolutely determined to do precisely that.
Brandt Snedekerthe 2012 FedExCup champion, won the regular season’s final event at the Wyndham Championship for his ninth career PGA Tour title and will be back in Boston as he chases his second FedExCup title. Snedeker became only the 10th player in PGA Tour history to fire a sub-60 round with an opening 11-under 59 at the Wyndham Championship and led wire-to-wire, later admitting that it was the most difficult victory of his career. Snedeker will be hoping to catch the eye of Ryder Cup captain Jim Furykas will Matt Kucharwho is making his 15th consecutive start in Boston. Kuchar, who is 12th in the Ryder Cup standings, has never finished better than tied fourth but will be looking for something rather better this week.
Boston-area native and PGA Tour rookie Peter Uihleinwho enjoyed such success on the European Tour as he learnt his trade, is set to make his first start at the Dell Technologies Championship after finishing the regular season No. 81 in the FedExCup standings.
Dell Technologies Championship Tips
Rory McIlroy. For, refreshed and raring to go
Bryson DeChambeau. Brilliant season
Adam Scott. Back to his best at last
Dell Technologies Championship Fantasy Picks
Rory McIlroy. Looking for a much-needed win
Bryson DeChambeau. Still doing it his way
Adam Scott. Brilliant ball striker
Justin Thomas. Wants to win FedEx Cup again
Dustin Johnson. Another week, another four days in contention
Jordan Spieth. Showed flashes of his best at the Northern Trust
Tiger Woods. Is this the week?
Brandt Snedeker. Back to winning ways
Matt Kuchar. Looking to catch Jim Furyk’s eye
Daniel Berger. Needs a big finish to the year
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