The Tour Championship Preview, Picks + Predictions Plus the Driver-Off-The-Deck BOLD Play of the Week #CocaCola #FedExCup

And then there were 30.  Following Zach Johnson’s win at the BMW Championship at Conway Farms, the third leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, the surviving field has been trimmed from 70 down to 30 as the PGA Tour heads to East Lake in Atlanta, GA for the big kahuna- The Tour Championship.  The top 5 in the FedEx Cup Standings (Tiger, Henrik, Adam, Zach, Kuchar) are guaranteed the FedEx Cup trophy and the salty $10 million prize that comes with it with a victory at East Lake, whereas the other 25 players in the field would need a victory and a little help from those top 5ers.

It’s shaping up to be a dynamite end to the 2013 PGA Tour season, so without further ado, let’s hop into some picks:

LOCKZILLAS: (Last week: Kuchar t-24th , Stricker t-4th)

Matt Kuchar
Matt Kuchar
– I’ve been riding this Georgia boy throughout the FedEx Cup and even though he slipped to a t-24th last week after a third round 61, I’m still loving Kuchar’s chances to take home the FedEx Cup trophy.  Kuch comes into the week 5th in the overall standings and has near zero attention and pressure on him, like the other four top 5ers have (Tiger, Henrik, Adam, Zach).  I like Kuch to be smiling the biggest of them all come Sunday afternoon with the FedEx Cup trophy in hand.

Zach Johnson
Zach Johnson
– Normally I like to fade players coming off of a win, but having never finished worse than t-16th at East Lake (yes it’s only a 30 player field, but it’s an elite field), owning the course record of 60 (2007- he finished t-2nd) and playing for 10 million big ones, I like Zach to log his seventh top 5 in his past eight events this week.

SEMI-FLIERS: (Last week: Zach 1st, Luke t-4th)

Billy Horschel
Billy Horschel
– It’s easy for players to snooze in this limited field/no-cut event, but Billy is the last guy who’s going to pack in the season early.  31st in GIR, 7th in birdie average, Billy does everything well.  Billy found some momentum at the end of the BMW last week with a 66 on Sunday to finish t-18th for the week, here’s to believing that he’ll carry that mo forward as a first-timer at East Lake this week.

Gary Woodland
Gary Woodland
– Somewhat quietly, Gary is putting together a very solid end to the season.  Winner at the Reno-Tahoe Open, t-2nd at the Barclays (had a putt on the 72nd hole to force a playoff) and a cozy t-18th last week at the BMW.  Finished t-13th here in his only other appearance at East Lake (2011), so has at least seen the grounds.  Hits is 900 miles off the tee and is 38th in GIR on Tour, love his chances for a top 10 or better this week.

*Also keep an eye on other Georgia Tech alum Roberto Castro this week.

HOSEL-ROCKET BUST: (Last week: Phil t-33rd)

Nick Watney
Nick Watney
– Wait, Watney finished solo 2nd last week after storming Conway Farms to the tune of a final round 64, how could you possibly tab him as a bust pick this week, Joel?  Well, yes, mr alter ego devil’s advocate, it was a very solid finish, but I’m going on past records here and the constant variability of Nick’s overall game.  First, other than the 2nd at the BMW and a t-9th at the Barclays, Nick hadn’t posted a top 10 since the Wells Fargo Championship (t-10th) way back in May and no top 5s since, gulp, January.  Then, take a look at his track record here at East Lake the past two years: 28th, t-26th  .  Yikes, that’s not even good in a full field event for a player of Nick’s caliber (note- he did finish t-4th in 2010, but hey, we’ll call that one an aberration).  It’s been well documented that Nick has been working on major swing changes, and a penal course like East Lake is no place to be spraying it off the tee like Nick frequently does.  I see a mid-teens finish at best for Nick this week.

DRIVER-OFF-THE-DECK BOLD PLAY OF THE WEEK: (Last week: Summerhays t-28th)

Brendon de Jonge
Brendon de Jonge
– The big Zimbabwean did it!  He qualified for the Tour Championship for the first time in his career, having made the BMW Championship the past three years but never making it onward to East Lake.  I don’t know this for sure, but I’m guessing he’s the first ever play to NOT post a top 5 finish all year, but make it to East Lake.  But, that doesn’t mean he won’t put together a solid tourney this week.  As many of you who follow me would know by now, I’ve been high on Brendon’s game for years, as he’s a GIR and birdie-making machine who just needs a few putts to drop here and there to finally break through.  I don’t anticipate him winning or even finishing top 5 this week (although that would be a little ironic wouldn’t it?), but greens hit galore and some steady-eddy rounds of 68-69 all week seem right up his alley, wouldn’t at all be surprised to see a t-7th or 8th by week’s end and that right there makes a solid sleeper pick.  Brendon de Jonge is your Driver-off-the-Deck BOLD play of the week!

#isitThursdayyet

Joel Harrington
@joel4deepgolf

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