Jim Furyk: He’s catching grief for not finishing the deal and he hasn’t won on TOUR since he clinched the 2010 FedExCup Playoffs with a win in the rain. The harder the course, the more I love Furyk and he falls right into line this week. In 14 career starts, he’s hit the top 10 a staggering nine times. NINE TIMES. His form suggests he’ll be in the fight come Sunday as well. Gamers will hope he’s coming from off the pace instead of leading it. He was the 54-hole leader at Oak Hill this summer, another Donald Ross design.
Nick Watney: He’s the candidate for the 2013 Snedeker. He’s saved his best golf for the last three weeks as he was T9 at Barclays and second last week in Chicago. He made a ton of putts at Conway Farms so his confidence should be flying but he’s only broken par once in his last eight rounds at East Lake. He’ll knock the logo off the ball and if his putter cooperates I can see him mixing it up Sunday afternoon.
Jordan Spieth: #ILOVEIT. He’s third in the all-around and he’s 20. He’s never played under this pressure or on courses like this and he just keeps producing. He’s not afraid and neither am I!
Jason Day: It seems like every time there is a big golf tournament on an old historic course that Day is in the mix. He was T6 here in 2011 and his short game will come in handy as will his length off the tee. Plenty of good players this week and he’s in the mix.
Hunter Mahan: Last season he was T8 and in 2011 he lost in a playoff to Bill Haas after that shot from the lake bed. He closed last week 65-67 en route to his T4 finish. He was T25 and T13 leading into that event so he’s peaking at the right time. I wouldn’t be surprised if he won this week.
Keegan Bradley: He’s fired 66 or better in his last five tournaments so, as I’ve written at least four times, he’s knocking. He only has one round of eight under par at East Lake and that was 64 in 2011 the first time he saw the course. He went on to finish T11. Last year he was T23 at seven-over.
Gary Woodland: They say in life, timing is everything and Woodland’s 2013 season is proof of that. His victory and T2 three weeks apart took him from just making the Playoffs to finishing in the top 30. He’s made over $1.1 million of his $1.77 in three of his last five tournaments. The other two finishes were 74th and T41. I don’t have to stretch this much this week.
Bill Haas: If I told you that Haas has made only $300k-ish more than Kevin Streelman this year, would you be surprised? I was. In Haas’ only appearance at East Lake he won. The tournament. The $10 million. All of it. He also played all four rounds under par and beat Hunter Mahan in a playoff. I expect another solid week this week but his finishes of T25, MC and T28 in the Playoffs have soured me slightly.
Kevin Streelman: I thought last week would have been his week to make noise as he returned to his native Chicago but maybe he’s more suited to the narrows and ball-striking of a tighter set-up. He proved that theory earlier in the season as he won at Tampa Bay on a tough Innisbrook course. He was also T12 at Oak Hill and T9 in his only other appearance here. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm
Jason Dufner: Speaking of players who like Donald Ross designs, Dufner surgically disemboweled Oak Hill on the Sunday at the PGA before two late and meaningless bogeys tripped him up. He fired 68 on that Sunday to win his first major. His “almost” first major came across the street at the Atlanta Athletic Club in 2011 when he lost to Keegan Bradley. He’s had other fun in Georgia as well as he was the 36-hole leader at the Masters in 2012.
Webb Simpson: It doesn’t seem like 15 months ago that he was firing 68 at Olympic to win the U.S. Open and that’s exactly how Simpson likes it, out of the spotlight. The dilemma this week is that he’s finished in the top 25 in five of his last six events but he hasn’t cracked a top 10. In eight rounds at East Lake he’s been par or better in six of them. He was 22nd in 2011 and T5 last year. Don’t forget he tied the course record at Oak Hill in round two at the PGA so there is something about Donald Ross courses that fits his eye. Sold.
Billy Horschel: His T18 last week was greatly helped by a closing round 66 but he really hasn’t put together four solid rounds together since the Memphis-Merion stretch in mid-June. He’s ground out over $3 million this season and I think he’s looking forward to a break.
Charl Schwartzel: After knocking out four rounds under par last week at Conway Farms in his first visit, I’m not as hesitant in endorsing him this week in his first trip to East Lake. He’ll be another player that hopes they get the greens rolling as fast as possible as he can really putt slick greens. He’ll be flying under the radar this week but he only has one round over par in 12 in the Playoffs. Shhhhhhhhhhhh.
Roberto Castro: Another player from the Georgia Tech stable that has seen this course from his college days, Castro has really held it together down the stretch with T25, T9 and solo 15th last week. He also played well at Oak Hill finishing T12. I don’t think he can win this week but I would be comfortable listing him in the top half.
Sergio Garcia: He’s another player that I have a terrible time reading. On paper, he loves East Lake as he’s finished fourth, T2 and second in seven trips. Yet, in the first three Playoff events, including DBC when he had a two-shot lead entering the final round, he’s fired over-par to close all three tournaments. His fourth round scoring average puts him 166th on TOUR and me looking somewhere else.
Boo Weekley: His only top 25 in the 11 events since he won at Colonial was T12 at another Donald Ross course, Oak Hill, at the PGA Championship. He managed par or better in three of four rounds after opening with 72. I’d expect another solid performance to end a very commendable year from Weekley but that putter makes me nervous.
Brendon de Jonge: He’s taken the opportunity in the Playoffs to cement his choice as a captain’s pick in the Presidents Cup and looks to be awfully comfortable playing with the house’s money. In three Playoff events he’s racked up finishes of T19, T9 and T18 so it looks like he’s caught up in his golf game and not the moment. His ball-striking will help him surprise again this week.
D.A. Points: In 11 events since June began, Points has missed the weekend in six of them. His T6 at The Barclays was his only finish in the top 40 in this streak. It’s his first time at East Lake so that’s not firing me up either. Pass.
Luke Donald: His last two top 10s have been on courses he has had a great history and the other one is his home layout. In his last three trips to Atlanta the Englishman has been second, T3 and T3 last year. He snuck in at No. 29 with his T4 finish last week so I’ll stick with the hot hand.
Dustin Johnson: He snuck in to The TOUR Championship on the heels of his T62 finish last week in Chicago. In 16 rounds at East Lake Johnson has found the 60s only four times, including two of four rounds last year. Nobody argues the talent is there but the results have been too up-and-down over the last month for me to endorse this week.
Jordan Spieth of the Week Last Week
The column was taken over and thrashed by the kid from Texas. He’s your Rookie of the Year, no questions asked.
Sony: Russell Henley WIN
Humana: David Lingmerth P2
Farmers: Brad Fritsch T9
WMPO: James Hahn T16
AT&T: James Hahn T3
NTO: Luke Guthrie T21
WGC-Match Play: Russell Henley 2nd round
Honda: Luke Guthrie 3rd
WGC-Cadillac: Russell Henley T28
Puerto Rico: Jordan Spieth 2nd
Tampa Bay: Jordan Spieth T7; Shawn Stefani T7; Ben Kohles T7
Arnold Palmer: Ben Kohles T14
Shell Houston Open: Robert Streb T22
Valero Texas Open: Ben Kohles T37
Masters: Russell Henley MC
RBC Heritage: Russell Henley T6
Zurich Classic: D. H. Lee T8
Wells Fargo Championship: Derek Ernst WIN
THE PLAYERS: David Lingmerth T2. Great back-to-back weeks for the rookies on TOUR!
HPBNC: Morgan Hoffmann T5
Colonial: Jordan Spieth, yep, him again, T7
Memorial: Russell Henley T6
FESJC: Patrick Reed Fifth
U.S. Open: David Lingmerth T17; special mentions for Hideki Matsuyama T10 and Michael Kim T17.
Travelers: Morgan Hoffmann T9
AT&T National: D.H. Lee T3; Jordan Spieth 6th; Morgan Hoffmann T8
Greenbrier: David Lingmerth and D.H. Lee both T9
John Deere: Jordan Spieth WIN
The Open Championship: Jordan Spieth T44
Sanderson Farms: Steve LeBrun T26
RBC Canadian: Patrick Reed T9
WGC-BI: Russell Henley T27
Reno-Tahoe: Scott Langley T21
PGA Championship: Hideki Matsuyama T19. #forreal
Wyndham: Jordan Spieth P2. #forrealreal
The Barclays: Jordan Spieth T19. He’s currently No. 9 in the Playoffs.
Deutsche Bank Championship: Jordan Spieth finished T4 after a final round 62.
BMW Championship: Jordan Spieth T16. This is a recording.