The Deutsche Bank Championship, the second of the FedEx Cup play-off events, gets under way in Boston on Friday and finishes on Monday to cash in on the big Labor Day holiday crowd.
The 125 players who started out have been whittled down to 100 and only 70 of these will survive to round three at Crooked Stick next week, but for eight players this event has added significance. American Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III is set to announce his four wild-card picks next Tuesday and for Dustin Johnson, Hunter Mahan, Rickie Fowler, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Brandt Snedeker, Bill Haas and Nick Watney this is their last chance to impress their potential skipper. The experience of Furyk and Stricker probably makes them certainties but none will want to leave it to chance and, given their undoubted class, it will be a surprise if at least a couple of the eight aren't in the mix come Monday.
Standing in their way are the top three ranked players in the world: Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Tiger Woods, in that order. McIlroy and Woods have been chalked up as 12/1 joint favourites by Boylesports, who make Donald next best at 14/1. The latter shared third place with Snedeker and Day 12 months ago behind Webb Simpson, and second with Day and Geoff Ogilvy in 2010, so TPC Boston is clearly a course he enjoys. A par-71 measuring 7,214 yards, this is by far the easiest track used for the play-offs and a winning score in the high teens looks on the cards. As with most shootouts, greens in regulation and birdie average are the stats to concentrate on.
My Three Against the Field:-
Dustin Johnson @ 18/1 BetVictor
The cream tends to rise to the top in this event with just two shock winners - Charley Hoffman and Olin Browne - in its nine year history. That said, it's hard to enthuse about Woods after his abject 76 last Sunday and his putting woes may be set to continue here. McIlroy could easily bounce back from a rather lifeless display but is still too short for my liking, and I'd much rather back Donald of the market leaders. However, it's Johnson who really needs to win this week for the reason already given and he ticks both the course form and recent form boxes, having finished fourth here in 2009 and coming off a share of third place at The Barclays, where he ranked fourth for GIR. These mega-bucks events seem to bring out the best in the man from South Carolina - he's claimed a title in the playoffs in each of the past two seasons - and one senses he's going to cement his Ryder Cup place with another victory this week.
Brandt Snedeker @ 25/1 Ladbrokes
For all the same reasons, it's easy to make a case for Snedeker. The American is on the cusp of automatic Ryder Cup qualification after finishing runner-up to Nick Watney on Sunday and could go one better on a course he has shown a distinct liking for in the past - finished fifth to Hoffman in 2010, in addition to running third 12 months ago. This time round he has even more incentive to play well and as he's one of the most laid-back operators in the game he's unlikely to buckle under the pressure. Birdies will be the order of the day this week and the man from Nashville is a machine in that respect - ranks sixth on Tour for birdie average and first for strokes gained putting - so it's hardly a stretch of the imagination to see him standing over the winning putt on Monday afternoon.
Tim Clark @ 55/1 bet365
For the final pick, it was a toss-up between Geoff Ogilvy and Clark, both of whom have been popping up on leaderboards of late. The Aussie also has an enviable record here, with four top-seven finishes since 2003, including runner-up spot in 2010. However, the shrewdies have snapped up all the early 50/1, whereas the South African can still be backed at 55s and that is where the value lies. It's seems a long time since he won the 2010 Players Championship and it must have felt longer for him as he's had a pretty torrid time battling injury, but recent evidence suggests he's back to near his best. Fourth place at the Travelers Championship in June was a sign he was beginning to turn things around and he's since posted four other top-15 finishes, including a share of 10th place at Bethpage, where led the field in putting. That brute of a course would not have played to his strengths and I'm expecting further improvement over the shorter confines of TPC Boston.
Dustin Johnson 2pts each-way @ 18/1 BetVictor
Brandt Snedeker 2pts each-way @ 25/1 Ladbrokes
Tim Clark 1pt each-way @ 55/1 bet365