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Rory has a mountain to climb

 

The FedEx Cup's defending champion Rory McIlroy is going to have to do something really special at this Week's BMW Championship, the 3rd of the four FedEx Cup playoffs, if he is to have any chance of making it through to the Cup's grand finale, The Tour Championship, next week

Of the 70 who will tee-off at the Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, Illinois, on Thursday, only the top 30 will go forward to the Tour Championship at storied East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta next week and right now McIlroy has a lot of catching up to do.

The injury-dogged Northern Irishman, who this year has slipped back from No 2 to No 6 in the world and is still without a 2017 win, is sitting way down the FedEx Cup standings in 51st place.

To make it to East Lake and have any chance of contesting the Tour Championship and the $10m bonanza that will go to the 2017 FedEx Cup champion, the 27-year-old four-time major winner is going to have to get up among the front-runners coming down the final stretch on Sunday.

And this against a field that is as strong as you'll get in any major.

The game's 2017 big guns are all there, ranging from still-dangerous old hands like Masters champion Sergio Garcia and multi-major winner Phil Mickelson to seasoned 30 and 40 year-olds like world No 1 Dustin Johnson, Olympic champion Justin Rose and former FedEx Cup champion Henrik Stenson and finally to the stellar brand of hugely-talented 20-somethings who all but dominated the majors this year, namely Jordan Spieth, the World No 2 and Open champion, Brooks Koepke, the US Open champion, and Justin Thomas, the PGA Champion and new World No 4.

And let's not forget two others who have the imprint of future major champions, Jon Rahm of Spain who, in his rookie season, has captured titles on both sides of the Atlantic and has rocketed from 137th in the World to No 5, and the Japanese young gun, Hideki Matsuyama, who is not the World No 3 for nothing.

The British bookmaker see Spieth as the BMW favourite at 6/1 with Johnson, winner of the 1st playoff, the Northern Trust, close behind at 7/1 followed by Thomas, the 2nd playoff winner at the Dell Technologies Championship at 11/1, Rahm and Rickie Fowler at 12/1 and Australia's former World No 1 Jason Day at 18/1. McIlroy is further back at 22/1.

The PGA Tour's fantasy forecaster Rob Bolton disagrees with the bookies. He sees Thomas as the favourite - and I have to go along with.

Spieth is a top-of-the-class golfer, to be sure, and presently heads the FedEx Cup standings with 5,071 points, but right now Thomas, a fellow 24-year old from Kentucky who is just 27 points behind his Texas rival, might just be the hottest golfer on the planet having won four PGA Tour titles this season - the most by anyone on Tour - two of those in his last three starts, the first at the final major of the year, the PGA, and the second in the Dell Tech two weeks ago.

It might be worth remembering, though, that Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup have not always been won by the game's superstars with the highest rankings.

In between Tiger Woods' triumphs in 2007 and 2009, and the latest victories by Spieth (2015) and McIlroy last year, it should be noted that that the FedEx Cup and its $10m has also been carried off by some solid, but less glamorous golfers like Bill Haas (2011), Brandt Snedeker (2012) and Billy Horschel (2014), so don't be too surprised to see someone like Americans Rickie Fowler or Patrick Reed, Englishman Paul Casey, South African Louis Oosthuizen or Australian Marc Leishman, grab the spoils this year.

Besides his triumph last year following a dream Sunday when he shot a stellar 64 to make a three-man sudden-death playoff which he then won at the 4th extra hole, McIlroy has an excellent FedEx Cup record.

He won two Playoffs events in 2012 and finished second in the FedExCup, then he won three consecutive Tour events (including two majors) before finishing third in the 2014 FedExCup.

He missed the cut at the Dell last week, however, and with his history this season of niggling injuries and up and down performances, it's more than likely that he will find East Lake a bridge too far.

LEADING ODDS
(Tuesday a.m. Sept 12, 2017)

Jordan Spieth 6/1
Dustin Johnson 7/1
Justin Thomas 11/1
Rickie Fowler 12/1
Jon Rahm 12/1
Hideki Matsuyama 14/1
Jason Day 18/1
Paul Casey 20/1
Rory McIlroy 22/1
Henrik Stenson 25/1
Brooks Koepka 25/1
Patrick Reed 28/1
Justin Rose 30/1
Matt Kuchar 35/1
Louis Oosthuizen 35/1
Marc Leishman 40/1
Sergio Garcia 50/1
Patrick Cantlay 55/1
Daniel Berger 60/1
Kevin Chappell 60/1
Phil Mickelson 70/1.

NOTE: For all the latest odds go to www.oddschecker.com/golf/bmw-championship/winner.

Neville Leck

Written by neville@golfweather.com.