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March 28 2012

5:44 PM

FedExCup Update: Woods roars back

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Tiger Woods made his first big FedExCup splash since the 2009 season last week at Bay Hill.
FEDEXCUP: StandingsWeekly leaders | Who's up, down? | Winners | More By Chris Dunham, PGATOUR.COM For the first time since he lifted the trophy in 2009, Tiger Woods is back inside the top 10 in the FedExCup standings. Woods hadn’t even cracked the top 40 since his successful ’09 campaign before a runner-up finish at this year’s Honda Classic landed him at No. 17 early this month. Now at No. 7 with 846 points, Woods has all but locked up a spot in the FedExCup Playoffs -- something he failed to do in 2011 and didn’t accomplish until very late in the 2010 Regular Season.
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It took 334 and 380 points to qualify for the Playoffs in 2011 and 2010 respectively. Woods has four top-20 finishes in his first five starts this season -- his best start since ’09 when he opened with nine consecutive top-20 finishes. Does that mean Woods is the favorite to win it all like he did in 2009? It’s probably too early to tell. But the fact that Woods will be in the field and probably in good position when the Playoffs tee off makes the FedExCup race that much more intrigue. THIS WEEK: The Shell Houston Open boasts 14 of the top 30 in the FedExCup standings, including Kyle Stanley (2); Johnson Wagner (3); Phil Mickelson (5); Hunter Mahan (8); and Steve Stricker (11). Mickelson and defending champion Charl Schwartzel are two of five previous Masters Champions also teeing it up in the final event before the TOUR heads to Augusta National. Seven past champions of this event are playing this week, including five that won the event at Redstone’s Tournament Course. Mickelson (2011), Anthony Kim (2010), Paul Casey (2009), FedExCup leader Johnson Wagner (2008) and Stuart Appleby (2006) each have victories on this course while Houston Cougar Fred Couples (2003) and Robert Allenby (2000) also have victories in this event. Couples’ 2003 victory is his most recent on the PGA TOUR. WAGNER’S WORRIES: Johnson Wagner, the January Player of the Month and 2008 winner of the Shell Houston Open, regained the lead in the season-long race for the FedExCup last week at Bay Hill. With 500 points on the line for the winner at Redstone, Wagner could strengthen his lead before heading to Augusta or be bounced from the top spot by one of six players this week. Kyle Stanley (63 points back), Phil Mickelson (137), Hunter Mahan (203), Steve Stricker (338), Keegan Bradley (373) and Ben Crane (485) could each unseat Wagner with a victory in Houston. In the best position of the bunch, Stanley could regain the top spot, which he held for five weeks, with a solo 12th-place finish or better.
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