By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
For those in the top 5 of the FedExCup standings heading into this week’s TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, the formula is simple: Win, and you win the FedExCup, too. Everyone else, meanwhile, needs help.
With that in mind, here’s a look at five players who I think could come from outside the top 5 and win the FedExCup:
Louis Oosthuizen (No. 6): There are a couple of reasons to like Oosthuizen’s chances. First, he doesn’t need a lot of help to win the FedExCup by virtue of being No. 6 in the standings. With an extra week off he should also be fully recovered from a minor pectoral injury he played through at the BMW Championship. Oosthuizen plays big in big spots (see his 2010 British Open victory, this year’s Masters, the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational) and has been in a groove in the Playoffs with a couple of top-5 finishes, including a runner-up in Boston.
Dustin Johnson (No. 7): Three Playoffs tournaments, three finishes in the top 6. You could argue that no one outside of Rory McIlroy has been as consistent as Johnson in the postseason. If there’s a concern, it’s that Johnson has never fared particularly well at East Lake, failing to finish in the top 20 in three trips. I think this year will be different, though. Johnson’s length is of course a huge asset, but his iron play has been very good in his last three starts with Johnson ranking in the top 10 in greens hit.
Jason Dufner (No. 10): The Duf has cooled a bit since a midseason run that included two wins and two other top-5 finishes in five starts, but a return to Atlanta should spark the 35-year-old. Dufner has a history of playing well in the South -- one of his two victories this year came in New Orleans, and he lost a playoff at the 2011 PGA Championship at nearby Atlanta Athletic Club. He doesn’t have a great track record at East Lake, having tied for 13th last year and 19th in 2009 in his only two appearances, but he loves Bermudagrass, is one of the best drivers of the ball on TOUR and is one of its best ball-strikers. He’s also having the best putting year of his career.
Bubba Watson (No. 11): Another player who doesn’t have a great record in this event, Watson makes up for that by the fact that he’s having a career year. He won another pretty significant tournament in the state of Georgia in April and has five other top 10s, including a pair of runner-up finishes, to go with his Green Jacket. Watson has been good -- not great -- in the Playoffs so far with three finishes in the top 12. As far as Watson hits it -- he leads the TOUR in driving distance -- he’s also third in greens in regulation. If he can straighten out his putter, Watson should be a factor at East Lake.
Carl Pettersson (No. 17): The length at East Lake, which he is playing for the first time, shouldn’t affect Pettersson, who ranks in the top 40 on TOUR in driving distance. Like Dufner, he, too, is a guy who tends to play well this side of the Mason-Dixon Line (see: his win at Hilton Head and tie for third at the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island). It’s also been a big year for those who wield a long putter. It’s certainly a longshot at 17th in the standings but as we saw with Bill Haas, who was 25th going into East Lake, it’s certainly a possibility.