By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Insider
Once upon a time, every January, I penciled Phil Mickelson into the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. He was as automatic as Tiger Woods at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational and Steve Stricker at the John Deere Classic. However, with a compressed schedule of 40 tournaments in 2013, I played my hand aggressively all season, and it's worked. I probably wouldn't win any leagues out there, but it's been a respectable showing.
Because I burned Mickelson at the Masters (T54), the strategy leaves me with six choices for East Lake, only two of which have reached the FedExCup Playoffs finale before: Graham DeLaet (seventh in points; first-timer), Gary Woodland (17th; second appearance), Kevin Streelman (19th; second appearance), Roberto Castro (24th; first-timer), Brendon de Jonge (27th; first-timer) and D.A. Points (28th; first-timer).
All three PGA TOUR non-winners in the field of 30 are among my half-dozen -- DeLaet, Castro and de Jonge. I'm after a victory, so none survive my cut. The last golfer to make the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola his breakthrough was Chad Campbell in 2003, but he emerged at Champions Golf Club in Houston. A first-timer hasn't won any of the 12 editions at East Lake.
Of the three remaining, Woodland has been playing the most consistently strong of late, so I'm plugging him in. His T13 at East Lake in 2011 is a valuable bonus. He led the field in distance off the tee and ranked T2 in greens in regulation that week. Woodland also concluded his stay by going bogey-free 4-under on his last 23 holes.
Given the depth this week, there are a number of tantalizing options from which to choose. Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and Mickelson rank 1-2-3 in all-time earnings, but Luke Donald is the guy to whom the converging trends are pointing. He's placed a respective second, T3 and T3 in the last three editions, and he's coming off a T4 at the BMW Championship. As you can see below, my ploy to save him for his home track (Conway Farms) was the latest decision that paid dividends.
Last week: Luke Donald; T4; $315,000.00
Overall record: 36-for-39
Top 5s: 8
Top 10s: 17
Top 25s: 26
Missed cuts: 3