These three guys are clearly a cut above the rest of the field over the past two years and clearly way below Tiger. Distinguishing between them may be semantics, but here goes:
4. Jim Furyk
How he got here: Furyk has to be the unluckiest golfer in the world over the past few years. No one, has played at a consistently higher level and not managed to turn it into wins. Part of this is bad luck(finished second twice to Tiger), and part of it is a few bad weekends/final rounds. Looking at the way Furyk has played, you have to say he deserves a win.
East Lake Prediction: Furyk has been on fire of late, which is probably why he is ahead of guys like Mickelson and Stricker in the odds. If you take out a four shot penalty for his caddies stupidity at the Barclays Furyk has finished inside the top ten in three straight events. As much as he deserves a win, 16-1 is just too low for a player of Furyk’s stature and age.
Line to win: 20-1
3. Steve Stricker
How he got here: Stricker posted the best season of anyone not named Tiger this year. 3 wins, 2 seconds, a third, ten top tens, a 23rd from the unlucky side of the US Open draw and only three finishes worse than t-52 make up a pretty good season.
East Lake Prediction: I have a hard time evaluating Steve. It seems he really never got the attention he deserved for a great season until recently. Even now, I don’t think people realize just how good Steve Stricker was this season. The problem is, was has very little to do with Predictions. Unfortunately for Steve, because I like him, I would have to say this has been a career year that will be tough for him to match going forward.
Line to win: 18-1
2. Phil Mickelson
How he got here: Mickelson has been noticeably worse in 2009 than he was in 2008. Luckily because of the way the FedEx cup points work, Mickelson could overcome some less than consistent play throughout the year and not really contending in the playoff events with two wins earlier in the season.
East Lake Prediction: Mickelson could be on the probational play list. There are certainly things about him that I hate like his popularity, aversion to physical fitness, the fact that he doesn’t hit a lot of greens compared to other good players and his age. However, Mickelson has underperformed from 2008, and if his wife is doing okay he should be back on the course getting more practice and play in. I’m not going to out and out say I like Phil, but head-to-head, he seems like a much better option than Els, Harrington, Goosen or players of that ilk.
I’ll have the obvious number 1 and picks tomorrow.