Preview: Deutsche Bank Championship, round two of FedEx Cup Playoffs

Preview – PGA Tour – FedEx Cup Playoffs – Deutsche Bank Championship – TPC Boston – Norton, Massachusetts —

The quest for the FedEx Cup title and a spot in the TOUR Championship heats up this week as the second-leg FedEx Cup Playoffs arrives this week at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

TPC Boston hosts the event which could feature up to 100 players with the Top 70 advancing to next week’s BMW Championship. This week’s event tees off Friday – as is tradition – and finishes the final 18 holes on Labor Day Monday.

Several qualified players are skipping this week for various reasons including Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson,Paul Casey, Graeme McDowell and Justin Rose. Both Casey and McDowell are celebrating new additions to their families.

Hunter Mahan comes in after a win at The Barclays to led the FedEx Cup standing ahead of World No. 1 Rory McIlroy.

TPC Boston features the par-5 18th hole — a unique finishing hole with a pair of bunkers in the center of the fairway. This year’s added twist is a much smaller putting surface at No. 18, which is expected to create more drama. The championship usually comes down to this hole with the possibility of two- and three-shot swings.

The par-71 layout, stretching to 7,207 yards, is suitable for a variety of types of players so long as they fire birdies. The event has produced strong past champions including Vijay Singh twice including 2004 and 2008, Steve Stricker (2009), Phil Mickelson (2007) and Adam Scott (2003). Charley Hoffman captured the title in 2010. McIlroy won in 2012 edging Louis Oosthuizen and Tiger Woods for the title. He logged 20-under.

The winner will need to go low at this Hanse Golf Course Design. Historically, the course provides plenty of birdie opportunities. The scoring average last year was just over 69 per round.

2013 Recap:

  • Henrik Stenson (22-under) captured the title en route to winning the FedEx Cup. His record 22-under aggregate was the historic best at TPC Boston. He beat out Stricker by two shots and Graham DeLaet by four. Finishing T-4 at 17-under including Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar, Garcia and Kevin Stadler. Stenson carded rounds of 67-63-66-66.

The Golf Channel has exclusive television coverage Friday and Saturday for the opening rounds of play, and handles early coverage Sunday and Monday with NBC Sports bringing home the leaders.

This is also the final week for several players to sway the opinion of U.S. Team captain for the 40th Ryder Cup. Gary Woodland, Ryan Moore, Brandt Snedeker, Kevin Na, Webb Simpson and Brendon Todd are all considered in the running. Many believe Mahan locked up his spot with a victory at The Barclays.

FANTASY: This week could produce some usual suspects contending including Rickie Fowler, who rolls into Boston with five straight Top 10s on tour including some runner-up efforts to McIlroy. Look for a birdie-machine to win it this week – hot off the tee and around the greens. With that, take the defending champion Stenson. Jim Furyk, three Top 10s in nine starts at TPC Boston, is a threat here with his consistent play along with Matt Kuchar, who has 11 Top 10s this season and a T-4 finish here a year ago.

BETTING: McIlroy, at 4-to-1 odds, is the overall betting favorite at and with good reason. The top-ranked Rory won here in 2012 and, despite a T-22 last week, has the best two-month stretch in recent memory going. Scott is 10-1 and worth a look, but you should consider Jason Day at 16-1. Day keeps putting himself in the final pairings and he has two career Top 3s at this venue. For a longer shot, take Patrick Reed at 50-1. He was T-9 last week.

Other Golf News:

  • The Finals tees off Thursday with the Hotel Fitness Championship, which is the first of a four-tournament series to determine 25 PGA Tour membership cards for next season.
  • Francesco Molinari, 44th in the Official World Golf Ranking, headlines the field at the European Tour’s Italian Open this week. Several players including Stephen Gallacher are jockeying for position as a captain’s pick for the Team Europe Ryder Cup squad.
  • The LPGA Tour hosts the Portland Classic in Oregon this week. Suzann Pettersen is the defending champion. With Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park and Lydia Ko all skipping the event, Pettersen is the favorite at 3 ½-1 odds.
  • The Champions Tour visits Calgary for the Shaw Charity Classic in Canada.