By Ron Patey
Rickie Fowler played it as cool as a polar bear’s toe nails in his one-shot win over Henrik Stenson at the Deutsche Bank Championship a week ago. Doing so lifted him 19 spots to number three in the FedExCup standings. It also set some tongues wagging about the PGA’s Big 4 (rather than Big 3) group of young superstars. Fowler’s three wins this season stack up well with Jordan Spieth’s four titles, Jason Day’s four titles and Rory McIlroy’s five wins over the past two seasons. Heading into the last two tournaments, Fowler has momentum in his hip pocket as he looks to bump Day (1) and Spieth (2) out of the top two positions.
Day sets up as the tougher of the two to overcome. His T12 finish at the Deutsche Bank Championship followed wins in his two previous appearances: The Barclays and the PGA Championship. The Australian has caught fire at the right time.
Spieth and his caddy, Michael Greller, are likely searching through golf’s lost and found department trying to find the groove that shot the Texan into the game’s stratosphere this season. Although Spieth still sits solidly in second place, his consecutive missed cuts at The Barclays and Deutsche Bank have shown he’s vulnerable in the playoffs’ later stages.
McIlroy, despite his injury, has kept it together enough to be lurking in 17th position. He passed on playing in The Barclays and closed T29 in the Deutsche Bank. McIlroy says his ankle is fine, and if he can shake off the last of the rust on his game, he’ll become a major factor in a hurry.
Next On The Tee: BMW Championship
Back-of-the-pack players arriving at Conway Farms Golf Club near Chicago on huge upswings include Hunter Mahan and Jerry Kelly. Finishing T4 at the Deutsche Bank Championship to move up 39 places to 52nd, Mahan has kept alive his streak of playing in every FedExCup event since the competition’s debut in 2007. Kelly got himself into this week’s event with a final-hole birdie in New England to rise 29 spots to 65th. But both have lots of work to do at Conway Farms; only 30 golfers in this week’s 70-player field will move on to East Lake in Atlanta for the final event and a shot at the $10 million bonus.
The players currently just inside the top 30 are Daniel Summerhays (26), 2011 FedExCup winner Bill Haas (27), Jason Bohn (28), Russell Knox (29), 2010 Open champ Louis Oosthuizen (30). The players just outside the top 30 are Memorial Tournament winner David Lingmerth (31), Harris English (32), Matt Jones (33), Kevin Na (34) and rookie-of-the-year candidate Justin Thomas (35).
Conway Farms Golf Club plays 7,198 yards and is a par 71.
Favorites: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Zach Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler
Players To Watch: Jordan Spieth, Jim Furyk, Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan, Hideki Matsuyama
Ron Patey covered the golf industry for 21 years as a special sections editor with Sun Media. During the past five years, Patey has been a golf writer for Examiner.com.