Phil your boots with Mickelson
After last week's 50/1 winner, Ben Coley previews the Deutsche Bank Championship and thinks Phil Mickelson is too big at 33s.
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An extra day's rest and a return to familiar territory means that Rory McIlroy is a worthy 9/2 favourite for the Deutsche Bank Championship, which starts on Friday.
The world number one disappointed his supporters last week when unable to complete the four-timer, but in truth a finish of 22nd in The Barclays sets him up perfectly for the second event of the FedEx Cup.
We only have to go back to 2012, when McIlroy won this title, for evidence to support this theory. Back then, Rory had dotted up at Kiawah Island, re-tuned at Bethpage, and was ready to go again following an extra day's rest. A repeat is very much possible.
But while TPC Boston usually throws up classy champions its tendency towards low scoring means that nobody - not even McIlroy - can really expect to challenge unless they produce in each of the four rounds. It's with that in mind that he's narrowly overlooked having won by 'only' a shot two years ago.
When we look back at this event, we see a list of winners who arrived in Boston in good form. Webb Simpson was at the top of his game in 2011 and Henrik Stenson likewise a year ago, while even the 'surprise' winner, Charley Hoffman, was also in rude health. It's with this in mind that some very good PGA Tour players can be backed at what appear dismissively big prices, but the likelihood is that the winner comes from somewhere near the head of the betting.
Top of my list is Phil Mickelson, who appears to have been dismissed all too quickly after a disappointing if eventful week at Ridgewood.
Lefty is out to 33/1 despite the absence of Justin Rose, who is skipping this event as it clashes with his son's first day at school, and in-form Sergio Garcia, another to sit out and recharge for the BMW.
So he has around 30 fewer players to beat than last week, two of whom sat just in front of him in the betting at The Barclays, yet he's out to a price we rarely see next to his name because of one moderate week at a course which, as yet, he hasn't performed on.
I just don't get it.
Remember, it was only a fortnight before that Mickelson finished a gallant second in the US PGA, beaten only by the game's best player, and that came on a low-scoring course at which he had a bank of good form. Just like he does here at TPC Boston, where he won in 2007, finished fourth behind McIlroy and opened with a round of 63 last year.
"This is one of my favorite courses we play all year," he said in 2011, and the subsequent tweaks made by Gil Hanse and his team only serve to suit Mickelson, who remains at his best when aggressive golf is the order of the day.
Essentially, three rounds at The Barclays are being used as stronger evidence than a lifetime of PGA Tour form and I'd have Mickelson closer to 16/1 than 33s. For extra encouragement, rewind to last year when Mickelson finished second in a major (the US Open), missed the cut at a less suitable course next time, then won his next two starts.
With the vociferous Boston supporters likely to consider only Keegan Bradley a more worthy cause, Mickelson could well remind us that, under these conditions, he's never a 33/1 shot. He could just as easily throw in a pair of 75s. I'm more than willing to leave it in his magical hands.
Speaking of Bradley, he'd be on my list were this a more testing layout. As regular readers will know, I'm big on factors like incentive and where better than Boston for Red Sox fan Bradley to force Tom Watson's hand with a performance which earns him a place on the Ryder Cup team?
Unfortunately, while the location is perfect the course may not be and for all his quality, Bradley will rarely be all that interesting when something like 22-under could be needed. In his own words he prefers it when 10-under is the target and with that in mind he's overlooked.
Instead I'll turn to another young star from America, Jordan Spieth.
It's a mark of how far he's come in such as short time that the world number 13 is considered to have gone off the boil somewhat, having failed to really figure in the Open Championship, the Bridgestone and the US PGA.
But last week's tie for 22nd in New Jersey puts him back on the front foot as he returns to TPC Boston, where he earned a Presidents Cup pick with a stunning final-round 62 last year, one he described as 'the round of my life'.
Clearly, then, he'll have plenty of positive memories to call upon and, for now at least, these low-scoring events are best for him. Spieth's sole PGA Tour victory to date came at the John Deere Classic with a winning score of 19-under par, and something in that region will make him competitive.
Encouragingly, Spieth matched Hunter Mahan for birdies (21) last week, with only Jason Day (22) managing more, so it's just a case of limiting the mistakes which will be much easier at TPC Boston, where the rough is nowhere near as encroaching nor as dense as it was at Ridgewood.
The 22-year-old is ranked seventh in birdie average this season and is 20th in the new total strokes gained statistic, which speaks to how aggressive he is in the right circumstances especially considering that he's a lowly 146th in greens hit.
To my eye, the Deutsche Bank provides the right circumstances and with several members of the US Ryder Cup team beginning to find their form, Spieth is taken to win for the second time on tour.
It'll be interesting to see how good a pointer the new Strokes Gained: Total stat proves to be in the long-term. The fact that McIlroy leads Garcia, Matt Kuchar, Adam Scott and Jim Furyk in it suggests it merely highlights who is playing well, and that adds a little extra weight to the case for Charl Schwartzel.
The South African currently sits in seventh, just behind sixth-placed Rose, and the three players who complete the top 10 are Hideki Matsuyama, Dustin Johnson and Graeme McDowell. It's a list of absolute quality.
What it tells us is that Schwartzel is playing really solid golf and that's despite not striking the ball as authoritatively as he usually does. Indeed, in backing him for this last year my concern was his poor short-game stats, but this time around that isn't the case and at fifth in birdie average, he could be poised to finally put four rounds together here.
So far, he hasn't been able to do so and that's despite getting into good positions. On debut in 2011 he opened 66-66 to lead at halfway, while a year later it was 68-65 for fifth. Even last year he shot 67-68-67 and was therefore ahead of Spieth with a round to go, only to lose that particular battle by nine shots.
Clearly, though, Schwartzel can score at the course and we saw with Hunter Mahan last week that a handful of eye-catching rounds can too easily be hidden by what appear modest results.
The worry with Charl would be his strike-rate in the US but this will only be his 74th PGA Tour start in total and 47th since he won the Masters, since which he has placed on four occasions, so quotes of 50/1 look more than acceptable to me.
If the putter behaves I expect Charl to figure at some stage at a course which rewards his length off the tee.
Brandt Snedeker is another with plenty to play for this week as he bids for a Ryder Cup spot. Snedeker is 71st in FedEx Cup points and with only 70 advancing to the BMW, he needs to perform following a missed cut at The Barclays.
I can see him doing so at a course where he thrives - indeed, it was here in 2012 that his sixth-placed finish confirmed to Davis Love that he was worth a Ryder Cup pick - but having backed him at 50s last week, I can't go in at 40s given how poorly he played. Again, this change in price only highlights why Mickelson is too big at 33s.
Instead, there are two players at three-figure prices who wouldn't look out of place as winners of FedEx Cup events and they complete my staking plan.
First up is Seung-yul Noh, who opened with a round of 62 on his way to 12th here two years ago.
The Korean ranked 11th for greens hit during the week and clearly took to the venue, without being able to match the fireworks he produced in the first round.
Two years on and he returns as a PGA Tour winner via the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, in which he shot 19-under par, while just last week he carded 19 birdies - only five players in the field managed more.
Obviously, Noh hasn't quite fired on all cylinders since winning in New Orleans but there are signs he's getting to grips with his new status as a PGA Tour winner, and once he does there's no limit to how far he can go.
Like Schwartzel and Mickelson, Noh gets it out there with the best of them off the tee and perhaps he can feed off the good vibes from fellow Sean Foley pupil Mahan and provide the stable with a timely boost.
Finally, Angel Cabrera is surely underestimated at 150/1.
Like Noh, the Argentine is a winner on tour this season and he's been uncharacteristically consistent since then, finishing 19th after an awful start in the Open, mid-division at Firestone and 22nd last week following a withdrawal in the PGA.
Fitness concerns will never be far away from the 44-year-old but the shoulder injury which forced him to call it quits at Valhalla appears behind him for now, and if that's the case he could well bomb his way to a place here in Boston.
Cabrera has made the cut on all five visits, finishing fourth in 2009, 18th a year later, 15th in 2008 and 23rd in 2007, when he was sixth entering the final round.
Bar a disappointing 76th last year it's an extremely solid record and with momentum to take from New Jersey, he could be a bigger factor than the odds imply.
- Preview posted at 1100 BST on 26/08/2014