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Tour Championships

Tournament Preview

Five golfers can win the outright FedEx Cup and the $10 million prize that goes with it by taking the top of the leaderboard this weekend at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

So why's everyone about No. 15 Hunter Mahan?

Most likely because East Lake is Mahan's home away from home. He has three Top 10 finishes there, including an outright second in 2011. He's also the only man to play in every tournament in FedEx Cup history.

And while it would take a heck of a lot of things falling into place for Mahan to win the overall title - including Tiger Woods finishing ninth or worse - it just goes to show how much amazing talent is on hand for the final stop of the 2013 season.

The five men who can translate this tournament win into the overall title are Woods, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar.

Woods and Johnson both have made history here before. Woods shot a course record 23-under 257 to win the inaugural FedEx Cup here in 2007, the same season Johnson fired the single-round record with a 10-under 60.

But the course was redesigned after that tournament, and since then no man has scored better than a 10-under 270, that being Brandt Snedeker, currently seeded 10th.

Weather could be as much of a problem as the course itself for the 30 golfers who have made it this far. While the forecast is for partly cloudy skies and highs in the low 80s, the probability of rain shoots up to 50 percent on Saturday afternoon and 80 percent on Sunday, which could also spell trouble for television, as NBC, the tournament's broadcaster, has commitments to college football on Saturday night and the NFL on Sunday.

The first pairing - Luke Donald and Dustin Johnson - begins at 11:40 a.m. Eastern on Thursday. With just 30 players involved, two more players at a time will take the course every 10 minutes leading up to 2 p.m, when Henrik Stenson and Woods take the course.

09/19/13, Thursday

Paired with Tiger Woods, Sweden's Henrik Stenson put together the kind of round under pressure that Tiger Woods used to be famous for.

As a result, Woods has a 1-stroke lead at the TOUR Championships and is three days away from being $11.44 million richer.

Stenson knocked down five straight birdies on the front nine and another on No. 18 to finish the first round with a 6-under 64.

He's one stroke ahead of Masters champion Adam Scott, who knocked down six birdies in a seven-hole stretch on the back nine.

Both Scott and Stenson are among a group of fie who will win the FedEx Cup title if they win this tournament.

Billy Horschel and Steve Stricker are tied for third, each shooting a 4-under 66. Roberto Castro is fifth at 3-under.

Just over half the field is under par at the toughened-up East Lake course.

Woods, meanwhile, had a disastrous first round, finishing nine strokes off the lead with a 3-over 73. Woods did not make a single birdie on the day, and hit three bogeys. That puts Woods in 29th out of a possible 30 players. The only player to have a worse round was PGA Championships winner Jason Dufner, who limped to a 4-over 74 with four bogeys, two birdies and a double bogey.

09/20/13, Friday

How well is Sweden's Henrik Stenson playing right now at the FedEx Cup TOUR Championship in Atlanta?

So well that ESPN.com's wrap-up story didn't mention Tiger Woods until the 10th paragraph.

Stenson has only won one tournament since July - that the Deutsche Bank

Championship in Boston three weeks ago, but in the eight tournaments he's played in those three months, he's finished in the top 3 five times and has shot 24 of 30 rounds at par of better.

On Friday, it was a 4-under 66 to give him a four-stroke lead over Masters Champion Adam Scott halfway through the final tournament of the season.

Stenson's course is clear. Win this tournament, win the Fedex Cup and the $10 million prize that goes with it. Scott can do the same, as could Woods, Zach Johnson or Matt Kuchar - the rest of the top 5 entering field.

Stenson left no doubting he meant on holding onto the lead from the get-go on Friday, birdying three of his first four holes while paired once more with Woods, who started the round second-to-last.

Woods countered with three birdies on the front nine followed by a pair at 12 and 13 before imploding with a double on No. 14, a bogey on 16 and a triple bogey that nearly found a Port-a-Potty and then landed in the drink. Woods finished with a 1-over 71 but actually improved to a tie for 26th with two fellow unlikely stragglers - PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner and 2012 FedEx Cup champion Brandt Snedeker.

Snedeker was the real surprise of the day, entering the round at 1-under and hitting seven bogeys en route to a 5-over 75.

Twenty-year-old tour rookie Jordan Spieth fired the third-best score of the day, a 3-under 67 to jump into sole possession of third place at 5-under. Spieth had two bogeys in the first five holes, then corrected course and finished out with four birdies on his next 11.

US Open champion Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson and Billy Horschel are all tied for fourth at 4-under.

The best round of the day was a tie between Nick Watney and Keegan Bradley, both of whom shot 5-under 65s to vault from a tie for 26th to a tie for seventh at 3-under.

Entering the top half of the field was British Open champ Phil Mickelson, who fired a 3-under 67 to move from 25th to tied for 12th, seven strokes off the lead.

Mickelson had back-to-back bogeys on No. 4 and 5, but overcame it by hitting consecutive birdies on 12 and 13.

The early-round pairings will upgrade to 10 sets of three on Saturday morning, still based on current placement on the leaderboard. The first group is due to tee off at 7:30 a.m. with the top three scheduled for 9 a.m.

The rest of the weekend could be a race against the rain as Atlanta is scheduled to get heavy rains starting Saturday afternoon when the change of precipitation moves up to 70% around 1 p.m.

Woods, Kuchar and Dufner are scheduled to tee off at 7:40 a.m.; Mickelson, Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker at 8:30 a.m.; Rose, Dustin Johnson and Horschel at 8:50 a.m. and Stenson, Scott and Spieth at 9 a.m.
 
09/21/13, Saturday

The TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola was supposed to showcase the top 30 golfers in the world taking on one of the toughest course.

After 54 holes, it's turned into Henrik Stenson and 29 other guys.

The 32-year-old Swede fired his third straight round under par, a 1-under 69 to extend his lead to four strokes. Stenson is 11-under through three days, four strokes ahead of Dustin Johnson, who fired a 3-under 67 to climb from fourth to second.

Stenson was actually 4-under through nine but faltered down the stretch to allow Johnson to get a little closer. The American made birdies on 15 and 16 while Stenson had bogeys on 14, 16 and 18.

Steve Stricker shot a 2-under 68 to drop to 5-under, moving from seventh to third. He's followed by a quartet of players at 4-under: Zach Johnon, Billy Horschel, Justin Rose and Jordan Spieth.

Zach Johnson is the only player besides Stenson and Dustin Johnson to shoot below par in each of the first three round.

The UK's Luke Donald tied Dustin Johnson for the second-best round of the day at 3-under to move from 21st to a tie for eighth with Nick Watney. Rounding out the Top 10 is a group of six at 2-under which includes Masters champ Adam Scott and British Open winner Phil Mickelson.

PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner had the best round of the day, a 4-under 66 to jump from 26th to a tie for 18th.

Meanhile, Tiger Woods shot his first sub-par round of the tournament with a 1-under 69 to remain tied for 26th at 3-over.

09/22/13, Sunday

Henrik Stenson wasn't spectacular in any one round during the TOUR Championships by Coca-Cola. He was spectacular in all of them.

Stenson fired his fourth straight round under par, a 2-under 68, to secure the FedEx Cup title with his second title in the four-tournament PGA post-season.

Stenson was ranked outside the Top 200 in 2011. Now he's No. 4.

While Stenson's time is now, the potential future of the PGA was on full display in the person of Jordan Spieth, the 20-year-old former NCAA champion.

Spieth finished tied for second by firing a 6-under 64, closing within two strokes when he knocked a birdie on No. 16.

He bogeyed 17 however, while Stenson, playing in the group behind, hit a birdie on No. 15 to put the tournament to bed.

Stenson finished 13-under for the tournament, firing a 64-66-69-68 - 267 to win $1.44 million. He was awarded an additional $10 million for winning the overall points race.

Had Stenson not been on the top of his game, any of three players might have posed a serious threat to him.

In addition to Spieth's 64, Steve Stricker fired a 5-under 65 to tie Spieth for second at 10-under, and Webb Simpson had the best round of the tournament, a 7-under 63 to finish fourth at 9-under.

Two of the four Major winners from 2013 wound up in the Top 10 on Sunday. US Open champion Justin Rose wound up sixth at 7-under with a final round 67.

PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner finished in a three-way tie for ninth at 5-under after firing a 5-under 65.

Dustin Johnson finished alone in fifth at 7-under, while Billy Horschel and Zach Johnson tied for seventh at 6-under.

British Open champion Phil Mickelson finished tied for 12th at 4-under. Masters champion Adam Scott wound up tied for 14th at 3-under.

American Tiger Woods, the No. 1 seed entering the final tournament, shot a 3-under 67 to finish at even par, tied for 22nd.

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