High stakes

Tiger Woods, Zach Johnson and Stewart Cink are top candidates for Ryder Cup captain's picks. Corey Pavin makes his wildcard picks Tuesday.

Deutsche Bank Championship

Sept. 3-6

Course: TPC Boston (7,207 yards, par 71), Norton, Mass.

Purse: $7.5 million. Winner's share: $1.35 million.

Last year: Steve Stricker won the last of his three 2009 titles, birdieing the final two holes for a one-stroke victory over Scott Verplank and Jason Dufner.

NORTON, Mass. (USA) – If you prefer your professional golf to be delivered in a “tournament within a tournament” fashion, then you’ll love this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship.

As if the battle to take the $1.35 million top prize isn’t enough, there are other competitions that deserve note. For instance, of the 100 players who will tee it up at TPC Boston only 70 will advance to thethird FedEx Cup playoff event.

THREE TO WATCH

Tiger Woods: Because he’s typical Tiger? No, because he’s Tiger like we’ve never seen him – up and down; brilliant at times, pedestrian at others, sometimes miserable. His personal life having been in turmoil all year, he has yet to win a tournament and sits a lowly 65th in the FedEx Cup standings. Normally we’re talking postseason awards for Woods, but right now the wonderment is – can he play well this week and stay inside the top 70 to get into the BMW Championship?

Sean O’Hair: There’s a strong sentiment that he’s in line to be picked by Corey Pavin as a captain’s choice for the upcoming Ryder Cup. But if he were to stumble at TPC Boston and someone – oh, say Rickie Fowler, for instance – were to burn it up, perhaps O’Hair would be passed over. At 35th in the FedEx Cup standings, he’s a lock to make it into the BMW Championship, but needs to make a move to guarantee his spot in the Tour Championship.

Paul Casey: How can you play with a broken heart? Well, the Englishman has a chance to show us. He went into last week’s Barclays ranked ninth in the world, played fairly well, yet got bypassed when European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie made his three wildcard selections. Casey, a three-time Ryder Cupper , was crushed and it will be fascinating to see how he responds this week. At 23rd in the FedEx Cup standings, he’s certainly got a lot to play for.

What’s more, the Deutsche Bank Championship will serve in some way as a final audition for U.S. players trying to catch Corey Pavin’s eye. Pavin, the diminutive bulldog from another era, has four captain’s picks to round out his American Ryder Cup team, and he’ll deliver his choices Tuesday morning in New York City.

Studying the landscape, one would have to presume that Tiger Woods, Zach Johnson and Stewart Cink are the three leading candidates, and that from an assortment of names – Ben Crane, Sean O’Hair, Lucas Glover, Rickie Fowler, Anthony Kim and J.B. Holmes most prominent – the American captain is in good position to round out his team.

All of those names are on hand here for the eighth Deutsche Bank Championship, and should any of them win, it would hardly be a surprise. After all, each of them carries a lofty world ranking and while that’s frequently important, it’s especially so here along the tree-lined fairways of TPC Boston.

Want proof? Consider the array of winners here – a list that includes: Woods, Vijay Singh (twice), Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott and Steve Stricker. Woods, of course, has been No. 1 in the world since the mashie came into the game – or so it seems. Singh took over the top spot in the world order when he beat Woods here in 2004, while Mickelson, Scott and Stricker have all been ranked second or third.

The casual observer might scan that list and suggest TPC Boston favors those who hit it long. That’s not quite right, however. It’s more accurate to say that it plays into the hands of those who rise to the occasion when the fields are deeper and the stakes higher.

The Deutsche Bank Championship provides exactly that sort of setting.

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