Rory McIlroy signs autographs during a practice round Wedensday at East Lake Country Club in Atlanta.
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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sergio Garcia seems too skittish and/or tired, and Ryan Palmer hasn’t shown enough with the putter this year. Morgan Hoffmann is just happy to have made it into the 2015 majors, and Jordan Spieth, wiser than his years, may still be too young to play for $11.44 million. Jim Furyk? Yeah, he could win it all -- if he can somehow convince himself it’s still 2010.

Here are the five players most likely to win the Tour Championship (worth $1.44 million), and with it the FedEx Cup playoff ($10 million):

1. Billy Horschel (2nd in FEC standings)

“I like my chances [to win it all],” Horschel said after winning the BMW. “If I was a betting man, I would put some money on me.” Geez, if this guy had any more self-belief he’d be a cult leader, but here’s the thing: It’s mostly justified. The 27-year-old Florida Gator is riding a red-hot putter (T2 in Boston the week before last) and has gone from 82nd to 20th to 2nd in the FEC standings. Highlights from last year include a T7 at the Tour Championship at East Lake, plus a four-week stretch in which he went T2, T3, T9, W (New Orleans). Billy Ho may just ride this streak all the way to a $11.44 million payday.

(GARY VAN SICKLE: Why NASCAR’s Playoffs Work, and Golf’s Doesn’t)

2. Rickie Fowler (9th in FEC standings)

Remarkably, Fowler hasn’t won yet in 2014, but with seven top-15 finishes in his last eight starts, he’s certainly trending in that direction. He tied for fourth at the BMW without ever really finding his top gear, and despite the conspicuous lack of a week off in these FEC playoffs, he looks anything but tired. (Being 25 has its privileges.) Although he finished a lowly 23rd in his only other start at East Lake, in 2012, he’s a different player since teaming up with Butch Harmon last December. Fowler has the game, and the nerve, to put it all together at exactly the right time.

3. Rory McIlroy (4th in FEC standings)

Take away McIlroy’s two four-putts at Cherry Hills and he might be leading this thing. He’s clearly had the best year and he’s also the best player, as the World Ranking will attest. Give him credit for grinding out a 66 for a T8 at the BMW on Sunday, despite making a mess of the 12th green for the second straight day. That gave him the No. 4 seed going into East Lake, where, like Horschel, he can control his own destiny with a win. More good news: The greens at Cherry Hills are far more treacherous than those at East Lake, where McIlroy tied for 10th in 2012.

(ALAN SHIPNUCK: The U.S. Ryder Cup Team Looks Strong -- in 2016)

4. Bubba Watson (3rd in FEC standings)

After going dormant for much of the summer, the mercurial Watson is coming off three straight 66s and a runner-up finish at the BMW. This is noteworthy for many reasons, first among them that he ranked -1.056 in strokes gained putting at Cherry Hills, meaning he rolled the ball atrociously on the greens and yet still finished only two strokes back of Horschel. (Watson was first in strokes gained tee to green.) If Watson putts even halfway decent at East Lake, where he tied for fifth in 2012, you’ve got to believe he’s headed for another victory lap at Waffle House.

5. Hunter Mahan (5th in FEC standings)

No, he didn’t play very well at the BMW, never breaking par and ultimately finishing 59th. But chalk that up to it being an emotional rollercoaster of a week -- Mahan made the U.S. Ryder Cup team as a captain’s pick just a few days prior to teeing it up in Denver. Now that the Barclays winner has had some time to regroup, and has traveled from the thin air of Cherry Hills back to East Lake, where he came within inches of winning it all in 2011 -- see: “Haas, Bill” -- Mahan could very well tend to unfinished business and get unreasonably rich in the process.

Who's your pick to win the FedEx Cup? Tell us in the comments below.

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