"We've played a bunch of times, and he's gotten better," Woods said of Manning. "You can see he's been playing all summer, actually all winter. Now it's time for him to start focusing on football."
Chuck Burton/AP
Thursday, January 05, 2012

NORTON, Mass. — We've learned a lot in 2009, starting with the fact that golfers peak at age 59.

We know that the ball doesn't know how old you are, or if you're Tiger Woods. And we know, although we suspected it already, that a people person like Arnold Palmer could only play Augusta as a single for so long.

But considering the lateness of the season, as we head into the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston, the second leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs, there is much we don't know. Such as:

 

Who will win the FedEx Cup?
Almost no one seriously believes Heath Slocum, who rose from 124th to third in the FedEx standings with his win at the Barclays last week, will take home the $10 million first prize.

No surprise, the best bet is still Tiger, who won here in 2006, finished second in '04 (to Vijay Singh) and '07 (to Phil Mickelson), and who has finished runner-up in his last two tournaments.

"I think I've hit the ball pretty good," he said after playing his pro-am round Thursday. "I've putted well in stretches. Win, win, second, second. That's not too bad. Some people have alluded to other things, but that's not too bad for my last four events. The year overall has been very consistent."

Although Woods putted poorly at Liberty National, where he pulled a seven-footer for birdie on the 72nd hole that would have tied Slocum, that's usually not the case at TPC Boston.

"They're rolling perfect," Woods said of the greens. "They're rolling great. I was telling Stevie every time we come here we think the greens are undulating. Not after last week."

Will the current points system last?
Bill Haas is among the players having trouble following or simply ignoring the FedEx math.

"The Tour just sends you where you are, and you go from there," he said.

At 61st on the list, Haas must finish no worse than 63rd this week to make the 70-man field at next week's BMW Championship. He'll need to rally this week and next to make the 30-man Tour Championship.

"I'm not sure I totally understand it," said Retief Goosen, who at 17th can slip to no lower than 37th in Boston. "It should be the other way around, the guy with the fewest points wins. For first you get one point, for seventh you get seven points. It should be an easier number to follow."

At 25th in points, Luke Donald said, "I'm in for the BMW no matter what." That's good news, what with Donald being a Chicagoan. But is he sure?

"I don't think I could drop that far if I missed the cut," he said. "Could I?"

He couldn't. The worst Donald could end up after this week is 62nd.

Who will win Player of the Year?
Tiger Woods has won five tournaments on the PGA Tour while no one else has won more than two. But Padraig Harrington, who missed the cut last year (75-65) for the second straight time at TPC Boston, believes the POY race remains wide open.

"If any of the guys who have won one major wins the FedEx Cup, surely they'd be Player of the Year," said Harrington, who vaulted from 62nd to 14th in the FedEx standings with a T2 at the Barclays. "So it can't be a done deal at this stage. It's still open."

Will a short hitter ever win Boston again?
Adam Scott, 2003; Vijay Singh, 2004; Olin Browne, 2005; Tiger Woods, 2006; Phil Mickelson, 2007; Singh again, 2008.

The list of champions in the short history of this tournament reads like the Sesame Street segment, Which one of these things doesn't belong? Or more to the point, how did Olin Browne ever win here?

TPC Boston is a big, broad-shouldered course that ever since '03 has been at or near the top of the short hitter's list of grievances. Fairways open up dramatically and can even launch tee balls forward with a huge first hop for those who hit the ball over 300 yards. Naturally, those players tend to win here.

"It's only 7,200 yards, but yes, there are some holes like that," said Donald, who is averaging 276 yards off the tee, 186th in the Tour's driving distance statistic. "Two, five, 18 and possibly four."

The course has had some alterations over the last few years, but many of them are cosmetic, and Woods, who hasn't played here since '07, noticed only one significant change during his practice this week, a new tee on 15. It's still a bomber's paradise.

"That just means I have to do everything else very, very well," Donald said.

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