FedExCup chances abound at Tiger-less East Lake

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

ATLANTA (Reuters) - With Tiger Woods a notable absentee after a mediocre year by his usual standards, this week's Tour Championship offers a plethora of winning scenarios for the prestigious FedExCup.

Any of the top five players in the points standings has a chance of landing the trophy, along with the $10 million bonus, with victory Sunday in the PGA Tour's final playoff event.

For American Steve Stricker, who lies fourth in the standings after a successful 2010 season highlighted by two wins, the list of likely FedExCup candidates runs much deeper.

"The top five can control their own destiny but you can go down to 13th, 14th, maybe even a little higher, who could win it all," Stricker told reporters Tuesday.

"There's obviously a lot riding on the line this week with the tournament up for grabs, and the FedExCup up for grabs. It should be exciting. It's pretty much a shootout."

The world number four likes his own chances at East Lake, having played consistently good golf in the FedExCup playoff events since they were ushered in three years ago.

"I go to each one of these events knowing I've played well there in the past and I feel comfortable going there," Stricker said. "The goal to start all this was to win the FedExCup. I put myself in that position and I need one more good week."

Long-hitting Dustin Johnson, like Stricker a double winner on the 2010 PGA Tour, has also set his sights on one more good week.

"To have a chance to win here is what I've prepared for all year long," said Johnson, who won the third playoff event, the BMW Championship, two weeks ago.

"Going out this year, the goal was to give myself opportunities to win, and I've done that very well this year."

CHAMPIONSHIP STRATEGY

Johnson, who lies second in the FedExCup standings, did not plan to change his playing strategy with the Tour Championship and the FedExCup both on the line.

"It's still a golf tournament, you've still got to play four rounds," the 26-year-old American said.

Britain's Paul Casey, fifth in the points list, felt this week's lucrative win bonus could be an unwanted distraction.

"I'm trying not to get too caught up in it because it's a sum of money that I'm not too familiar with," the world number seven said. "You've got the winnings from this particular event as well, so you're looking at $11.35 million (in total)."

Woods struggled for form after his private life unraveled at the end of last year amid revelations of serial philandering and continues to work on a swing overhaul.

Tour commissioner Tom Finchem saw both good and bad in the absence of Woods from East Lake.

"You don't have the number one player playing, that's never good news," Finchem said. "But then you have the ability for stardom to develop for other players, which is very difficult when the dominating player takes up so much of the media focus.

"We saw it happen earlier in the year and in the middle of the year when Tiger wasn't playing so well and other players played better and got more attention."

(Editing by Steve Ginsburg)