ATLANTA, Sep 11 (Reuters) Tiger Woods is the red-hot favourite to win this week's Tour Championship, the fourth and final event in the inaugural FedExCup playoff series.
Fresh from clinching his 60th PGA Tour title, the world number one is also highly fancied to earn the 10 million dollars bonus in deferred compensation for the overall points champion.
Only six players in the 30-strong field at East Lake Golf Club are still in the running for what is being billed as sport's single biggest pay day.
Either Woods or fellow American Steve Stricker would claim the 10 million dollars bonus with victory this week, regardless of where the other players finish.
Phil Mickelson, who skipped last week's BMW Championship won by Woods, would earn the bonus with victory, as long as Woods finishes worse than second.
South African Rory Sabbatini, South Korean KJ Choi and Australian Aaron Baddeley also have a slim chance of claiming the big prize but a great deal has to work in their favour.
A triumphant Sabbatini would need Mickelson and Stricker to finish no higher than third and Woods to fare no better than 14th.
REMOTE PROSPECTS Choi's remote prospects hinge on Mickelson finishing third or worse, Stricker placing no higher than fourth and Woods coming no higher than 22nd.
Baddeley is the least likely contender for the 10 million dollars bonus as he needs to win this week's tournament with Woods failing to finish because of a withdrawal or a disqualification.
Sabbatini, who has produced four top-10 finishes in his last five PGA Tour starts, accepts he will need a lot of help to win this week's tournament plus the lucrative bonus.
''I've just got to play well and everyone else ahead of me has to play badly,'' he told reporters at East Lake yesterday ''That's about as simple as it gets.
''A lot of things have to happen for me to win the FedExCup but golf is a strange game so anything is possible.'' Most fans, and probably several of the players, would find it difficult to look past Woods as the likeliest winner after his superb performance last week at Cog Hill in Lemont, Illinois.
The 13-times major champion produced a flawless eight-under-par 63 in the final round to triumph by two shots and take over at the top of the FedExCup standings.
TIGER FUN ''I'm leading it and this week will be a lot of fun for Stricks and me,'' Woods said, referring to his pairing with second-placed Stricker for the first two rounds at East Lake.
''The only thing that will be interesting for all of us -- players, fans, media -- is just to see how it's going to turn out condition-wise for us.'' The greens on the par-70 layout were badly damaged by record August heat and a severe drought in Atlanta, although they have responded well to treatment over the last month.
Woods, however, is prepared for slow putting surfaces and an element of frustration.
''You're going to have to accept missing a bunch of putts,'' the 1999 winner said. ''It is what it's going to be.'' Woods refuses to be distracted by the 10 million dollars bonus in his bid for a seventh PGA Tour victory this year.
''You just go play,'' he said. ''You try and win the golf tournament. As I've always said, winning takes care of everything, so you don't have to worry about it if you win.'' Australia's Adam Scott defends the title he won by three shots at East Lake last year.
REUTERS BJR VC1044