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Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

Resurgent Day set for Boston tee party

Wizard of Oz has confidence back

Dustin Johnson is gunning for back-to-back FedEx titles
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Sky Sports Golf from 5pm Friday
Event starts 1.15pm

Palmer's top tip
Jason Day 16-1
The FedEx Cup playoffs opened with an almighty bang – a thrilling duel between Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth in New York – and there has to be every chance of the American superstars doing battle at the top of the leaderboard again this week.

The playoffs have moved to Boston, with Johnson and Spieth contesting favouritism, and both men are sure to contend if carrying their Northern Trust form to the Dell Technologies Championship.

The extra day of rest afforded by the Friday start at TPC Boston aids the chances of the two big guns being able to regroup in time for more birdies.

Johnson and Spieth deserve to be at the head of the betting, but the man who started the year as world number one represents better value.

Jason Day appears to be slowly restoring confidence, rediscovering the game which made him a Major champion in August, 2015, and a dominant force for the year that followed.

Day suffered back problems at the end of last year, prematurely ending his playoffs campaign, and this term has been blighted by injury, illness and personal problems.

He has dropped from first to ninth in the world rankings. There have been signs of life from the weekend of the Open onwards, though, that the old Day is returning.

A third-round 65 at Birkdale was evidence that the Australian was starting to believe in himself again – only Branden Grace and Johnson bettered his score that day – then some excellent Stateside golf has followed at Firestone, Quail Hollow and Glen Oaks.

Day finished ninth in the USPGA Championship, having looked set to be deep in contention for Sunday until a quadruple-bogey eight at the final hole of round three.

He attempted a miracle second shot from the trees, which ended in disaster. Mental errors rather than technical ones have been holding him back in recent weeks.

Again, it was only a short spell of crazy golf which stopped Day being in the thick of things on Sunday, mixing it with Johnson and Spieth.

Day's head came off from the third hole to the seventh in round two at Glen Oaks, four shots disappearing, but he made 12 birdies in the rest of the tournament, closing with a superb three-under-par back-nine, ending up in a share of sixth spot.

Day has been a shadow of his former self for most of this year, uncharacteristically lacking faith in his abilities, but a swagger is back in his step. His iron-play and short-game look spot-on, and he just needs to straighten out his driving to be ultra-competitive.

TPC Boston is the perfect track for Day to continue his resurgence. He will get freedom off the tee, countering his main weakness, and can make a bold title tilt with irons and putter.

His course form figures from nine previous visits are understandably solid (50-19-2-3-51-13-7-12-15) and the 29-year-old won two FedEx Cup playoff events in 2015.

Next best
Dustin Johnson 17-2
Going into battle without one of Johnson or Spieth in the staking plan would be reckless – this dynamic duo have clearly brought their A-game to the playoffs and are by far the biggest obstacles which Day has to overcome if he is to end his 15-month victory drought.

Johnson is preferred to Spieth. The squandering of a five-shot lead over the last 13 holes at Glen Oaks is a significant psychological blow for Spieth to deal with, and he may have lost faith in his caddie.

Michael Greller was the real villain for Spieth backers on Sunday, the bagman allowing a club to be used on the par-three sixth hole which might not clear the water hazard guarding the front of the green. Spieth finding the aqua, and the resulting double-bogey, was the turning point.

Spieth has a 62 to his name at TPC Boston, but form figures of 4-29-MC-21 are not overly striking for a player of his stature. He got bullied by Johnson off the tee in the Glen Oaks playoff and the power advantage of the older man could prove the difference again this week. The set-up in Boston will allow Johnson to open his shoulders.

Like Day, Johnson has an enviable Boston record, but no victory, with form figures of 4-57-42-4-27-44-8. That could change on Monday, given the world number one is back to his best. Form of 8-17-13-1 from the Canadian Open onwards show how DJ has eased into the groove.

On the flip-side to the negatives for Spieth of that epic Sunday duel, Johnson could take a plateful of positives.

His rival threw the kitchen sink at him on the greens all week, including an absolute gutbuster of a par putt on the 71st hole, but Johnson responded with a bogey-free final-round scorecard and composure when it mattered most.

Johnson's swing had been returning to its pre-Masters majesty over the last few weeks, with only the putter holding him back. Rolling in a few down the stretch of The Northern Trust, having switched to a new TP Juno putter at the start of the week, will have done wonders for his flat-stick confidence.

Spieth had one hand on the trophy on the 72nd hole, then Johnson holed from 17 feet to force a playoff he won in emphatic fashion.

Playoffs history is littered with examples of players who have picked up two titles when finding form at the perfect time to delight their bank manager.

In seven of the ten years of the FedEx Cup, including each of the last five, somebody has won two of the four playoff shootouts. There have been eight doubles in total, with Vijay Singh and Camilo Villegas both winning twice in 2008. This time, Johnson looks set to dominate, eager to avenge his Cup near-miss of 12 months ago.

Others to note
Patrick Cantlay
The classy youngster finished tenth on Sunday and continues to impress on his return from injury. Has an experience handicap this week, though, on a track used on the US Tour since 2003.

Jon Rahm
The Spanish youngster got within one shot of Johnson and Spieth on Sunday, before dropping away, but a final-hole birdie secured a share of third spot. Another course debut for the consistent rookie.

Rickie Fowler
The Majorless Californian wilted in a third-round twoball with Spieth on Saturday, carding a 74. May be suffering an inferiority complex in his ultra-successful peer group. Fowler is a former TPC Boston champion, though, who enjoys this layout.

Brooks Koepka
The US Open champion went off the boil last week, sharing 49th place, and Boston form figures of MC-57 are off-putting.

Justin Thomas
The USPGA champion never found top gear at Glen Oaks, yet still finished in a share of sixth place, underlining his progression. Missed the cut in Boston by four shots last year.

Charley Hoffman
The 40-year-old has enjoyed a stellar but winless season. The greatest victory of his career came at TPC Boston in 2010.

Staking plan
J Day
4pts each-way 16-1 Betfair, Paddy Power
D Johnson
4pts 17-2 Betfair, Betfred, Paddy Power

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Dell Technologies Championship
Course TPC Boston, Norton, Massachusetts
Prize money $8.75m ($1.53m to the winner)
Length 7,342 yards Par 71 Field 96 (four qualifiers have not entered)

Course records – 72 holes 262 Vijay Singh (2008), Charley Hoffman (2010), Henrik Stenson (2013) 18 holes 61 Vijay Singh (2006), Mike Weir (2008)

Course winners taking part Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, Charley Hoffman, Webb Simpson, Rory McIlroy (twice), Henrik Stenson, Chris Kirk, Rickie Fowler

When to bet By 1.15pm Friday
Where to watch Live on Sky Sports from 5pm Friday
Time difference Boston is five hours behind the UK and Ireland

Last week – The Northern Trust 1 D Johnson (14-1), 2 J Spieth (12-1), T3 J Vegas (200-1), J Rahm (30-1), 5 P Casey (35-1), T6 W Simpson (100-1), J Day (20-1), J Thomas (22-1), K Chappell (70-1)

Course overview This tournament is under a new sponsor for the first time this year, having been the Deutsche Bank Championship since its inception in 2003.

The event always finishes on a Monday, which is the Labor Day Bank Holiday in the States. The TPC Boston is typically the easiest of the FedEx Cup playoffs venues, with a score of 14 under par or better topping the leaderboard in the previous 14 US Tour events on this course.

A winning total of 22 under has been reached on three occasions. The fairways are generous and birdies are plentiful. Arnold Palmer was the original designer, but Gil Hanse and Brad Faxon combined for a course renovation in 2007.

There are three par-fives – the second (542 yards), seventh (600) and 18th (530). The trio of long holes is where the eventual champion usually picks up shots.

The fifth, sixth, 12th and 14th, four long par-fours, are tough holes, while the third is the only one of the four par-threes which played under-par last year. The greens are bentgrass

Story of last year Rory McIlroy made a final-round surge, overcoming a six-shot deficit to secure a two-shot triumph, overtaking faltering overnight leader Paul Casey

Weather forecast Clear and calm for the most part, so scoring should be good again

Type of player suited to challenge The wide-open TPC Boston sets up for birdies, with big-hitters able to rip the par-fives to shreds.

Power is useful on many holes, but a hot putter is essential throughout to reach the low 72-hole total which is always required to win this event

Key attribute Touch

His iron-play and short-game look spot-on again, and he just needs to straighten out his driving to be ultra-competitive
E.W. Terms
Sky bet