Mickelson gives McIlroy his due

Phil Mickelson admits Rory McIlroy is the man to beat as the FedEx Cup play-offs get under way at the Barclays this week.

The four-tournament race to the $10 million first prize starts at Ridgewood Country Club on Thursday, and unsurprisingly McIlroy has been made a firm 9/2 favourite with Paddy Power to walk away with the trophy.

Consecutive victories at the Open Championship, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and US PGA Championship have seen McIlroy well and truly take over as the world’s best player, and the smart money is certainly on the Northern Irishman to claim his first victory in the lucrative play-offs series over the coming weeks.

The top 125 players in the standings have qualified for The Barclays, with the field being trimmed to 100 for the Deutsche Bank Championship, 70 for the BMW Championship and then 30 for the Tour Championship.

Mickelson is running high on confidence himself, however, after finding himself right in the hunt over the closing holes at Valhalla a few weeks ago.

“The PGA was a big week for me because it was the first time this year my game was back,” he said.

“It gave me an excitement and energy heading into the FedExCup and Barclays here that my game is back and I’m ready to compete and get back into contention.

“It was so fun being up there again, and the nerves and the excitement of it all, it got me excited.”

To get to the top of the leaderboard, though, Mickelson knows he will likely have to overcome McIlroy, who is in the best form of his career.

“His level of play this last month has been exceptional,” said Mickelson.

“Now, from what I’ve seen over the years with Tiger (Woods), from 2000, if you want to compare it to that, well, he’s got a ways to go.

“But to win the British and the PGA and throw a World Golf Championships in the middle under anybody’s circumstances, that is just a remarkable month of golf and some of the best that I’ve seen.

“You can probably go back and compare it to some of the Tiger stuff. He’s done that over decades. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Rory did it too. You just never know. He’s that good. He can do it.”

To back your favourite for this week’s Barclays tournament, you can follow all the latest golfing betting odds at Paddy Power.