ATLANTA World number one Rory McIlroy is the player to beat at this week's Tour Championship and will be a "marked man" when he and his fellow Europeans defend the Ryder Cup next week outside Chicago, says American Jim Furyk.
Northern Irishman McIlroy has won three times in his last four PGA Tour starts and, according to Furyk, is the "present-day" Tiger Woods.
"Obviously, he's a marked man," Furyk told reporters at East Lake Golf Club on Tuesday. "He's the number one player in the world. He's going to garner all the attention, as well he should. He's played phenomenal this year.
"(He) won the PGA (Championship) by a ton of shots, won his last two events coming in here and no matter how he plays here at the Tour Championship, he's right now the present-day Tiger Woods where everyone's eyes are on him.
"Tiger is still Tiger and everyone would love to see that pairing in the Ryder Cup," said Furyk, referring to a mouth-watering potential matchup in the last-day singles.
McIlroy has won a season-high four times on the PGA Tour, and began his current sizzling run with a staggering eight-shot victory at last month's PGA Championship to claim his second major title.
He leads the FedExCup standings coming into this week's final playoff event and is a heavy favourite to triumph at East Lake where an elite field of 30 players has assembled.
"It's hard to imagine Rory not being in contention this week as well as he's been playing," Furyk said of the 23-year-old Northern Irishman.
Furyk, who won both the Tour Championship and FedExCup honors two years ago, relishes the fact that the biennial Ryder Cup competition will take place one week after the final event in the PGA Tour's regular season.
"I like the fact that they're back-to-back. I've always kind of played my best golf when I can play my way into shape," said the 42-year-old, a veteran of seven Ryder Cups.
"It's hard to take a bunch of time off and then go to an event and feel like you're sharp and ready to go. Playing in a big event this week, preparing and being ready here will only help.
"I might be a little tired early on in the week of the Ryder Cup but my game will be sharp. I'll get some rest and be ready."
For the first time in his career, Furyk failed to qualify automatically for the Ryder Cup but he says he feels no pressure to prove himself after being given one of four captain's picks by Davis Love III.
"I don't," he added. "I feel like those selections were made not only by Davis and the assistants but the eight guys that have qualified for the team. They help pick the guys they wanted to form their team and wanted them to be part of the 12.
"I feel just as much a part of it. It's always nice to be maybe a little angry and go out there and play that way, but we've got far better things to worry about and a great team on the other side."
The 39th Ryder Cup will take place at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago from September 28-30.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue)