Brandt Snedeker, from Nashville, Tennessee, held his head when far bigger names around him were losing theirs as he swooped to claim the $US10 million (€7.65m) FedEx Cup bonus and the first prize of another $1.44m (€1.1m) by winning the Tour Championship at East Lake, Atlanta, yesterday.
The manner in which Snedeker, 32, who will be well remembered for leading the British Open at the halfway stage at Royal Lytham St Annes in July before fading over the final two rounds, made no mistake on this occasion. He was able to hit a wild tee shot at the par three 18th into a hospitality tent and run up a bogey four and still win by three shots with a10 under par total of 270.
England’s Justin Rose bravely holed a very valuable par putt of 15 feet on the final green to claim 2nd place on his own, one better than compatriot Luke Donald and American Ryan Moore.
It was, however, a bitterly disappointing day for Rory McIlroy who had to settle for a four over par round of 74 and he finished in a share of 10th on one under overall.
“I had complete confidence in what I was doing out there,” said Snedeker. “Tucker Anderson, son of my coach Todd, is seriously ill in hospital after a serious car crash so I knew there were more important things than winning this tournament. I visited him in hospital this morning and asked if I could beat Rory McIlroy today and he gave me a little wink and I knew then I could do it.”
McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Snedeker in that order were the three most likely winners of the $10m bonus before yesterday’s final round. All fell foul of the water strewn par 3 6th hole, plunging their tee shots into the lake surrounding the green to run up two over par fives. After that, though, they went their own different ways!
Whereas McIlroy and Woods failed to recover from such a massive body blow, Snedeker, the least rated member of the trio, got his act together in style and the longer a tension-packed day went on, the better became his chances of claiming his fourth tournament win on the US Tour and the massive money at stake.
US Ryder Cup captain Davis Love surprised many when he handed Snedeker one of his four “wild card” picks for next weekend’s Ryder Cup based largely on his runner-up finish in the Barclays, the first of the four FedEx cup tournaments. And it was that performance that largely helped him to 5th place in the rankings going to Atlanta knowing that if he won the tournament, the loot would be all his.
McIlroy began yesterday’s final round on five under par, three behind Snedeker but still in with a great chance of the biggest pay cheque of his young career. From an early stage, however, it was clear he was struggling with all aspects of his game. A poor drive at the 4th cost him his first shot of the day and left him five off the pace.
His prospects improved when Woods, who began a shot behind him, plunged his tee shot at the short 6th into the water to run up a bogey five that effectively ended his prospects of a third FedEx title. Unfortunately, McIlroy emulated Tiger’s error a few minutes later. He compounded the error by running up a bogey at the 8th while the failure to birdie the 9th, one of only two par fives on the East Lake layout, saw him out in four over 39 for one under and seven off the pace.
In spite of his lapse at the 6th, Snedeker was playing by far the steadiest golf of the key trio and having gone through the turn in eight under par, was one ahead of Moore and two clear of Rose. He played with commendable assurance going down the stretch and when he dramatically chipped in for birdie at the 17th to move four ahead, it was all over.
Woods was never in with a chance of the big money but true to form he finished in a blaze of glory with a four iron to tap-in distance at the 235 yards 18th to close on two under in a share of 8th.
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