Eighteen holes, and even more possibilities for final round of BMWBrandt Snedeker is one of several players at Cog Hill who will have a lot on the line on Sunday.September 17, 2011
Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM Managing Editor
LEMONT, Ill. -- Eighteen more holes and we'll have clarity at Cog Hill.
We'll know the winner of the BMW Championship. We'll know the top 30 who will compete for the FedExCup. And we'll know, for all intents and purposes, who will play in this year's Presidents Cup in Australia.
Until then, however, we will have scoreboard watching. And points projections. And twists and turns, with a birdie here or a bogey there deciding whether a player gets next week off, a chance to compete for a $10 millon bonus, a trip to Royal Melbourne in November or ...
"It's a bit more complicated than a normal tournament," mused Geoff Ogilvy, one of the Aussies at Cog Hill desperately wanting to secure his spot on Greg Norman's International team.
Right now, the only thing that's not complicated is the top of the leaderboard. Justin Rose is firmly in control of this tournament, as he opened up a four-shot lead on a windy Saturday.
Rose has been brilliant all week, one of just two golfers -- Ogilvy is the other -- to shoot in the 60s for all three rounds this week. He produced one of the best rounds of his career in shooting a 63 on Thursday.
His play on Saturday might have been nearly as good considering the tough scoring conditions in which just eight players shot in the 60s. Rose suffered only one bogey in shooting a 2-under 69 and said afterwards, "I don't feel like I could have done a lot more today."
Rose's relatively stress-free day was not shared by his two playing partners, Mark Wilson and Webb Simpson.
Wilson, the co-leader with Rose coming into Saturday, shot a 6-over 77 and had to play the final few holes with the threat of a two-stroke penalty hanging over his head while officials ruled on whether he grounded his club in a bunker at the 14th (ultimately, there was no penalty). Simpson, the FedExCup points leader, shot a 73 that included a double bogey at the 17th hole.
With no other players able to go really low, Rose is headed for his third TOUR win of his career and a place inside the top five of the FedExCup standings. But he'll still need to avoid the tricks that Cog Hill offers. And he'll need to fight off some of the demons of opportunities lost in the past when he held the 54-hole lead.
On the seven previous occasions that Rose has entered the final round with at least a share of the lead, he's sealed the deal just once. Among his six blown opportunites? The 2010 Travelers Championship in which he led by three shots but skied to a 75 and eventually tied for ninth.
But his four-shot lead is the largest one he's held, and he thinks the experience of those previous chances -- good and bad -- will serve him well on Sunday.
"I don't think you can get defensive," he said. "You've just got to go out there, swing free and play as good as you can. It's pretty much that simple. A four-shot lead isn't really a big enough lead to go out and try and waste holes."
His pursuers aren't ruling out anything, though. After all, Rory McIlroy coughed up a four-shot lead in the final round of the Masters.
"It's a funny game," said John Senden, the closest to Rose at 9 under. "Anything could happen Sunday afternoon."
In the case of Sunday afternoon at Cog Hill, everything could happen, including ...
TOP FIVE: Provided Rose wins, he will push out either Matt Kuchar, Luke Donald or Brandt Snedeker out of the all-important top five in FedExCup points. Those are the only players who will control their own destiny in regards to winning the FedExCup at East Lake.
Snedeker is projected as the odd man out now, but he's just seven points behind Donald. He trails Donald by two shots going into Sunday, but a flip-flop of those positions might leave Donald on the outside.
Meanwhile, Kuchar shot a 78; that's the worst round he's had on the weekend at a PGA TOUR event since shooting 81 in the final round of the 2004 Reno-Tahoe Open. Plus, his final-round scoring average this year ranks 38th on TOUR. That's not bad, until you consider that Donald and Snedeker rank second and third, respectively, in that category.
TOP 30: Five players who started the week outside the bubble for making the TOUR Championship are projected to move inside -- Rose, Senden, Ogilvy, defending FedExCup champ Jim Furyk, and Martin Laird. As we've seen the last two years at Cog Hill, it can come down to the final putt. Senden, in fact, benefited from a four-putt by Brant Snedeker two years ago to squeeze into the top 30.
As much as some players want to avoid looking at the FedExCup projections down the stretch and focus just on the task at hand, it's difficult not to get caught up in trying to figure out where you stand and what you might need to do.
"Right now, there's a lot of jockeying for position," Furyk said.
Laird started the week 31st in points but moved to 29th thanks to his 3-under 68 on Saturday. He'll enter Sunday's round tied for 12th on the leaderboard. He plans to take an aggressive approach.
"I'm not just thinking about just sneaking in," the Scotsman said. "I'm thinking about finishing third or fourth."
PRESIDENTS CUP: Bill Haas started the week 12th in points to make the U.S. team. But Haas, who goes into Sunday tied for third, is in excellent shape to earn enough points to make the top 10 who earn automatic spots.
Brandt Snedeker started 11th in points and is also in position to move up into the top 10. But that 10th spot is held by David Toms. And guess who is in the group of players tied at 3 under? Yep, Snedeker and Toms. Snedeker needs to make $28,016 more than Toms does on Sunday to move ahead of him.
On the International side, Ogilvy is in shape to maintain his spot at No. 10 in the rankings. Considering his house backs up to Royal Melbourne, it's obvious what his primary goal is on Sunday.
"I'm trying not to think about anything other than just play good golf," Ogilvy said. "But it creeps into your mind every now and then."
The only player with an outside chance to move into the top 10 is Senden, who's currently 23rd. His only hope is to win and see if that will give him enough world ranking points to move up.
"It would be huge," Senden added when asked about the possibility of a Presidents Cup spot. "It would be one of my greatest achievements."
He's got 18 holes to make it happen.