FedExCup leaders leave door wide open to $10 million prizeSeptember 23, 2011
PGA TOUR staff
ATLANTA -- The biggest moves up the leaderboard in Friday's second round of the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola belonged to Adam Scott, K.J. Choi and Bubba Watson, the Georgia graduate who posted the low round of the day.
But perhaps the most significant moves on Friday -- at least as it pertains to the FedExCup race -- were made in the opposite direction.
None of the three players at the top of the the FedExCup race could break par at East Lake on Friday. No. 1 Webb Simpson suffered four early bogeys and needed a late birdie and eagle just to salvage an even-par 70. No. 2 Dustin Johnson made two double bogeys en route to a 73. No. 3 Justin Rose matched his two doubles -- and tossed in a handful of bogeys -- in shooting a 75.
As a result, Simpson is barely afloat, seven shots off the pace, while Johnson and Rose take up two of the bottom five spots on the leaderboard.
Their struggles have allowed a host of other players to dream of the FedExCup, scenarios that seemed almost outlandish at the start of the week now working in their favor.
Consider this: Through two rounds, each of the top 25 players in FedExCup now have the necessary scenarios to enable them to win the FedExCup should he win the TOUR Championship. You have to go down to Charles Howell III at No. 26 to find a scenario that doesn't work.
"If those guys in the top five kind of struggle," said Jason Dufner, who started the week 22nd in points, "that opens the door for not only a win here but to win the whole thing."
Watson busted through the door with a 6-under 64, but it's Scott who has the most advantageous situation now. After shooting a 65 on Friday, he'll take a one-shot lead into the weekend ahead of Choi. They'll be in the final pairing on Saturday.
Scott started the week 19th in points but is currently projected to win the FedExCup. If he does, it would be the biggest jump for any FedExCup winner in the final week; last year, Jim Furyk won out of the 11th position.
Of course, since the tournament has only reached its halfway point, and since the 30-man leaderboard remains bunched up, it's way too early for anyone to think about the big prize. Scott isn't too interested in the scenarios because he knows the only way he even has a chance is to win the tournament. That's the only order of business that concerns him right now.
"I've got to win and I imagine Webb must have to finish pretty low to give me a chance," Scott said. "Yeah, that's all I know. I don't know anything past that.
"I just figured if win this week, I'll be happy no matter what. I'll finish what I think has been a really good season, moving in the right direction with everything, and look forward to next season."
Choi, THE PLAYERS champion, matched Scott's 65 on Friday. At one point during his round when he held the solo lead, he was projected to win the FedExCup. But he refuses to let that $10 million bonus get into his head.
"You never know what can happen in the next two days," Choi said. "You know, if I were able to win that money ... I could put the money to good use through my foundation. But as I said, there's still two days left, so all I can do is try to finish it out and hope for the best."
Be aware, however, that there is one big fly in the it's-anybody's-FedExCup angle: Luke Donald.
The world's top-ranked player entered this week fourth in FedExCup points and has a reasonable chance of winning even if he were to finish second in the tournament. Right now, he's casting a large shadow in a tie for third (with Jason Day) at 6 under, just two shots behind Scott.
As long as Donald remains close to the leaders, then it's not necessarily a given that the TOUR Championship winner will also claim the FedExCup. And absolutely no one expects Donald -- who has the security of knowing that a tournament win guarantees him the FedExCup -- to just drift away this weekend.
"I am kind of trying to focus on trying to win the event," Donald said. "I know if I do that, then everything that I want will be accomplished."
Indeed, the odds now seem that the winner of the TOUR Championship will be the FedExCup winner. If that turns out to be true, then it boils down to 36 holes now.
The hot hand wins.
"Look at Bubba Watson today. Look at Keegan Bradley (64) yesterday," said Day, who has a pair of 67s this week. "Someone can come out and shoot 64, 65 out there pretty easily if they're running hot. There's a lot of golf to be played.
"I think I'm in good position. Two more days -- just try to keep my head down and move forward."
Don't be surprised, though, if they look up every now and then ... just to sneak a peek at the latest FedExCup projections.