By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
MEDINAH, Ill. -- The chants of "U-S-A, U-S-A" were relatively muted but still recognizable on Sunday at East Lake Golf Club as Brandt Snedeker inched closer and closer to the $10 million prize.
"I thought this is what it's going to feel like next week, the whole week, every match, all day long, and it's stressful," Snedeker said. "So a little bit of that sank in."
Before Snedeker could concentrate on his Ryder Cup debut at Medinah, though, he had another task at hand. And the 31-year-old from Tennessee responded with a clutch performance as he closed with a 68 on a pressure-packed Sunday to win the FedExCup and the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
Snedeker isn't the only American who comes to Medinah battle-tested and playing well, either. The entire U.S. Team made the Playoffs finale -- and seven finished among the top-10 on Sunday at East Lake.
Conversely, five members of the European Team played at East Lake and two -- Justin Rose and Luke Donald -- finished solo second and tied for third, respectively. World No. 1 Rory McIlroy, who had won the two previous Playoffs events, struggled with his driver and tied for 10th.
"I think it's been a real good ebb and flow between the American team and European team," Rose said. "Obviously, Snedeker winning, the needle might be swinging in favor of the Americans. But I think it's set‑up for a great week in Chicago. ...
"Two great teams, I think, all in the top 35 ...in the world. So it's probably as strong as it's ever been between two teams. ... We'll see how that plays out, if your guys are tournament sharp or if we're mentally fresh. Only time will tell."
Snedeker's win capped an impressive run through the Playoffs that included two other finishes of sixth or better. In fact, the American team had 18 top-10s during the Playoffs -- and Dustin Johnson, like Snedeker one of Davis Love III's Captain's Picks, finished 10th or better in all four.
Snedeker was a late arrival in Chicago after flying home to celebrate his wife Mandy, who is a month away from delivering their second child, a son, and their daughter Lilly. Of course, U.S. Captain Davis Love had some fun at Snedeker's expanse, "He didn't come up here last night because he had to go to the bank."
But the important thing for Love, and the rest of the U.S. Team, is that Snedeker comes to the Windy City with extreme confidence after his run through the FedExCup Playoffs.
"I'm not under any illusion of being calm next week,” Snedeker said after the final round at East Lake. “I know it's going to be a very pressure‑packed week. But I am going to use today as a huge thing to fall back on next week. I played against the best in the world this week for 72 holes and I beat them.
“Nothing's going to happen next week that's going to change that fact. So I'm going to use it as confidence. I'm playing the best golf of my career. … And I look forward to getting up there next week and playing some even better golf.”