Sunday intrigue stretches beyond the BMW into many FedExCup subplots

September 14, 2013
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Some players will be looking at the top of the leaderboard during Sunday's final round of the BMW Championship.

Some will be looking at the FedExCup standings, knowing only the top 30 advance to next week's Playoffs finale.

Almost everybody, though, will be looking up at the sky.

That's because a 90 percent chance of rain and a dip in temperature is forecast for Conway Farms. How players deal with the conditions could decide not only the tournament winner but the survivors who move on to East Lake in next week's TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.

"The weather," said Steve Stricker, who will start the day one shot off the pace held by third-round leader Jim Furyk, "is going to be an issue."

Outside of having to battle some windy conditions during parts of the first two rounds, the players have enjoyed perfect weather through 54 holes. But that will change Sunday -- although, as Zach Johnson said, it's "nothing we're not accustomed to."

Even so, the conditions could produce moist greens and create better scoring conditions in a tournament has already seen a PGA TOUR record-tying low 12-under 59 (Furyk's second round), a 61 (Matt Kuchar's third round) and a 63 (Brandt Snedeker's first round).

Better scoring conditions might mean better opportunities to climb up the leaderboard, especially for players who started the week outside the top 30 in FedExCup points and need a big finish to bust the bubble.

"What that means is a good round will shine a little bit brighter," said Luke Donald, the Conway Farms member who is one of those players needing a big result after starting 54th in points.

Rain aside, there are plenty of other intriguing storylines entering Sunday.

JIM FURYK: The last time Furyk won a PGA TOUR event was the 2010 TOUR Championship in which he also won the FedExCup. "No one has to remind me," he said Saturday about the three-year drought.

Furyk has had plenty of close calls since, including at last year's U.S. Open and World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational and this year's PGA Championship. But he's failed to convert on his last five third-round leads, which means the 43-year-old might have to battle some demons at Conway Farms.

"I definitely put some more pressure on myself, and that'll be part of the mental game and the mental aspect of it tomorrow," he said. "To go out there and stay in the moment and just play golf and not really worry about it. I'll play my best if I'm focused on the task at hand, not on the results."

The results through 54 holes have been pretty spectacular, though. The 59 on Friday, which made him the sixth player in TOUR history to shoot that number, and the 32 consecutive fairways he hit, although the streak ended on Saturday's final hole. A poor tee shot set up a disappointing bogey on a par-5 18th that's one of the easiest holes on the course, as he settled for a 2-under 69 leaving him at 13 under for the week.

The late bogey prevented him from walking off the course with a two-shot advantage, but he still is feeling good about his play this week. If he can win Sunday, he'll move into the top five in FedExCup points and control his own fate next week. He started the week in the 15th spot.

"It would be nice obviously, but that's kind of putting the cart before the horse," Furyk said.

SPEAKING OF TOP FIVE: Stricker is currently projected to move inside the top five in FedExCup points should he maintain his solo second spot. He started the week in the eighth spot, but his 7-under 64 on Saturday has him in position to make a significant leap.

Brandt Snedeker started the week in ninth and could replace Stricker in the top five if he can grab solo second. Snedeker starts the final round one stroke behind Stricker and two off the lead after shooting an even-par 71.

"Today was a struggle," said Snedeker, who had a share of the 36-hole lead with Furyk. "I really hit it really poorly pretty much all day. ... From where I drove the ball today, it's a miracle I shot what I shot."

Tiger Woods shot a 5-under 66 and is now projected to regain the No. 1 spot from Henrik Stenson if he can maintain his position. Woods will start Sunday in fifth place, four strokes off the lead.

"I fought my tail off today, and I'm very proud of that," said Woods, who disagreed with the two-stroke penalty he suffered Friday for violating rule 18-2a. "I got myself back in the tournament."

Meanwhile, Matt Kuchar was in danger of slipping out of the top five -- he started the week in fourth -- before shooting the low round on Saturday. His 61 now has him at 5 under for the week and in a tie for 16th. He needs to move up even higher to keep his top five spot.


Steve Stricker and Brandt Snedeker aren't the only ones making moves at Conway Farms. Wrap-up

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In reality, his fate rests in the hands of Furyk, Stricker and Snedeker. If two of those three finish in the top 2 on the tournament leaderboard, Kuchar will likely be squeezed out.

Yet while everybody understands the importance of the top five -- any player inside the top five at East Lake would  win the FedExCup and its $10 million bonus if he wins the tournament -- don't expect a lot of FedExCup watching from this group.

"I've never quite figured out how thinking about any of that helps you play better golf," Kuchar said. "I don't quite understand -- people get real concerned about things like that. I think you play the best you can and let the numbers figure themselves out."

AS FOR THE TOP 30: Some players will want to know where they stand in regards to FedExCup points. That's because 40 of the 70 players in the field will be eliminated after this week.

Ryan Moore enters Sunday tied for sixth with Charl Schwartzel. Moore is 65th in points; Schwartzel is 29th. That means Moore is trying to play his way in, and Schwartzel is trying to secure his spot.

Three players are tied for eighth: Hunter Mahan, Rory Sabbatini and Nick Watney. Sabbatini and Watney are outside the top 30. They each need big days.

Of the five players tied for 11th, three are outside the top 30 -- Donald, Matt Jones and Jimmy Walker. They will have no choice but to be aggressive and go as low as possible.

"I'll keep an eye on everything," Jones said. "I always do.

"If it works out, great. If it doesn't, I'll go home and see my family."