ATLANTA – That birdie putt by Luke Donald on the final hole of the Tour Championship might turn out to be bigger than anyone imagined.
It wasn’t enough for Donald to capture the FedEx Cup and its $10 million prize. He wound up one shot away from joining the sudden-death playoff at East Lake. But it gave him a three-way tie for third, which was worth $418,667.
Had he missed the putt, Donald would have been in a four-way tie for fifth, which would have paid $284,000. That made it a putt worth $134,667, and it could make all the difference in Donald’s pursuit of trying to become the first player to win money titles on both sides of the Atlantic.
Donald left East Lake atop the PGA Tour money list - by $68,971 over Webb Simpson.
Donald is done playing the PGA Tour this year. Simpson, who was exhausted at East Lake from playing six times in seven weeks and winning twice, has not indicated whether he will play any of the Fall Series. His agent said a decision will come later.
If he were to play either the McGladrey Classic at Sea Island or the season-ender at Disney, Simpson likely would need to finish around 20th to pass Donald on the money list.
Donald, whose wife is expecting their second child, is playing the next two weeks on the European Tour, at the Dunhill Links Championship and a title defense at the Madrid Masters. He has a roughly $2.2 million lead over U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy.
Depend on the birth of his child, Donald might play the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, but is more likely to play the season-ending Dubai World Championship.
TIGER’S IMPACT: A quiet Fall Series event in the foothills of northern California has become quite a bit louder. Tiger Woods announced a month ago he would play in the Frys.com Open, and tournament consultant Duke Butler said ticket sales are three times higher than a year ago.
The tournament is Oct. 6-9 at CordeValle. Along with getting Woods, the field includes Ernie Els, two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen.
Butler said some tickets are still available.
“We hope to have 15,000 people a day,” he said. “We have an agreement with the county of Santa Clara that we’d have a maximum paid crowd of 15,000 a day.”
With hotel rooms being snatched up, the tournament figures to have a much greater economic impact on San Martin, which is located just south of San Jose.
“Fry’s is popular in Santa Clara County right now,” Butler said.
GOING HOME: Charles Howell III made bogey on the final hole of the Tour Championship when a birdie would have put him into the playoff. In some respects, however, he already won just by being at East Lake.
The top 30 players who reach the Tour Championship get into the Masters, the most important tournament of the year for Howell because he grew up in Augusta.
It will be his first time back to the Masters since he missed the cut in 2008.
“It’s my favorite tournament,” Howell said. “It’s the one tournament I’ll watch if I’m not playing. And that tournament is not easy to get into.”
It hasn’t been easy for Howell the past few years, but he turned it around this year. He had three straight top 5s at the start of the summer, tied for fourth in Greensboro and was solid enough in the playoff events to be 26th out of the 30 players at the Tour Championship.
“If you’re not in the top 50 in the world golf ranking, this is the next best thing you can do,” Howell said.
FALL SERIES: The Fall Series gets under way this week at Las Vegas, the start of four straight tournaments that will give some players a chance to crack the top 125 on the money list and retain their cards.
D.A. Points, who played his first Masters this year after winning Pebble Beach, is No. 34 on the money list. He is followed by Spencer Levin, who has never played the Masters; Steve Marino, Ryan Moore, Tommy Gainey (No. 39) and Chris Kirk (No. 42).
Kirk won the Viking Classic, but PGA Tour winners only get to Augusta National if the tournament offers full FedEx Cup points. The Viking Classic was held opposite the British Open.
William McGirt, who got the last spot into the FedEx Cup playoffs and advanced to the second event, is at No. 137 on the money list with $427,960.
Others outside the top 125 include Louis Oosthuizen, Angel Cabrera, Paul Casey and Justin Leonard. Oosthuizen and Cabrera are still exempt from their major championships (2010 British Open for Oosthuizen, 2009 Masters for Cabrera), but they must be in the top 125 to qualify for The Players Championship.
DUSTIN AND DUNHILL: The possibility of playing in cold, wind and rain might not sound appealing to Dustin Johnson this time of the year. The chance to play with his brother? That’s appealing enough for him to play in the Dunhill Links Championship this week in Scotland.
Johnson’s brother, Austin, played basketball for Charleston Southern.
“He hits it far, just like me,” Johnson said. “But he three-putts a lot. The only reason I’m going over is to play with my brother. He’s jacked up. He’s more jacked up than I am.”
Johnson said his brother plays off a 5 handicap, and is capable of shooting anything.
“If he’s got it going, it can shoot around par,” Johnson said. “If he doesn’t, he shoots 90. He’s a little wild off the tee. At St. Andrews he’ll be all right. I’ll tell him to hit it left all day.”
DIVOTS: Bill Haas joined Bart Bryant in 2005 and Chad Campbell in 2003 as the only players to win the Tour Championship in their first try. Haas was the first player since Adam Scott in 2006 to make the Tour Championship his first win of the year. … Sunday’s playoff was the 16th of the year on the PGA Tour, tying the record for most in a season with 1988 and 1991. Four tournaments are still on the schedule. … Dustin Johnson has extended his deal with TaylorMade-adidas Golf through 2015. … The third Asian Amateur Championship starts Thursday at The Singapore Island Country Club. The winner gets an invitation to the Masters.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Bill Haas earned $14,088,637 this year in 26 starts, including his FedEx Cup bonus. His father, Jay Haas, earned $14,440,317 in 798 starts in his entire career.
FINAL WORD: “He won’t have to play any better than he did before to do any dominating. Twelve under at Pebble Beach wins by 15 next week. And it wins by 15 in 100 years.” - Geoff Ogilvy on Tiger Woods.