The Englishman carded a 5-under 66 Monday at Conway Farms – where Donald is a member – to vault inside the top 30 in the FedEx Cup points race, earning a berth in this week’s Tour Championship despite starting the third playoff event ranked 54th in the overall standings.
Needing a top-five finish in Chicago to advance, Donald produced a final-round effort that left him in a four-way tie for fourth, five shots behind winner Zach Johnson. The points from that result allowed him to jump 25 spots into the 29th position, ensuring a berth in next week’s 30-man field at East Lake by the slimmest of margins.
Donald’s final round wasn’t without drama. He bogeyed the 16th hole to sit right on the top-30 bubble, but he moved back in with a 6-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole. His 3-footer for par on the final green sealed his spot in Atlanta.
Donald has only recently begun seeing swing coach Chuck Cook, who also works with Jason Dufner, and the Englishman has already seen some benefits. For the week, Donald was tied for first in approach proximity to the hole.
“I’m certainly starting to see a payoff,” he said. “I’m hitting it a lot better – being in more fairways, hitting more greens, and just giving myself less work for par.”
Donald wasn’t the only player to vault into the top 30 thanks to a high finish at Conway Farms. Nick Watney, who carded Monday's low round with a 6-under 65, moved from 34th all the way to 12th thanks to his runner-up finish. With Donald and Watney moving inside the number, two players were forced out: Harris English, who dropped from 28th to 31st after finishing 50th in this week’s 70-man field, and Lee Westwood, who fell from 30th to 41st overall after finishing 67th in Chicago.
Dustin Johnson ended up with the 30th and final ticket to next week’s season finale, finishing with 1,468 total points – only 26 points ahead of English. Australia’s Matt Jones, who missed a 10-foot putt for birdie on the 18th hole Monday, finished 32nd; had he holed his birdie putt on the final green, the 33-year-old would have earned a spot at East Lake, along with berths in each of next season’s first three majors.
Thanks to his tie for 11th, world No. 1 Tiger Woods overtook Henrik Stenson for the top seed in the standings heading into the season finale in Atlanta. Stenson dropped to second, followed by Adam Scott, BMW champion Johnson and Matt Kuchar. All five men will control their own destiny at East Lake, meaning a win would also net them the season-long FedEx Cup title and a $10 million bonus.