LEMONT, Ill. – There are certain days on the annual golf calendar whose mere mention will induce a professional golfer’s fingers to tremble ever so slightly and his heart rate to speed up just a little bit.
The final round of PGA Tour Q-School is one of ‘em. U.S. Open qualifying is another. And now we can add one more to the list: Sunday at the BMW Championship.
Why such white-knuckle conditions at the penultimate event of the regular season, where seemingly a rich-get-richer philosophy permeates the atmosphere? It’s because so much is on the line for so many players entering the final round, from FedEx Cup advancement to Presidents Cup roster spots to Player of the Year votes.
These stories are numerous.
After bombing his drive on the final hole in Saturday’s third round, John Senden stood over his second shot with plenty at stake. He didn’t know it, of course, but a birdie would catapult him into 10th place on the projected FedEx standings; a par would keep him in 24th position and a bogey would leave him at 33rd – outside the number needed to advance to next week’s Tour Championship.
Senden stuck the shot to nine feet and made the ensuing putt to take sole possession of second place with 18 holes to play, but those projections are fleeting. And he knows it.
“I’ll think about not looking at leaderboards, I guess,” said Senden, who entered the week in 55th position. “I think that it’s a good, challenging golf course. I need to do what’s best for me and that’s play my game and not worry about what happens with the other players and just go out there and do my best. Hopefully that’s good enough.”
The Aussie actually has double reason for needing a strong finish, as a victory would also vault him onto the Presidents Cup team for The International side.
That’s a scenario Jim Furyk knows all too well. Currently ninth in the U.S. standings, he finds himself locked in what appears to be a five-man battle for the final three spots, alongside Hunter Mahan, David Toms, Brandt Snedeker and Bill Haas.
Meanwhile, the reigning playoff champion came into the week as the No. 35 man on the list, but thanks to his T-7 placement on the leaderboard is now 27th and inside the number.
“As far as getting into The Tour Championship, I know that [Friday] the computer had me projected 31st, so I know that I’ve got to move up on the weekend,” Furyk surmised. “As far as the Presidents Cup, it’s in the back of my mind, it’s weighing on me, I obviously want to make the team. The only thing I can really control is how I play. It’s hard not to look at the leaderboard and see how the guys are doing, but ultimately I can only control how I play.”
Many of the bubble boys are looking to advance in order to simply enjoy one more chance at the spoils that come with playing well at the Tour Championship, most notably the $10 million first-place prize given to the FedEx Cup champion.
For others, though, just reaching the field at East Lake Golf Club will provide an opportunity that otherwise may not present itself anytime soon.
Such is the case for Brandt Jobe. Currently in a share of seventh place, he needs to move into a tie for third in order to continue playing next week. That may be a tall order, considering he needs to make up three strokes on those in that place on the leaderboard right now, but if he does it on Sunday, suddenly Jobe will find himself eligible for each of next year’s first three major championships and the WGC event at Doral – some grandiose consolation prizes for having a strong final round at Cog Hill.
“If you look at it as, I’m trying to get enough points to get into the next one, all that stuff takes care of itself,” Jobe stated. “I’ve played in all those anyway. Would I like to play in them again? Heck yes. But I think more of the grind will be trying to do it if I have a chance.
“After the first round, I told [my caddie], ‘You know what would be nice? To be able to go out on Sunday and say if I shoot 66 or 67, I’ve got a chance. That’s all. … At least, ending the year, if I go out and if I play good, I can do it. That’s all I can ask for.”
So many players will have a chance to seriously enhance their career with a strong round on Sunday. Projections will be tallied in real-time, certain guys falling in and out of desired placements on these lists.
They all have one thing in common, though. As every player in this situation said as he walked off the course after the third round, playing better golf is the lone tonic that can cure any ills.