As automatic as Tiger Woods is with 54-hole leads, to say nothing of that cool touchdown head start he’ll enjoy to begin Round 3 at the BMW Championship, the year of Anything Can Happen has narrowed the list of life’s certainties to death and taxes.
That’s not to say we wouldn’t wager the GDP of a small Caribbean country on the world No. 1 landing his second BMW crown in three years, but recent history demands we go the whole 72 even when common sense and expediency screams for a slaughter rule.
“Maybe he could have a heart attack out there for me to have a chance,” said Snedeker, and he was serious as a heart attack. “Paul Goydos said it best, ‘He’s the most underrated player of all time.’”
No, Tour officials resisted the urge to dole out the big check early and get a jump on a scheduled bye week, but it wasn’t easy. Not after the “Monster of the Midway” blitzed the Rees-ed up Cog Hill layout to the tune of 9-under 62, a round Woods called his best – post-knee surgery division. Not when he’s converted at least a share of a 54-hole lead 47 times out of 51 attempts. Not when he manhandled the much-feared Dubsdread track on Saturday with a combination of power, precision and not a putt over 26 feet, and just three over 10 feet.
“I was just doing what I always do, and that's kind of plodding along and playing shot after shot,” said Woods, who only has three rounds on Tour better than his Saturday symphony.
“Certain rounds, if you can get off to a quick enough start and you see some easier holes coming up, you might entertain the fact that you might have an opportunity to go near 60 or somewhere near 50. But you've got to have the right golf course for that. This golf course is a little bit more difficult than that.”
If golf fans ever needed a “secondary event” to carry a storyline, Sunday is it.
Barring a heart attack or a traffic jam on Archer Avenue, a very real possibility that should keep Cog Hill officials awake all night, Woods should be on cruise control before the NFL pre-game shows come on.
That’s not to say, however, there will be no compelling TV coming out of the southside on Sunday.
Scoff at the convoluted points and playoff hype all you want, but the reality is there will be more than one player headed out of Chicago with a smile on their face.
According to the mathematicians, Luke Donald is headed for some Tour Championship redemption. The Chicago native via Hemel Hempstead, England, played his way into the top 30 with his Saturday 68.
Two years ago Donald closed with a 65 at Cog Hill but missed punching his East Lake ticket by one stroke. And the soft-spoken Northwestern grad knows how close he is. It’s impossible to miss.
“It’s hard not to watch the points,” said Donald, who began the week 32nd in points. “You make a bogey and they show you dropping to 34th. It seems every shot means a little more.”
Matt Kuchar made a similar move, shooting a third-round 66 on the same layout he won the 1997 U.S. Amateur and the slide rule says he’s currently 26th and headed to his first Tour Championship on a course he grew fond of during his days at Georgia Tech.
And then there is Stewart Cink. The man who broke Scotland’s heart at Turnberry hasn’t broken 70 all week and needs a big finish to play at East Lake, where he is a member.
Ditto for Anthony Kim (projected 37th) and Mark Wilson (31st) and all manner of players who measure success by wins and how many Tour Championships they play.
It will not be the media or the Tour-driven hype that will give the playoffs legs. It will be the players, and if nervous glances and anxious faces are any indication, getting to East Lake counts.
“I am eyeing the computer every day,” said Kevin Na, whose Round 3 65 gave him reason to watch the proceedings carefully.
Woods will likely make Sunday’s final lap a formality, having gone 3-for-3 with at least a share of the 54-hole at the BMW, but the Bears-Packers tilt won’t be the only sporting news of note late Sunday. Not with a contrived reset of the FedEx Cup points waiting on Monday that will guarantee suspense at East Lake.
The playoffs aren’t perfect. May never be. But they’ve given us life where Woods has left only a scorched earth and little hope for a Hazeltine National-like rally from the rank-and-file, and that’s not easy to do.