NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. – It might take a few days to finish – the forecast for Sunday calls for biblical rain – but the final round of the BMW Championship offers six compelling storylines.
The least of which might be who actually wins the tournament.
On a cool, damp but ideal day for scoring, Justin Rose went out in 29 and made nine consecutive pars to finish to take a one-shot lead over Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele.
Waterlogged Aronimink has surrendered plenty of low scores through three rounds – the toughest day for scoring was the first round, at 68.13(!) – and it’ll take another mid-60s score in wet and windy conditions Sunday (or Monday) to break away from a congested leaderboard with 14 other players within five shots of the lead.
“I don’t quite know how tomorrow is going to play out,” Rose said. “I don’t think anyone knows what to expect.”
Rose, who won the former AT&T National here in 2010, bogeyed his opening hole Thursday and hasn’t dropped a shot since. He’s at 17-under 193.
Though Rose would surely love to collect the $1.62 million check, his third win of the season wouldn’t dramatically alter the playoff landscape – he’d only jump from No. 3 to No. 2 in the FedExCup standings.
The stakes are much higher for Schauffele, of course.
After starting the week No. 41 in the rankings, he’s projected to move to sixth with a win, but his first title in nearly a year would also make U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk’s decision more difficult with one wildcard selection remaining.
With that in mind, here’s a look at what else is at stake during what will be a soggy, sloppy final round:
FEDEXCUP TOP 5
Bryson DeChambeau is already guaranteed to hold the top spot at the Tour Championship, but the rest of the top 5 is far from settled.
It’s the magic number: Those inside the top 5 in the standings will capture the FedExCup title if they win the season finale at East Lake.
Right now, using the PGA Tour’s projections, that group includes DeChambeau, Rose, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Tony Finau.
The most interesting case is Finau, who is fifth despite not winning an event this season. He has 10 top-10s, second-most on Tour this season.
Brooks Koepka could benefit from a big Sunday. The two-time major winner this season and no-brainer choice for Player of the Year is projected seventh.
FEDEXCUP TOP 30
Jordan Spieth’s Tour Championship streak is in jeopardy.
He hasn’t missed a date at East Lake in his young Tour career, but he’s on the outside looking in heading into the final round.
Spieth is projected 31st on the FedExCup points list, 20 behind Keegan Bradley.
Earlier this week, when asked about the possibility of missing East Lake for the first time, Spieth said that he wouldn’t get caught up in the projections or standings and that reaching the finale wasn’t “do or die.”
Spieth is at 6-under 204, in a tie for 39th.
Those also on the wrong side of the bubble: No. 32 Emiliano Grillo, No. 33 Andrew Putnam, No. 34 Ryan Armour and No. 35 Chez Reavie.
Tiger Woods is tied for 11th, five shots behind, but he’s projected to only climb one spot in the standings, to No. 24. Gary Woodland (27th), two-time winner Patton Kizzire (28th) and Marc Leishman (29th) all need solid final rounds to secure their spot at East Lake.
Schauffele wasn’t sure that even a win at the BMW would be enough to sway Furyk’s opinion on the final pick.
But he’d at least like to find out.
Late Saturday, after hanging with Rose all day, Schauffele three-putted from the edge of the 18th green to drop one shot behind heading into the final day.
“I’m tired right now,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been grinding more this year. I’m going to try and play well tomorrow, and I’ll be really happy.”
Schauffele probably needs to win just to receive serious consideration from the U.S. decision-makers. Tony Finau is the presumptive favorite, and he hasn’t exactly bombed this week – his Saturday 67 lost ground on the leaders, but he’s still T-15.
The Ryder Cup committee added this 11th-hour selection to make sure that the hottest American player wasn’t left off the squad. If Schauffele – who finished 12th in qualifying – wins the BMW before the deadline, isn’t he exactly who the powers-that-be were hoping to identify?
WORLD NO. 1
There also could be a change at the top of the world rankings.
Rose could move to No. 1 for the first time in his career if he wins at Aronimink and Koepka and Johnson both finish worse than a two-way tie for second. There’s even a scenario that Rose could get to No. 1 if he finishes second.
Thomas’ scenarios are similar: Win the BMW (he’s T-7) and have Koepka and Johnson finish outside the top 2. That scenario, at least, seems inevitable: Both Koepka and Johnson are outside the top 30 heading into the final round.
This is the great unknown heading into Sunday.
Rose wanted to hole his 20-footer on 18 to ensure that he had a one-stroke lead – you know, just in case the final round is wiped out.
Officials have already moved up tee times five hours Sunday in anticipation of storms that are expected to drop another inch and a half of rain on a course that has already been inundated with nearly three inches.
The Tour’s meteorologist is optimistic that the heaviest rainfall will occur after 2 p.m., but if the system arrives early the BMW seems destined for a Monday finish. Keep in mind that the forecast for Monday calls for rain, too.
This presents a headache for tournament organizers, of course, but it’s also the worst-case scenario for players. Most are playing their third event in a row (and their fifth in seven weeks), and they could desperately use a week off at the tail end of a long season. Any further delays would cut into their valuable recovery time, especially with the Tour Championship and Ryder Cup on deck.