The 2012 PGA Tour playoffs is coming to an end on Sunday, September 23rd, in the final round of the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club. Three professionals; Brandt Snedeker, Tiger Woods, and Rory McIlroy, remain as contenders to claim the FedEx Cup and the $10 million bonus. This is a brief review of what each of the three contenders need to do, in order to take home the prize.
Brandt Snedeker: 2012 is arguably the best season of Snedeker's career, with a win in the Farmer's Open, third-place tie in the British Open, and runner-up in The Barclays (first event of the PGA Tour playoffs). In a game often described as drive for show, putt for dough, he is ranked #1 in strokes gained putting this season. Posting a six-under par score of 64 on Saturday, Brandt sits at the top of the 54-hole leaderboard in the TOUR Championship, at eight under par, a co-leader with Justin Rose. He controls his own destiny, in that a victory in this event would automatically earn him the FedEx Cup.
A three-time career winner on Tour, Brandt Snedeker has yet to win a PGA Tour event when leading after three rounds. The mental challenge, to focus only on the next shot to be played, may be the biggest obstacle for him to overcome, as victory would change his life forever.
Tiger Woods: Tiger is having his best year since 2009, with three wins and a total of six finishes in the top three. He is #2 in FedEx points, PGA Tour scoring average, and the official world golf rankings. Woods is also in position to automatically win the FedEx Cup with victory in the TOUR Championship.
Beginning play in Sunday's final round four shots behind Snedeker and Rose, Tiger Woods will need to shoot a low score. With 74 career PGA Tour victories, 14 major championships, three Tour wins in 2012, and his current #2 rankings noted above, there is no question about whether he can post a low number. The question is whether it would be enough to overcome the four shot deficit.
Rory McIlroy: The one golfer who has prevented Tiger Woods from returning to the #1 position in golf, Rory McIlroy is tied for fourth at the TOUR Championship, three shots behind Brandt Snedeker (and one shot ahead of Woods). He has won his last two PGA Tour events and three of his last four.
Like Snedeker and Woods, Rory McIlroy will claim the FedEx Cup if he can win the TOUR Championship. Unlike the other contenders, however, he does not need to win the TOUR Championship. There are twelve players within five shots of the lead, going into Sunday's final round. If any of these, other than Snedeker or Woods, lifts the trophy for winning the TOUR Championship, Rory McIlroy will claim the FedEx Cup and the $10 million bonus.
The one thing that can spoil this scenario for McIlroy, is if he were to falter and finish outside the top 10 in the TOUR Championship, but I don't see that happening.
Harold Andrews has played golf for nearly 50 years. He considers Jack Nicklaus the greatest of all time.