Saturday, September 22, 2012
Snedeker aims for title, $10 million
By Bob Harig ESPN.com
ATLANTA -- For those proficient enough to get to this 30-player tournament on the PGA Tour schedule, worrying about prize money and the various amounts that can be gained or squandered is a mental hurdle long ago conquered.
At least that is what they say.
Undoubtedly, the best players learn to play for trophies and not for cash, realizing the latter will be there in abundance if the former is accomplished.
But $10 million? How does that not get your attention?
That is what will be up for grabs on Sunday at East Lake Golf Club. A handful of players are still in contention to win the FedEx Cup and a $10 million bonus that goes to the champion while the Tour Championship title and its $8 million purse ($1.44 million to the winner) is decided.
And in position for both is Brandt Snedeker.
The three-time PGA Tour winner who was named as an at-large pick to the U.S. Ryder Cup team by captain Davis Love III is tied for the 54-hole lead with England's Justin Rose. Because Snedeker entered the Tour Championship in the top five in points, he is assured of the FedEx Cup title if he wins the tournament.
But he says the money won't be on his mind.
"Now that I've been out here awhile, I realize you don't play for money, otherwise you'll be 80 to 125 every year on the money list,'' Snedeker said. "You play to win championships and the money comes with that, which is great. I'm going out there to win a golf tournament tomorrow, and whatever comes of that is great.''
Snedeker called his 6-under-par 64 on Saturday his best round of the year, and it put him atop the board with Rose at 8-under par, 2 strokes ahead of Ryan Moore and 3 clear of Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson and Jim Furyk, the 36-hole leader whose triple-bogey at the 17th hole in Round 3 dropped him from the top spot.
In his career coming into this week, Brandt Snedeker owns $14,658,223 in winnings. If he wins the Tour Championship on Sunday, he'd nearly double that total with an additional $11.44 million.
Tiger Woods is another shot back after a 67 helped him make up the ground lost by his 73 on Friday. He is tied for seventh, 4 back. Along with Snedeker and McIlroy, Woods would win the FedEx Cup title outright with a victory.
But numerous other scenarios exist for the overall title if, say, Rose or Moore or Watson or Furyk were to win.
Woods has won the FedEx title twice, once when he won the Tour Championship in 2007 and again in 2009, although Phil Mickelson won the tournament. Even for Woods -- who recently went past $100 million in official career earnings on the PGA Tour alone -- $10 million is significant, but not part of the mindset.
"That's not why we play,'' Woods said. "I'm playing for the W, and tomorrow I get a great shot at it. All the money and awards and all of that stuff, that comes along with winning championships. That's the way I've always looked at it, and right now I'm 4 back. If I win the golf tournament, everything's kind of taken care of.''
And that is exactly Snedeker's mindset. A winner earlier this year at the Farmers Insurance Open in a playoff over Kyle Stanley, Snedeker has played 10 of the past 11 weeks after missing part of the summer with a rib injury.
He contended at the Open Championship, then had strong tournaments at The Barclays and Deutsche Bank Championship to earn one of Love's picks. Furyk was also a captain's pick and talked Friday about the motivation to play well this week.
"We definitely wanted to make sure [Love] looked smart going into the Ryder Cup,'' Snedeker said.
But Snedeker's also got some personal business to accomplish. All of his wins have come from behind, and he admits he has not handled these situations well when leading.
The Tour Championship
The Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta is the last of four FedEx Cup Playoff events. Each player in the 30-man field can win the $10 million bonus prize. ESPN.com Topics brings you full event coverage. Profile »
"That is sort of the next evolution, the next step in becoming a world-class player,'' he said. "It's knowing that you can do that, and I need to show that I can do that. ... I'm a jumpy guy to say the least. My biggest thing is trying to stay patient under the gun, and not realizing that not every shot is a make-or-break shot on Sunday. There's always another shot. So just stay super-patient and see what happens.''
The story within the story is that $10 million, which comes on top of any prize money won in the Tour Championship. That bonus ranges from $1.44 million to the winner down to $128,000 for 30th place.
But there is a big drop between first and second in the FedEx Cup, a figure that is larger than all but a handful of entire purses on the PGA Tour. It's hard to feel sorry for anyone here, but the difference is $7 million, as second in the FedEx Cup playoffs gets you $3 million, with $2 million to third, $1.5 million to fourth and $1 million to fifth.
Everyone partakes in the bonus pool, with the 30th-place finisher in the FedEx Cup getting $175,000.
The money is mind-numbing, and yet it is best not to think about it. That might be easier said than done, especially if those who have a chance to snag it have a putt on the last hole for the entire haul.
"I think the biggest thing is going to be how patient you can stay, because this golf course eats guys up that don't stay patient,'' Snedeker said. "With all that extra stuff that goes with the FedEx Cup and the Tour Championship, there are so many reasons to get antsy.
"So you have to do an unbelievable job of staying patient. I've been around Tiger a bunch and Phil a bunch and Luke [Donald], and those guys have played great golf under serious pressure, and you see them; their patience is amazing. That's why they're the best at what they do. That's my goal tomorrow: to stay as patient as I possibly can.''