[PHOTO: Michael Reaves]
For all the jockeying for position over 72 holes at Olympia Fields Country Club, for all the drama as players moved in and out of the top 30 in the FedEx Cup points standings, only one player – Matt Fitzpatrick – was able to play his way into the Tour Championship.
Fitzpatrick had hoped for more, of course, after beginning the final round of the BMW Championship tied atop the leaderboard with world No.1 Scottie Scheffler. He matched Scheffler with a closing four-under 66, but the Englishman couldn’t counter the magnificent charge of Viktor Hovland, who fired a course-record 61. Fitzpatrick had to settle for equal second place with Scheffler at 15-under 265. Nevertheless, the former US Open winner moved up 30 spots and heads to East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta in 10th place in the standings.
“Yeah, played great. Can’t do anything about 61,” the Englishman said. “For me, just really pleased again that I played really well [in a] final round in contention with world No.1, and I didn’t lose it. Someone else came from behind and won it. I feel like my game is definitely in better shape than it was, and yeah, looking forward to getting to next week and working on it some more, and hopefully still progressing.”
With a move up, one player had to be pushed out, and that was Atlanta native Chris Kirk, who suffered a miserable finish with bogeys on three of his last six holes, including the 18th. Kirk, winner for the first time in eight years at the Honda Classic in March, dropped from 29th to 33rd after a closing one-over 71.
“I’m not sure how I feel about it. I hit two of the best shots [approaches] of the day the last two holes and went par-bogey,” said Kirk after finishing T-29 at two-under 278. “I’d like to have one more week, but I feel like I’ve had enough golf for the next couple of months.”
Scheffler’s only consolation on the day was overtaking Jon Rahm for the top spot at East Lake, the first time in FedEx Cup Playoff history that a player enters the Tour Championship with the lead in back-to-back years. He’ll start the tournament at 10-under par and with a two-stroke advantage over Hovland.
Rory McIlroy, the defending champion and the only three-time winner of the FedEx Cup, will start third and three shots behind Scheffler at seven-under in the staggered-start format. He was seventh a year ago and six shots behind Scheffler before a final-day rally.
“I’m playing great, tee-to-green – the best I’ve played in a long time,” McIlroy said after finishing fourth with a closing 66 on the North course while paired with Hovland. “Going to have to drive the ball probably a little straighter, but I felt like I found something on the back nine there today to go into next week. but overall I’m in a really good position going into next week, so excited for it.”
Rounding out the top five in the FedEx Cup standings are Rahm, who will start at six-under par, and Lucas Glover, who begins at five-under. Fitzpatrick is in a group with five others who will be staked to a score of four-under par.
No fewer than six players were in the hunt for the final few berths in the playoff finale, with Sepp Straka perhaps coming up with the most clutch performance, carding a 66 despite a bogey on the 72nd hole. His two-over 282 left him T-37, but he stayed inside the bubble for the playoff finale in 30th place.
“You watch it, but ultimately it doesn’t really matter because most of it’s out of your control anyway,” said the 30-year-old Austrian, who had booked two flights out of Chicago, one to Atlanta and one going on home to Birmingham, Alabama. “You’ve just got to try to play a good round of golf and see where you end up.”
Straka, Jordan Spieth and Emiliano Grillo began the week inside the top 30 but found themselves projected outside the top 30 after 54 holes only to bounce back to the plus side on Sunday.
Grillo carded a 67, enough to finish T-31 at even-par 280 and qualified in 27th position. Despite bogeys on his final two holes, Spieth advanced. He had dropped as far down as 32 in the projections when he signed for a 71 before getting help from 2018 FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose and Denny McCarthy, who were inside the number as the final round began but couldn’t keep it there. Spieth finished T-34 at one-over 281.
Sahith Theegala also figured in the matrix of things, giving himself hope with three straight birdies starting at the par-5 15th, bit then the second-year tour player bogeyed the last for a 67 and a 274 total, tied for 15th, which left him in that agonising 31st position, nine points behind Straka.
Rose had played his way in from 34th at the outset of the week with middle rounds of 65 and 68 and then fell away with a 73 for 276, placing T-22. McCarthy was projected in at No.30 when his final round began, but his even-par 70 wasn’t enough to stay there, ending up 33rd with his T-10 finish at 273.
Jason Day is the lone Australian to reach the last tournament of the PGA Tour season and will give Scheffler a nine-shot advantage, beginning the Tour Championship at one-under.
Here’s the field for East Lake and where they’ll all start on Thursday:
Scottie Scheffler (-10)
Viktor Hovland (-8)
Rory McIlroy (-7)
Jon Rahm (-6)
Lucas Glover (-5)
Max Homa (-4)
Patrick Cantlay (-4)
Brian Harman (-4)
Wyndham Clark (-4)
Matt Fitzpatrick (-4)
Tommy Fleetwood (-3)
Russell Henley (-3)
Keegan Bradley (-3)
Rickie Fowler (-3)
Xander Schauffele (-3)
Tom Kim (-2)
Sungjae Im (-2)
Tony Finau (-2)
Corey Conners (-2)
Si Woo Kim (-2)
Taylor Moore (-1)
Nick Taylor (-1)
Adam Schenk (-1)
Collin Morikawa (-1)
Jason Day (-1)
Sam Burns (E)
Emiliano Grillo (E)
Tyrrell Hatton (E)
Jordan Spieth (E)
Sepp Straka (E)
FedEx Cup payouts
How much each player will make based on their finish at the Tour Championship (all in $US):