IT IS American Brandt Snedeker rather than Europe’s Rory McIlroy who goes into this week’s Ryder Cup £7million richer, but what a match is now in prospect in Chicago.
SNEDEKER, one of Davis Love’s four wild cards, claimed the richest prize in golf in Atlanta last night, winning the Tour Championship by three and with it the massive £6.1m FedEx Cup jackpot.
McIlroy had to settle for “only” £2m after falling from fourth to 10th at East Lake with a closing 74 – that after a run of 11 sub-70 rounds – and from first to second in the overall play-off standings.
But with Justin Rose finishing runner-up in the event and moving to a career-high fifth in the world, it is Europe who will have four of the world’s top five on view at Medinah.
The 24 players are all in the game’s top 35, prompting Rose to say last night: “I think it’s set up for a great week. It’s probably as strong as it’s ever been between two teams.”
McIlroy tops the rankings, of course, but after four play-off events in five weeks – and victories in the middle two of them – the 23-year-old Holywood superstar said: “I just hope we are fresh. I think everybody is going to take a day off (today). It’s a draining week on and off the course.”
On seeing Snedeker snatch the big prize off him he added: “I’m a little disappointed to be honest.
“I didn’t play the way I wanted to. I only hit three fairways (none in his first 10 holes) and you can’t do that around this place.
“But at the same time Brandt really deserves to win. If you look at his stats (especially the one showing he missed only one putt under eight feet in the 72 holes) he played the best golf. He needed to come in here and win. He controlled his own destiny just like I did and he was able to do it.”
There will still be those who believe McIlroy should have been given more of an advantage entering the final play-off event, but the points were reset to allow the top five to win the cup with a victory and Snedeker was in fifth place after finishing second, sixth and 37th in the previous three.
If Rose had won McIlroy would have taken the £6.1m and when they saw each other after finishing McIlroy said to his team-mate: “I wish you had done me a favour.”
Snedeker looked as if he might be about to throw it away when he followed McIlroy into the lake on the short sixth and double-bogeyed, but he birdied four of the next 11 holes and so could easily afford a closing bogey.
“I’m not going to complain and I’m not going to criticise the format,” added McIlroy. “It’s been a great year and I’m very happy with how I’m playing still. I’m very excited about next week.”
Lee Westwood stays fourth in the rankings despite finishing 30th and last way down on 15-over-par, 25 strokes adrift of Snedeker.
The astronomical sums on offer were such that even bringing up the rear in the tournament and dropping to 10th in the overall standings earned the 39-year-old nearly £400,000.