Thursday 14 December 2017

Stenson leads hunt for $10m

Rory McIlroy plays out of a bunker on the eighth fairway during the second round of the Tour Championship
Rory McIlroy plays out of a bunker on the eighth fairway during the second round of the Tour Championship

William S Callahan

Sunday evening coming down the stretch in the Tour Championship by Coca-Cola in East Lake, Atlanta and it's 'show me the money' with a total of $11.485m on the line.

That’s a mere $1.485m first prize for annexing one of the PGA Tour’s most prestigious titles, and a $10m dollar bonus to the player who wins the FedEx Cup series.

Not everyone left in the field of 28  – Jim Furyk and Louis Oosthuizen withdrew because of injury – can win the FedExCup bonus due to the complicated points system.

Of those who are in contention for the bonanza, will the potential winnings come to mind when the heat is on down the back nine?

Bubba Watson says ‘yes’, as does Jason Day.

Henrik Stenson, who is making himself the man to beat this week, says ‘no.’

Rory McIlroy also says ‘no’.

Really? Is it not human nature to face a key shot or a vital putt and start listening to the inner whisper: “this is for $10m dollars, don’t mess it up.”

McIlroy is one who believes that will not be an issue. The winning is everything to him all the time.

“I would be way more nervous over a putt to beat Tiger Woods for a dollar than I would over a putt for $10m,” he said.

“It’s always been about being the best player I  can  be, winning trophies, winning tournaments, and now with the position I’m in, luckily that’s the way it always will be.”

Stenson won the FedExCup bonus in 2013 and is on the right track to add the 2015 title to his CV.

The first-round leader kept the pressure on the field all day and a 68 moved him to nine under and a three-shot lead ahead of Jordan Spieth.

He appreciates the pressure that comes on Sunday afternoon with trying to get the job done, but said:  “If you are thinking too much about the outcome and the money, that’s going to be in your way.”


Watson is adamant  that if he has a chance of winning the FedExCup on Sunday, blocking the potential cheque out of his mind would be difficult.

“Yeah, some of those thoughts would creep in my head if I had a chance,” said Watson.

Day knows what it’s like to let the green stuff affect his performance in this tournament.

“Of course, yes, it would pop in my brain,” said the Australian.

The money was not an issue for Day yesterday so much as the gloss going off his game as he filed a one-over-par 71 for level par overall.

Spieth made a run at Stenson’s lead, closing in style with a superb birdie two from 19 feet for a four-under-par 66 and six under for the tournament.

“My short game was magic today. It was a struggle tee to green for me, but when we got around the greens we had some fantastic up and downs,” said Spieth.

McIlroy reached the turn at one over for the day, and bogeyed the 13th to move to two over par.

But then he revved up his game and claimed successive birdies on the 14th and 15th holes.

Bunkered off the tee on the 18th, though, McIlroy splashed out to 20 feet, and took two putts for a bogey four and 71 to lie three under.

Meanwhile, Graeme McDowell will find out today if his lucky break on hole 13 in the European Open at Bad Griesbach can be a turning point in his season. McDowell had played three, including two shots in heavy rough, and then pitched in from 100 yards for a saving par four when a double-bogey looked inevitable.

He went on to birdie the 16th and 17th holes to reach five-under, but dribbled a poor par attempt wide of the cup on the 18th to slip back to 70 for the day and four under overall.

That left him six shots behind the joint leaders, Ross Fisher and Graeme Storm of England and South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel.

Fisher’s 65, Schwartzel’s 66 and Storm’s 67 for ten-under par gave them just a one-shot cushion ahead of Richard McEvoy (England) and BMW PGA winner Beyong Hun-An (South Korea).

Damien McGrane zoomed up the leaderboard from a potential missed cut with a 67 which placed him in a group of 19, including McDowell, at four-under.

Michael Hoey shot a second successive 70 for two-under but that was the cut mark and he did not go through to the weekend. Kevin Phelan (71) and Peter Lawrie (72) missed out at one-under par.

Simon Thornton’s 69 salvaged some pride after his opening 77 but he also made an exit.

Porsche European Open, Live, Sky Sports 4, 12.00

Tour Championship, Live, Sky Sports 4, 4.00pm

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