ATLANTA — Think of Sunday’s final round of the Tour Championship/FedEx Cup playoffs this way:
On one table, there’s $1.44 million for the winner of the Tour Championship at East Lake, where Brandt Snedeker and Justin Rose share a two-stroke lead over Ryan Moore entering the final round.
On another table, there’s $10 million to whomever wins the Fed Ex grand prize, a culmination of the four-tournament playoff run, an advantage held overnight Saturday by Snedeker until the first birdies and bogeys start the calculators whirring on what’s expected to be a sunny, breezy Sunday.
They can tell you it’s not about the money, but it’s so much cash, it’s hard to ignore.
“I’m going out there to win a golf tournament (Sunday) and whatever comes of that is great,” said Snedeker, who could come close to equaling his career earnings of $14.6 million with another round like the 6-under 64 he shot Saturday.
Last year, Bill Haas double-dipped, just as Jim Furyk did the year before. In both of those years, Luke Donald had a chance to scoop up both prizes on Sunday and couldn’t make it happen. Afterward, he thought about the money.
“I missed out by probably a shot. It was a big difference,” Donald said. “You don’t really think about money when you’re on the golf course but afterwards, one shot….the difference (in) eight or nine million is quite a lot.”
You could say that.
Donald is tied for 11th entering the final round and would need an improbable set of circumstances to grab what he couldn’t get the past two years.
Maybe Snedeker, Rory McIlroy (three back) or Tiger Woods (four back) will hit the daily double Sunday.
Or maybe it plays out that there’s a playoff for the FedEx Cup, a two-man shootout for $10 million. It could happen.
Here’s a scenario, if Moore wins, Snedeker finishes second, Woods is third and McIlroy is fourth, Woods and McIlroy would play off for the $10 million.
Among those closest to the front, Snedeker, McIlroy and Woods can solve the mystery by winning the Tour Championship and, because of what they did in the previous three events, automatically take the $10 million in bonus money.
“It’s going to be one of the most exciting Sundays of the year,” McIlroy said.
Neither Rose nor Moore is particularly worried about the FedEx Cup because neither has a realistic chance to win.
“I honestly have no chance to win the FedEx Cup. That is my reality,” said Moore, who shot 65 in the blustery conditions Saturday to jump into contention.
With his first child due on Halloween and only one more tournament on his 2012 schedule, Moore wants to win because he hasn’t taken home a trophy this year.
Rose started the week 24th and has the Ryder Cup next week. He needs McIlroy to finish 17th or worse, plus various other things to happen to win the $10 million. He’s written off that idea.
“I have the advantage of just playing the Tour Championship,” Rose said. “It’s not an easy golf course. Things can happen out there.
“For me, it’s about one tournament. I wish I would be in the position Brandt’s in. I would trade him.”
Almost like it was a late-afternoon tease for Sunday’s final round, second-round leader Jim Furyk had a share of the Saturday lead when he arrived at the 17th tee.
Furyk then tugged his tee shot into the water along the left side of the par-4 hole, shoved his next tee shot near a hospitality tent on the right side of the hole, plunked his fourth shot into a greenside bunker and wound up making a triple-bogey seven that left him three strokes behind the leaders.
Snedeker and Rose were the only two players not to make a bogey on Saturday.