Tour Championship 2016
Round 4 - Rory McIlroy wins FedExCup in dramatic finish
September 26, 2016
Rory McIlroy holed two shots on the 16th hole at East Lake that made him a most unlikely FedEx Cup champion on Sunday.
The first one he didn't even see go in.
Three shots behind with three holes to play at the Tour Championship, McIlroy holed a pitching wedge from 137 yards for eagle that gave him the spark he needed to close with a 6-under 64 and join a three-way playoff with the FedEx Cup title riding on the outcome.
''I knew I was right back in the golf tournament,'' he said.
Four playoff holes later on the 16th, after Ryan Moore made a par putt from just outside 15 feet, McIlroy knocked in his 15-foot birdie putt to win two trophies that he desperately wanted - the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup.
''Just to see that ball drop, and everything that's come together for me this year ... to pull it off was really special,'' McIlroy said, his voice still hoarse from screaming over so many quality shots, so many clutch moments over the final two hours at East Lake.
McIlroy picked up $11.53 million in one day - the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus and $1.53 million for the Tour Championship, his second victory in three weeks that made him the first player to win four FedEx Cup playoff events.
His only hope was to win the Tour Championship and have Dustin Johnson finish worse than second alone. Johnson closed with a 73 and tied for sixth.
In its 10th year, the FedEx Cup never had a finish like this.
Moore, who got the last captain's pick for the U.S. Ryder Cup team later Sunday, missed an 8-foot birdie putt by the slimmest of margins on the par-5 18th hole in regulation for a 64. In the playoff, he holed a 10-foot birdie putt with McIlroy facing a 6-foot eagle putt for the victory. McIlroy missed.
Even on the final hole, Moore gave McIlroy everything he had. His chip over a ridge raced well past the hole, and it looked as though McIlroy would only have to two-putt for the victory. Instead, Moore holed another big putt.
''I just wanted to make him earn it for that much money at least,'' Moore said. ''I wanted him to make the putt. It was nice to get up and make it, but you give a great player like him that many opportunities, and he's going to make one eventually.''
Chappell had a two-shot lead with two holes to play when he made bogey on the 17th hole - only his third of the week at East Lake - and Moore birdied it in the group ahead of him. Chappell was woefully short on a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th for the win, and he was eliminated with a par on the first playoff hole when he made par.
They finished at 12-under 268.
Johnson surprisingly was never a factor and he hit too many errant shots on the front nine and never recovered. He still would have won the FedEx Cup had either Moore or Chappell won the tournament, which he said ''would have been really cool.''
''It didn't feel right because I didn't win the Tour Championship,'' Johnson said. ''That's why I was here to win. I knew I controlled my own destiny.''
Johnson was second in the FedEx Cup and received a $3 million bonus.
McIlroy had control of this all along once he got into the playoff, except for one nervous moment.
He looked to put the perfect finish onto his big day when he hit out of the rough and over the water to 6 feet for an eagle putt on the par-5 18th in the first playoff hole. McIlroy was ready to pump his fist until his eagle putt slid by, and he removed his cap in disbelief.
Returning to the 18th, McIlroy missed an 18-foot birdie putt for the win. On the third extra hole, the par-3 15th over the water from 201 yards, McIlroy had to make a 7-foot par putt just to stay in the game.
Nothing was bigger than that birdie at the end. McIlroy stiffened his back, clutched both arms and shouted above the raucous cheers at East Lake.
''I've made it no secret that it's one of the last things I feel like I had left on my golf CV, and I made it a big goal of mine to win it,'' McIlroy said. ''To be here and to win the FedEx Cup ... to play the way I have in the last few weeks to get it done, is very special.''
It was the longest playoff in the 30-year history of the Tour Championship.
Moore had to wait to see if his performance - a 66-64 weekend at East Lake - was worthy of a captain's pick. It was, with captain Davis Love III giving him the spot on the 12-man team.
Chappell headed into a month off trying to figure out what he has to do to win. He was runner-up for the fourth time this season - twice to Jason Day, the No. 1 player in the world, and once to McIlroy. In those final rounds, Chappell's scores were 67, 69, 69 and 66.
''I'm proud of the way I fought,'' he said. ''It just wasn't enough.''
Round 3 - Dustin Johnson & Kevin Chappell share lead
September 25, 2016
Dustin Johnson had a reasonable lie in the rough and only a few pine tree branches blocking his path to the 17th green. Neither seemed like a problem until he played the wrong shot, clipped the tree and wound up with a double bogey Saturday in the Tour Championship.
It was an example of how one hole can change everything at East Lake.
And it's why the final round of the PGA Tour season suddenly has more scenarios than Johnson cares to consider.
Johnson recovered with a birdie from the bunker on the par-5 18th for a 1-under 69, giving him a share of the lead with Kevin Chappell (68) going into the last round that will determine who wins the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup.
For the first time since 2009, there's a chance it might not be the same player.
''There's a lot of scenarios that could happen,'' Johnson said. ''But yeah, I'm still going to go out and try to shoot as low a score as possible.''
Johnson only has to win or finish second alone to claim the $10 million bonus as the FedEx Cup champion.
Rory McIlroy, who has gone 28 holes without a bogey at East Lake, had three birdies over his last six holes for a 66 and was two shots behind. If he were to win the Tour Championship and Johnson finished in a two-way tie for second or worse, McIlroy would claim the FedEx Cup.
''It would just be great to try to win the Tour Championship, and if the chips fall my way, then so be it,'' McIlroy said.
The winner of the Tour Championship has won the FedEx Cup every year since 2009, when Phil Mickelson won the tournament and Tiger Woods won the FedEx Cup.
Johnson led by as many as four shots when he ran off three straight birdies on the front nine, and he really didn't do much wrong to give up the size of that lead. He had a three-putt from 70 feet on No. 13, and missed the fairway by a few feet on the next hole, enough that his ball was buried so deep that even Johnson and his power couldn't advance more than about 135 yards.
It was the 17th hole that reshaped the tournament.
Johnson tried to played a fade from a flyer lie in the rough, and the ball came out high and hit a branch, leaving him in more rough about 60 yards short of the green. He put that in the bunker, blasted out to 6 feet and missed the putt to make double bogey.
Chappell rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt for a three-shot swing on the hole and suddenly had the lead, only for Johnson to catch him with the final birdie.
They were at 8-under 202.
Chappell, a runner-up three times this season who has never won on the PGA Tour, has made only one bogey in 54 holes this week, a show of consistency, discipline and a few good breaks when he does miss the fairway.
His next chance at a breakthrough victory is to face golf's best player at the moment (Johnson), with McIlroy and Ryan Moore (66) two shots behind.
''I've always kind of been the underdog, so it's a role I'm comfortable in,'' Chappell said.
Moore went out in 31 until he was slowed by a pair of bogeys, though very much in the mix just two shots out of the lead. The mystery is whether anything he does on Sunday - even if that means a victory - is enough for Davis Love III to use his last captain's pick on Moore for the Ryder Cup.
''I came here this week to win a golf tournament, and I'm 100 percent focused on that,'' Moore said, adding that the Ryder Cup is ''completely out of my control.''
And that's how the last day is shaping up for everyone - post a score and see where it leads.
Johnson, for a moment, looked as though he might take all the drama out of the season-ender when he made a 15-foot par putt early in his round and then ran off three straight birdies on the front nine to go four shots clear.
The putter cooled off, however, and Chappell stayed in range.
Chappell chipped in on No. 12 to match birdies and stay three shots behind, and then he quickly closed the gap when Johnson made back-to-back bogeys, only to respond with a 4-iron over the water to a peninsula green on the par-3 15th to 15 feet for birdie.
The 17th hole changed everything.
''I thought about just trying to hit it in the front bunker, which I probably should have done - probably would have made 4 if I'd have done that,'' Johnson said. ''But it is what it is. I came back and birdied the last hole, tied for the lead going into tomorrow. I like my position.''
And he doesn't need a degree in math to figure out the easiest scenario - just win.
Round 2 - Dustin Johnson edges ahead
September 24, 2016
Dustin Johnson is playing better than anyone in the world, and Kevin Chappell can't wait to watch him at the Tour Championship.
Even if that means having to beat him.
Johnson powered his way down the fairways and occasionally out of the brutal rough at East Lake on Friday for a 3-under 67, giving him a one-shot lead over Chappell and moving him one round closer to the $10 million FedEx Cup prize.
The U.S. Open champion is on a different level at the moment.
Even on a demanding test like East Lake this year - only 10 players remain under par - Johnson is hitting his driver long and straight. His wedge game has gone from a weakness to a strength. A new putter he put in play two weeks ago when he won the BMW Championship is giving him a better feel for alignment.
Small wonder that this was his seventh straight round at 68 or better during the FedEx Cup playoffs.
''The game is never easy. I wish it was,'' Johnson said. ''Obviously, I'm playing good right now. I've got a lot of confidence in my game. Every week, I feel like I bring the same game, which is nice. But I put in a lot of work to get to where I am.''
Johnson was at 7-under 133.
Chappell, one of two players at the Tour Championship who has yet to win on the PGA Tour, was just as solid, even if it doesn't look as spectacular. He has made only one bogey in 36 holes, quite a feat on a course where the Bermuda rough is so punishing that balls sink to the ground and sometimes can't be seen from a foot away.
He shot a 68 and will be in the final group of a playoff event for the second time this year.
Kevin Kisner (70) and Hideki Matsuyama (71) were four shots behind, while Rory McIlroy overcame another rough start on the front nine to post a 70. He was in the group five shots behind, which isn't much of a deficit at the halfway point except for Johnson being the one they have to chase.
If nothing else, Johnson all but eliminated nearly everyone not among the top five seeds vying for the FedEx Cup. McIlroy is No. 6 and still has a chance, though he would have to win the Tour Championship and Johnson would have to finish third.
''I need to win, and I just need someone to play as good as Dustin this week,'' McIlroy said.
Jason Day is out of the picture. The world's No. 1 player withdrew in the middle of a round at the second straight tournament, citing the same nagging back issues that he hopes will be cured by rest.
By Day withdrawing, Johnson won the points-based PGA player of the year award and is likely to win the player vote as PGA Tour player of the year because of his three victories, with perhaps another to follow.
But there is still work ahead of him, and that starts with Chappell.
''I promise you, I'll be watching Dustin,'' Chappell said. ''He's the best player in the world right now, and it's an opportunity for me to see where my game is. There's a golf tournament going on, and I have a chance to win that. That's the ultimate goal. But I also have a chance to see why he's the best player in the world right now, and I look forward to taking advantage of that opportunity.''
Chappell has been a runner-up three times this season and keeps running into the wrong guys - Kisner at Sea Island, Day at Bay Hill and The Players Championship. He also was in the mix at the TPC Boston until McIlroy pulled away.
''It seems I like going against the hot player at the time,'' he said.
Russell Knox matched the low score of the tournament with a 66 that allowed him to get back under par at 1-under 139, along with Justin Thomas, who is still hopeful of a Ryder Cup pick at the end of the week.
Thomas lost a shot when his ball moved right as he set his putter down behind a short par putt on the 11th hole. The PGA Tour reviewed it on videotape and gave him a one-shot penalty under Rule 18-2, the same penalty applied to Johnson at Oakmont in the U.S. Open.
Thomas disagreed with, but accepted, the penalty. His argument was it was not a flat surface and the greens were running fast
''It's nothing against the rules officials. It's a god-awful rule,'' Thomas said. ''It's very fortunate it didn't cost Dustin a major championship. I hope it doesn't cost me anything. I don't feel like I did anything wrong.''
Mark Russell, the vice president of rules and competition for the tour, said, the wind was light and the ball had been at rest ''for quite some time.''
''And the moment that Justin put his club behind the ball and addressed the ball, the ball moved,'' he said. ''In that situation, the evidence is against the player and he was penalized.''
That left him six shots behind Johnson instead of five. Either way, it's a tall order for Thomas or anyone to catch Johnson.
Round 1 - Trio tie for first round lead
September 23, 2016
US Open champion Dustin Johnson birdied the final hole to cap a four-under-par 66 and grab a share of the first-round lead alongside Hideki Matsuyama and Kevin Chappell at the USPGA Tour Championship in Atlanta, Georgia.
World number two Johnson arrived at East Lake Golf Club for the $8.5 million season finale atop the FedExCup playoff standings after his victory in the penultimate playoff event, the BMW Championship, two weeks ago.
The $10 million bonus on offer to the playoff series winner was still clearly in the 32-year-old's sights after a round of five birdies and one bogey.
"I know there's a lot on the line, but there's a lot on the line every week," said Johnson, who was four-under through 12 to join the leading group, bogeyed 13 but regained a share of the lead at the par-five 18th.
"I come out with the same mentality. Today I felt really relaxed out there all day," added Johnson, who opened with a birdie from a bunker at the first hole and finished with a birdie at the last, where he belted his approach shot to 58 feet and made a four-footer for birdie. "I felt like I had good mojo going all day and swung it very nicely."
With three victories this season, including his first major title and a WGC trophy at the Bridgestone Invitational, Johnson is also the frontrunner in the US tour's player of the year race.
Japan's Matsuyama rode a hot putter to his 66. The 24-year-old known as one of the best ball-strikers in the game struggled with his irons, hitting just 11 greens in regulation.
"My putting and short game saved me today," Matsuyama said. "I wasn't hitting the ball real crisp."
Chappell, in contrast, hit 16 greens in regulation, making all four of his birdies on the front nine and coming home in even par to maintain his place atop the leaderboard.
The leading trio were one stroke in front of a group led by world number one Jason Day of Australia, who had four birdies and one bogey in a 67 that left him tied with South Korea's Kim Si-Woo and American Kevin Kisner.
Day, who pulled out of the BMW Championship with a bad back, is seeking his first title in four months.
Last year's FedExCup champion Jordan Spieth was in a quartet a further stroke back on 68 that also included Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, England's Paul Casey and US Ryder Cup hopeful Justin Thomas.
Spieth roared back from his bogey-double bogey start, holing out from a bunker for birdie at 13 and rolling in two 20-foot birdie putts to cap his round.
McIlroy's rollercoaster of a round included an opening bogey, three birdies from the third through fifth holes, back-to-back double-bogeys at seven and eight and four straight birdies from 12 through 15.
McIlroy had birdie chances at 16 and 17 before he had to lay up at the par-five finishing hole.
He started the day ranked sixth in the FedExCup standings, and in with a chance of taking home the playoff prize with a victory -- and some help from the top five players who can claim the big payday outright with a victory.
Those five are Johnson, Patrick Reed, Adam Scott, Day and Casey.
Reed opened with a disappointing 73, while Scott opened with a 69.