ATLANTA — Brandt Snedeker doesn’t claim to be the best player in the world, the best player on the PGA Tour or even the best overall player in the FedEx Cup playoffs. All he needed was the best round of his career at East Lake to become FedEx Cup champion, giving him the biggest paycheck in golf.
And he’s not about to apologize for that.
“Life is all about timing,” Snedeker said with a sneaky grin.
He proved to be the right man in the right place Sunday in the Tour Championship. On a tough day on a tree-lined course, Snedeker overcame an early double bogey in the water with four big birdies and closed with a 2-under 68, making him the only player in the final five groups to break par.
That gave him a three-shot win over Justin Rose and two trophies in one day — the Tour Championship and its $1.44 million prize, and the FedEx Cup with its $10 million. That’s more money than Snedeker had made in his career going into the 2012 season.
“You go out there and play that round of golf, with that kind of pressure on that tough of a golf course, and to go through the adversity I had to go through, hitting the ball in the water and making a double bogey early and fighting my way back … that’s what you work your whole life for,” he said. “This is about as close as I get to speechless.”
Snedeker was tied with Rose going into the last round, though he could not ignore the presence of Rory McIlroy, who was three shots behind, and Tiger Woods, who was four back. McIlroy (1), Woods (2) and Snedeker (5) were among the top five seeds in the FedEx Cup going into the final event, meaning any of them only had to win the Tour Championship to capture the FedEx Cup.
Never mind that McIlroy had won four times this year against the strongest fields, including a record eight-shot win in the PGA Championship and back-to-back wins in playoff events at Bethpage Black and the TPC Boston that make him the clear-cut No. 1 player in the world.
McIlroy, who had 11 consecutive rounds in the 60s going into Sunday at East Lake, knew that as well as anyone. This is one time the Boy Wonder couldn’t deliver. He lost four shots in a four-hole stretch on the front nine — including a tee shot in the water on the par-3 sixth for a double bogey — and never recovered.
He closed with a 74 and tied for 10th.
“I’m a little disappointed, but at the same time, Brandt really deserves to win,” McIlroy said. “He played the best golf out of anyone. He knew what he needed to do. He needed to come in here and win. He controlled his own destiny, just like I did. And he was able to come and do that. So because of that, he really deserves it.”
Woods also faded early, missing the fairway with a 3-wood on the opening hole and making bogey. He also found the water on the sixth hole for double bogey, and Woods didn’t make a birdie until the par-5 ninth. He ended with a birdie from tap-in range on the 18th for a 72 to tie for eighth.
Snedeker turned his fortunes around with a 40-foot birdie putt on the eighth hole, which was bound to roll some 6 feet by the hole until it crashed into the cup. As Rose kept close, Snedeker poured in an 18-foot birdie putt on the 13th. When Ryan Moore made two straight birdies to tie for the lead at the par-5 15th, Snedeker knocked his approach onto the green for a two-putt birdie.