Nick Watney and Brandt Snedeker might be used to flying under the radar at a golf tournament. But Phil Mickelson?
As the Tour Championship begins Thursday most of the attention is focused on Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods – No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the world rankings and the FedEx Cup points standings. Rory and Tiger, the world is watching.
However, there are three other golfers in the 30-player field who control their own fate. Win the Tour Championship, at East Lake Golf Club, and they take home the playoff title and its $10 million prize. Mickelson, Watney and Snedeker are nearly as close to the crown. Initially, at least, they are the forgotten three of the top five.
“I’ve got just as good a chance as Rory, even though Rory played great the past two weeks,” Snedeker said. “If I won this week, doesn’t do him a whole lot of good. It’s a great feeling to have. So I have to play well this week, and just kind of hope to fly under the radar until Sunday until I get that trophy.”
Mickelson tied for second at the BMW Championship two weeks ago to move into the fourth spot in the points standings. He entered the PGA Tour playoffs 14th in the standings. According to playoff scenarios, Mickelson has a reasonable chance of winning the FedEx Cup with a second-place finish. He can also finish as low as third and still have a mathematical chance at the title.
Mickelson, the four-time major winner, won the Tour Championship in 2009 but lost the FedEx Cup title to Woods. He is one of three golfers to make it to Atlanta in the six years of the current playoff system. In his previous five tournaments, he has three top-10 finishes.
“To have a chance to win the FedEx Cup and control my own destiny is a great position to be in,” Mickelson said. “Given that I’ve had success here, I’m really looking forward to this week.”
Watney is third in the points standings. He started the playoffs 49th and earned his trip to East Lake with a playoff-opening victory at The Barclays. He has a reasonable chance of winning the title with a second-place finish and can finish as low as fourth and still have a mathematical chance. Watney will be playing in his fourth Tour Championship with his best finish a tie for fourth in 2010.
“Starting the event, I’m flying under the radar and everything is focused on Tiger and Rory, as it should be,” Watney said. “So, I’ll just go about my business and hopefully have a chance come Sunday.”
Snedeker enters fifth in the coveted top five, a jump from 19th at the start of the playoffs. A second at The Barclays and sixth at the Deutsche Bank secured his top five spot prior to a tie for 37th at the BMW. He can finish second and still have a mathematical chance of winning the playoff title. Snedeker will be playing his third Tour Championship with his best finish a tie for 16th last year.
“Your main goal, and I think everybody’s goal here this week, is the same,” Snedeker said. “It’s to win. This is our best chance all year to win a golf tournament. There are only 29 guys to beat. You don’t have to beat 154.
“That being said, the 29 guys here are playing really good golf so it’s going to be tough. From my position, if I win everything is taken care of.”
We’ll see who the world is watching come Sunday.