Published September 19, 2011
LEMONT, Ill. – No other FedEx Cup playoff event is more complicated than the BMW Championship, with players trying to finish in the top 30 to get to the Tour Championship, others calculating the movement they need to make the Presidents Cup team and some trying to do the math on both.
Perhaps it was only fitting that the winner was Justin Rose, whose goal all week was to keep it simple.
It started on Tuesday, when Rose had a practice session with coach Sean Foley to make sure his club was on line at the top of his swing. Rose tried to limit his swing thoughts to only one key, which was to rotate his hips.
For the mental side of the game, he decided not to carry a yardage book and instead relied on his caddie, Mark Fulcher. Rather than taking enough numbers to make an algebra teacher dizzy, he asked Fulcher to tell him only how long the shot was playing.
And when the rain finally stopped Sunday, he ditched the cumbersome layers of waterproof gear that had been getting in his way.
"I think mentally this is the best I've ever been in terms of being very under control with my emotions, being very calm, being very aware of the situation and feeling comfortable with it," Rose said. "I may have had better ball-striking weeks as a whole, but I think this week, as a competitor and as a professional, I think it was probably my best-ever performance."
Certainly the most rewarding.
Rose's two-shot victory, his third on the PGA Tour, over John Senden was worth $1.44 million and sends him to the Tour Championship with a shot at the $10 million FedEx Cup prize. Rose jumped from 34th in the FedEx Cup standings at the beginning of the week to No. 3. The top five — Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson, Rose, Luke Donald and Matt Kuchar — only have to win the Tour Championship to collect the biggest payoff in golf.
"To give myself control of my own destiny next week in Atlanta is something I didn't foresee at the beginning of the week, so just an amazing outcome," said Rose, who finished at 13-under 271.
But a bit anti-climactic — even with some suspense on the 17th hole. Then again, most of the drama surrounding the FedEx Cup standings and the Presidents Cup teams ended up being much ado about nothing.
The maneuvering for the Tour Championship and the Presidents Cup makes the BMW Championship seem like three tournaments in one. The top 30 from the 70-man field at Cog Hill advance to East Lake, and the BMW is the last chance for the top 10 players to qualify for the Presidents Cup.
"There's Presidents Cup stories, FedEx Cup stories, and just this golf tournament ... so there's stories everywhere," said Martin Laird, who found himself outside looking in after finishing 31st in the FedEx standings. "It just makes for a great week, and that's what the playoffs are all about."
But Rose, Senden and third-place finisher Geoff Ogilvy were the only ones who played their way into the Tour Championship. The order was the only thing that changed in the standings for both the U.S. and International teams for the Presidents Cup, to be played Nov. 17-20 at Royal Melbourne in Australia.
David Toms went from No. 10 in the U.S. standings to No. 8 with his tie for 10th, and Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan nailed down the last two spots. Matt Kuchar, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Nick Watney, Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson had secured their spots.
Ogilvy, who was narrowly No. 10, moved ahead of Ryo Ishikawa to No. 9 in the International standings, which are based on world ranking. The other eight players are Jason Day, Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel, K.J. Choi, K.T. Kim, Retief Goosen, Ernie Els and Y.E. Yang.
"Obviously I was trying really hard to get on the Presidents Cup team. That was there," said Ogilvy, who has a house off a fairway at Royal Melbourne. "But I don't think it would have been beneficial to my golf to dwell on that too much."
That might explain Bill Haas' undoing.
Haas' father Jay will be assistant captain to Fred Couples at the Presidents Cup, and the younger Haas was poised to join him with one of the 10 spots. Arriving at Cog Hill on Sunday in a tie for third, Haas needed to shoot a 75 or better to make the U.S. team.
He shot a 78 after posting a 42 on the back nine.
"I was on the phone with Jay Haas a lot today and hoping for the best for Billy," Couples said afterward. "It's a struggle. I've been on these places where you want to make these teams so bad that you actually forget you're trying to win a golf tournament, and I think that's what Bill was foremost trying to do today."
Couples and International captain Greg Norman will make their captains picks after the Tour Championship. Couples has already said he'll use one on Tiger Woods, with the younger Haas, Brandt Snedeker and Keegan Bradley among the favorites for the remaining selection.
Just as the suspense over the FedEx and Presidents Cup standings was fading, Rose unintentionally set Cog Hill abuzz once again.
The Englishman appeared headed for a runaway victory when he birdied the sixth and seventh holes to take a five-shot lead on Senden. But Senden was practically flawless Sunday, playing bogey-free in the rain on a tough course. He made back-to-back birdies around the turn while Rose bogeyed the par-5 ninth. When Rose gave back another stroke on 15 after hitting his tee shot into the trees, his lead had been whittled to a single stroke.
Rose hit another mediocre shot that came up short of the 17th green. While it was a relatively simple chip, he thought about using his putter to eliminate any chance of a mistake.
"But I knew it was kind of coming down to me," Rose said. "Either I was going to fritter it away or make something happen to win the tournament. That's how it felt. I nearly took the 'chicken stick' out there and putted it on 17, and I had a little chat with myself. ... I said, 'These are the moments where tournaments are won.'
"It was an easy chip, it just needed committing to, just not wimping out."
Besides, relying on Fulcher had worked all week, and his caddie was telling him to chip.
Rose chipped in for birdie to restore his lead, then played the 18th without fear to close out an even-par 71.
"It was just nice to have made the right decision and then executed it," Rose said. "That's a great lesson to learn that down the stretch it does come down to one moment sometimes, and you just need to be ready for it."
Sounds like a simple formula.