LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Zach Johnson is having a September to remember, and there’s still one very big week to go.
In one tournament, he made a 25-foot birdie putt on his final hole to earn the last spot on the Presidents Cup team. In the next one, Johnson made a bunch of big putts in the final round of the rain-delayed BMW Championship for a 6-under 65 for a two-shot victory over Nick Watney.
His win Monday at Conway Farms gave Johnson the No. 4 seed going into Tour Championship, giving him a clear shot at the FedEx Cup and its $10 million prize.
“It’s hard to grasp the last two weeks of golf,” Johnson said. “It’s not like you have to win every week to win that FedEx Cup. You’ve just got to win at the right times, or play well at the right times. And I like the momentum I have for next week.”
Johnson’s 10th career win came at the expense of Jim Furyk, who endured another dose of final-round disappointment. Furyk, who had a one-shot lead, has failed to win the last six times he had at least a share of the lead going into the last round. He holed a 12-foot birdie putt at No. 10 to build a two-shot lead, but played the last eight holes in 2-over and wound up with a 71 to finish alone in third.
Furyk had to settle for slice of history Friday as the sixth player in PGA Tour history with a 59. Only three players in that exclusive club went on to win – Al Geiberger is the only player to win when the 59 was not in the final round.
“I don’t know if I used them all up on Friday and knocked them all in or what, but I just wasn’t able to get the putts to go,” Furyk said.
Johnson wasn’t the only player who felt like a winner Monday.
Luke Donald, a member at Conway Farms, was No. 54 in the FedEx Cup and was on the verge of being left out of the top 30 players who advanced to the Tour Championship. He ran off four straight birdies on the back nine, atoned for a bogey on No. 16 with a birdie on the 17th, and then saved par from a bunker on the 18th hole for a 66 to tie for fourth. That moved him up to No. 29 to get him into East Lake.
Watney was at No. 34, and he went from playing his way into the top 30 to nearly winning the tournament. Watney closed with a 64 and was tied for the lead until Johnson made an 18-foot birdie putt out of the first cut on the 16th hole, and a 12-footer for birdie on the next hole.
“The guys ahead of me were ahead of me for a reason – they’ve been playing well all year,” Watney said. “Luckily for me, I kind of pulled everything together.”
The FedEx Cup points will be reset, meaning the top five only have to win the Tour Championship to capture the cup.
Tiger Woods will be the No. 1 seed, though he doesn’t go there with much momentum. Woods started the final round in cool, breezy conditions just four shots behind and was never a factor after missing a short par putt on the opening hole. He closed with a 71 and tied for 11th, seven shots behind.
“It was not a very good putting week,” Woods said, who was coming off a tie for 65th on the TPC Boston. “It’s just one of those weeks where I just didn’t have it.”
Henrik Stenson, a winner in Boston and angry enough in Chicago that he snapped off the head of his driver during the final round, will be the No. 2 seed at East Lake, followed by Masters champion Adam Scott, Johnson and Matt Kuchar.
Steve Stricker, who played in the final group with Johnson, was one shot off the lead when he started the back nine bogey-double bogey. He closed with a 72, a round that cost him one of the top five seeds.
Furyk had company in his misery.
Matt Jones of Australia had a chance to get to the Tour Championship, which, in effect, would have put him in the four majors next year, but his 8-foot birdie putt on the last hole hit the lip. That cost him a spot in the top 30.
Harris English was at No. 28 and might have caught the worst break of them all. In a driving rain Sunday, he lost the grip on his tee shot and pulled it into grass so thick the ball was never found. The horn to stop play sounded a minute later, and English went back out Monday morning to No. 8 to play his third shot on the par 5. He wound up with a double bogey, never found momentum and fell out of the top 30 by two shots.
Lee Westwood also fell out of the Tour Championship with a poor week.
Johnson put his postseason in jeopardy by skipping the opening FedEx Cup playoff event to attend his brother’s wedding. He was at No. 27 before he arrived for the BMW Championship and started the week just wanting to make sure he was in Atlanta.
He did that and more, giving him 10 wins in his 10 years on the PGA Tour.
“I’m going to have to forget about this week, take Atlanta for Atlanta and just play,” Johnson said. “East Lake is not Conway Farms. It’s a beast. I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and just be thankful.”
Johnson finished at 16-under 268 and earned $1.44 million, pushing his career earnings just past $30 million.