Rory McIlroy will close the chapter on a very indifferent year later tonight as part of the support cast at the PGA Tour’s 2019/20 season-ending Tour Championship in suburban Atlanta.
The four-time Major winner is a distant 11 shots back of the lead at eight-under par in the double defence of his East Lake titles.
World and FedEx Cup No.1 Dustin Johnson continued to lead the race to the $US15m first prize pot of gold with daylight now seemingly a distant second.
Johnson was in a class of his own in chasing down PGA Tour title number 23 in posting a six-under par 64 on Sunday and now takes a five-shot lead at a massive 19-under par into the final round of season.
Now, Johnson is just 18 holes from his first FedExCup title.
Victory would also see Johnson voted by his peers as PGA Tour No.1 and head to next week’s U.S. Open as the overwhelming favourite.
‘DJ’ had ended Saturday’s second round missing the fairway over his last 10 holes but still did enough to keep his 29 Georgia rivals at arm’s reach.
And in re-finding the East Lake fairways on day three, Johnson was in his element.
Johnson’s coach, Claude Harmon revealed ahead of Johnson’s third round: “To say DJ couldn’t hit a fairway on Saturday is an under-statement.
“We did some work after his round and again this morning, and he was a bit off in his set-up. He was reaching for the ball and we got that sorted out, so he should be fine for today.”
And now Johnson is staring at becoming PGA Tour No.1 for the first time in his career.
“To be the FedExCup champion is something that I want to do,” said Johnson in his quiet unassuming way.
“It’s something that I want on my resume when I quit playing golf. Yeah, I mean, it means a lot to me. So yes, I do want to win this tournament.
“Obviously, I had a chance to win it a few years ago. Not really in control of that one, so it’s a little bit different. I didn’t play well — if I played well I would have, but on Sunday I didn’t have a chance — I couldn’t control winning my golf. I was pulling hard for Kevin Chappell. (Laughter.)
“But yeah, tomorrow I do. I control my destiny. I need to go out and just play like I did today. I’m swinging good. I’ve got a lot of confidence in the game. So I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Xander Schauffele (67) and Justin Thomas (66) are tied for second at 14-under par.
Again, left behind as Johnson edged closer to becoming PGA Tour No.1 was McIllroy.
McIlroy had captured the second event of the wraparound season in far off Shanghai but that was last November.
In 2020 proper, McIlroy posted four top-5s in as many events but that was prior to the three-month lockdown.
Since a return to competition on June 11th, McIlroy’s played in eight events before teeing-up in the Georgia capital but without a top-10.
He should secure a first top-10 and this after another ‘no frills’ showing on day three of the $US 15m event at the famed East Lake course.
McIlroy went into day three after the horrors of ‘chunking’ his second shot into the water at the 18th and ending his round with a bogey for a disappointing one-over par 71.
In contrast, McIlroy made amends with an opening hole birdie on day three putting a 9-iron all over the flag before rolling-in his seven-footer.
Though the birdies had flown the coop and it was six straight pars for McIlroy before a dropped shot when he was way right off the eighth tee, short of the green with his second and then two-putted from 12-feet for a bogey ‘5’.
He entered the inward nine holing an 11-footer for birdie at the par-4 13th but then dropped shots at 14 and 15 ahead of only the third birdie of his round at 17.
McIlroy again struggled with the driver with Sunday’s round much a mirror as Saturday’s round in managing to hit just seven of 14 fairways while he posted 29 putts, including three-putting the last for a par.
McIlroy will have the remainder of the week off before heading to New York’s Long Island and the September 16th starting U.S. Open at Winged Foot.
It will be McIlroy’s 12th appearance in a U.S. Open but a first at Winged Foot having made his debut in 2009, a year after the last U.S. Open at the famed course.
McIlroy brilliantly captured a first of four Majors by celebrating Father’s Day in 2011 in winning by eight shots.
Due to COVID-19 related rescheduling, it will be the first of six Majors in the Tour’s new 2020/21 season starting Thursday in California.
As well, it will be a U.S. Open without the noisiest and some of the more obnoxious spectators on the planet.
Open champion Shane Lowry and fellow Irishman Seamus Power will be competing in the Safeway Open while McIlroy will be safe at home getting to know his now week-old daughter, Poppy Kennedy.