Rory McIlroy wanted a closing 64 but had to settle for a 74 instead and second place behind Brandt Snedeker in the race for the $10m FedEx Cup bonanza.
The world No 1 tied for 10th in the Tour Championship on one-under par, nine shots behind Snedeker, who closed with a 68 to win by three strokes from Justin Rose on 10 under, earning a cool $11.44m ($10m for the FedEx and $1.44m for the tournament win.
Tiger Woods tied for eighth after a closing 72 and said: “I just didn’t have it this weekend. I wasn’t sharp.”
McIlroy hit just three fairways in the final round and only 23 of 56 all week.
Yet while he won the second and third play-off events, he was still in good spirits afterwards, taking home a $3m bonus for finishing second in the FexEx Cup and another $205,760 for his 10th place finish.
He didn’t lose his sense of humour either despite seeing a run of 11 successive sub-70 rounds come to an end at East Lake.
Joking about his wayward driving and with one eye on this week’s Ryder Cup at Medinah, which has been set up with shortish rough to encourage aggressive golf, McIlroy said: “Little disappointed to be honest. I didn’t play the way I wanted to, especially today.
“I only hit three fairways, and you can’t do that around this place. So I’m glad Davis has told them to cut the rough next week.
“I’m a little disappointed but at the same time, Brandt really deserves to win. If you look at his stats the whole way throughout the week, 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.”
Just three shots behind leaders Snedeker and Rose (71) starting the day, McIlroy’s title challenge ended when he bogeyed the fourth and followed a double bogey the par-three sixth with a bogeyed at the seventh.
When he missed a nine footer for birdie at the par-five ninth he spent the back nine in damage limitation mode, making sure he at least finished second in the play-offs.
“Most of the back nine I was just trying to consolidate second place, if I’m honest,” said McIlroy, who holed an eight footer so save par at the last. “I was still trying to play well and trying to make a few birdies, but I didn’t want to try to force the issue and drop anymore spots. So I just tried to hang on to that second position.
“I didn’t even know on the last whether I needed that putt or not to stay in second place, but I holed it anyway, which was nice.”
Despite his struggles in Atlanta, McIlroy heads to Chicago as the hottest player in the game following his stellar play over the last month.
After winning the US PGA by eight shots, he took the Deutsche Bank Championship and BMW Championship in consecutive weeks to bring his total for the year to four wins.
He entered the Tour Championship as the No 1 seed but knew that any of the top five in the standings could deny him the $10m by winning. Snedeker pulled it off.
Q. Isn’t it just a little odd that you win two out of four and find yourself playing for second in the last?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, but, again, it’s just the nature of the playoffs. But, you know, I had the same chance as Brandt coming into this week, and I needed to win, and I didn’t. I knew what I needed to do. I just said to Justin there I wish he hadn’t done me a favor in the last few holes, but that’s just the way it is. I’m not going to complain. It’s been a great year, and I’m very happy with how I’m playing still. I’m very excited about next week.
According to agency reports, Snedeker made a special hospital visit on Sunday morning before walking away $11.44m richer:
The 31-year-old from Nashville, Tenn., calls that kind of money “crazy talk … like winning the lottery.” Far greater perspective came from a 30-minute hospital visit Sunday morning with Tucker Anderson, the son of his swing coach who was critically injured in a car accident and is in a responsive coma.
“I asked him if he thought I was going to beat Rory McIlroy, and he gave me a wink,” Snedeker said……
How can Snedeker explain winning the FedExCup over a player who won twice during the playoffs?
“Life is all about timing,” he said, grinning.
A shoe in for the Player of the Year award, McIlroy tops the money list with $8,047,952. Add the $3m bonus and his career earnings on the PGA Tour are now $16.3m from 54 starts - a shade more than $300,000 per event.