Paul Casey won’t be going to the Ryder Cup. He wouldn’t mind a $ 10 million consolation.
Casey was the only player among the top five in the FedEx Cup standings to break par Thursday, running off three straight birdies around the turn at East Lake for a 4-under 66 and a share of the lead with Geoff Ogilvy and Luke Donald in the Tour Championship.
It was the seventh time Casey has shot in the 60s in the nine rounds since European captain Colin Montgomerie left him off the Ryder Cup team. Whether that’s motivating him to play well, the Englishman isn’t saying.
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A different kind of cup does have his attention.
At stake in this playoff finale is a $ 10 million bonus to the FedEx Cup champion. The top five in the standings – Casey got to No. 5 with his runner-up finish two weeks ago at Cog Hill – can claim golf’s biggest payoff by winning, no matter what anyone else does.
“I’ve got an opportunity to accomplish one of the goals which I set for myself at the beginning of the year,” Casey said. “I’m just trying to put myself in that position to win and then tick off that goal, which would be a huge goal. I’m not getting wrapped up in any sort of extra motivation. I don’t need extra motivation. I’m motivated enough.”
Breaking par was hard work on a difficult course in steamy conditions. The fairways are fast and more narrow than ever, and only nine players in the 30-man field broke 70.
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One of them was defending champion Phil Mickelson, who has an outside chance to win the FedEx Cup and a better chance to replace Tiger Woods at No. 1 in the world. Woods did not qualify for the Tour Championship for the first time in his career.
Mickelson had two eagles in a span of four holes, including a shot he holed from the fairway on No. 12. Not so good was making bogey after both eagles, along with consecutive bogeys after his first birdie of the tournament. He shot 69, not a bad start.
“It’s a better position than I started last year,” said Mickelson, who opened with a 73 and went on to a three-shot victory. “Could have been better, could have been worse, and it was an interesting day.”
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Jim Furyk s
had a 67, while K.J. Choi was at 68. The group at 69 included Hunter Mahan, Jason Day, Kevin Na and Mickelson.
Matt Kuchar, the top seed in the FedEx Cup whose golfing career is rooted in Atlanta, chipped in for eagle on the 15th hole. That wasn’t enough to offset for four bogeys in his round of 72, including a tee shot into the stands on the par-3 18th.
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Dustin Johnson, the No. 2 seed, struggled off the tee on his way to a 73, while Steve Stricker (No. 4) also had a 74. Charley Hoffman, part of the top five from his victory at the TPC Boston, had a 71.
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