Paul Casey has a fonder reason than most people for liking what 9/11 stands for – it was the day a fortnight ago that his second child, a daughter named Astaria, was born. And having skipped being at her birth in order to prepare for the BMW Championship, the third of four legs of the FedEx Cup playoffs, come yesterday morning of the season finale, the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta, the 40-year-old Englishman had everything in place to ensure it would be a happy homecoming when he finally got there. After a third round of 65, five under par, he was on 12 under overall and led by two shots from Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele. Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas, respectively the US Open and USPGA champions, were three strokes further back, along with Patrick Reed. No one else seemed to have a look-in. Casey was well situated to make his case for victory.
But he couldn’t bring home the bacon. A dismal front nine saw him drop three shots; indeed, he didn’t have a birdie until he made four on the 18th. That left the door open for the splendidly named Schauffele to win the tournament on 12 under par, three clear of Casey, after he birdied the final hole to deny Thomas by a shot. The latter was left with the considerable consolation of winning the FedEx Cup for being the leading player on the PGA Tour in 2017, worth $10 million plus kudos. Until yesterday, Thomas’s career earnings were around $15 million. He won five times this season.
“I feel like I played so well this year,” said the 24-year-old. “I was consistent. There have been a lot of great weeks and memories. I’ve had life-changing events and that just kind of needed with another life-changing thing for me.”
Schauffele is 23. Until his fifth-place finish at the US Open, the Californian’s main goal had been to keep his tour card. Now he might properly be regarded as one of the rising talents of American golf. “I’m still in shock,” he said. “This is just unreal.” Maybe the only thing that seemed unreal as he played the back nine with two birdies and seven pars was the manner in which he kept his rhythm under huge competitive pressure. His composure under the gun was too much for the rest, Casey included.
Last year Rory McIlroy had won both the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup. This year he wasn’t on the premises, having failed to be in the top-30 who qualified for East Lake. But he still copped a few headlines for his vision of the future. “The PGA Tour is already expanding, going to Asia and other places,” he noted. “The easy thing would be for the PGA Tour to go out and buy the European Tour and take it from there. They could say ‘You still run the European events and we’ll have, say, 12 big events a year outside the majors.’ I just don’t see any other way.” Other thoughts aside, I’m wondering if that suggestion will lead to Rory being removed from Keith Pelley’s Christmas card list?
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