ATLANTA • The identity of the golfer looking to halt a Dustin Johnson procession to the FedExCup and US$10 million (S$13.6 million) prize is more fascinating than the fact that a battle has ensued in the first place.
Rory McIlroy's third round of four-under 66 at the Tour Championship, combined with an unforeseen late stumble by Johnson, has set up a thrilling finale on the outskirts of Atlanta.
The Ulsterman will claim the FedExCup if he wins in Atlanta (this morning, Singapore time) and Johnson finishes in a share of second or worse. Even a runner-up place for McIlroy may do for the aggregate prize if the American capitulates entirely over the closing 18 holes.
For now, Johnson, who had a 69 on Saturday, and Kevin Chappell (68) lead the Tour Championship at 202, with McIlroy just two adrift.
The element of intrigue was provided by Johnson's double bogey on the 17th hole, just as he was threatening to speed away from the field. He compounded a poor drive by clipping a pine tree with his second shot.
Number of holes Rory McIlroy has gone bogey-free at this year's Tour Championship after 54 holes. His last blot on the scorecard before the final round was on the eighth in round two.
That left him on the wrong end of a three-shot swing as Chappell birdied the same hole from 10 feet.
"This course is very difficult off the tee and I missed a couple of drives on the back nine and made a couple of bogeys and a bad double-bogey there on the 17th," he said before accentuating the positives.
"I'm happy with my position. I felt like I played well today. A couple of loose drives and it's easy to make bogeys around here ... so if I make a mistake, I don't let it bother me."
McIlroy said the key to the week was "limiting your mistakes".
"I didn't do that the first two days but I did that today. I didn't have a bogey," he said. "I need to go out and play a very similar, if not better, round of golf tomorrow to have a chance."
A Friday evening range session, in which he ironed out a swing flaw, was key to his subsequent performance.
There is a wider issue at play, of course. Discussion of the Ryder Cup, now only days away, remains prominent. McIlroy and Johnson will feature as key players on opposing teams.
Last Friday, the United States captain Davis Love III insisted he was presiding over "the best golf team, maybe, ever assembled".
McIlroy wore a broad smile when answering, "I think so", to whether or not that represents locker-room wall material for Europe.
The Northern Irishman added: "Look, it's a great team. They have a lot of very talented players in there. They're obviously quite confident. So you know what, it's up to us to go there and try to upset the odds."
On Saturday, American Ryan Moore also carded a 66 to join McIlroy on 204. Japan's Hideki Matsuyama was alone on 205 after a 68.
Jason Dufner (66) was a further stroke back.
THE GUARDIAN, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE