Playing it safe not for Spieth

American Jordan Spieth hitting a bunker shot during practice, ahead of today's Tour Championship, the PGA Tour's season finale. Five players are in the running for the FedExCup title including Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Marc Leishman and Jon Rahm
American Jordan Spieth hitting a bunker shot during practice, ahead of today's Tour Championship, the PGA Tour's season finale. Five players are in the running for the FedExCup title including Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Marc Leishman and Jon Rahm.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

The world No. 2 is in the FedExCup box seat, but he won't leave it to chance at Tour C'ship

ATLANTA (Georgia) • World No. 2 Jordan Spieth will not be banking on any favours at the season-ending Tour Championship this week as he bids to pocket another multi-million dollar jackpot.

He heads into today's first round at the East Lake Golf Club in pole position to claim the US$10 million (S$13.44 million) bonus on offer to the winner of the FedExCup series, leading second-placed Justin Thomas by 340 points.

That healthy points cushion means he could afford to finish second in Atlanta this week and still win the title, provided none of the other players in the top five win this week's event. He could take the FedExCup title with as low as a 29th-placed finish, depending on the performances of his rivals.

But the 24-year-old American insists he will not be tempted into trying to play for position when the action begins on East Lake's 7,385-yard par-70 layout.

"If you start playing for position, that's when you take your foot off the gas pedal a little bit and that's not how we normally play," he said.

Spieth, who won the FedExCup two years ago, has not yet registered a victory in the play-offs this year. He would be only the second player after Tiger Woods (2007, 2009) to win the title twice.

Spieth finished 10 shots behind BMW Championship winner Marc Leishman on Sunday, but a final round six-under 65 has left the three-time Major winner confident heading into the season finale.

"I was pumped to have the round I did on Sunday, to gain some momentum, to maintain the No. 1 spot," he said.

"I was a little bit off at the start of the week in my striking. But I feel pretty close right now to where I was in the first two play-off events.

"Things feel good. If this were a Major championship, I'd be pretty pleased with how things are feeling on the Tuesday."

He will partner close friend and world No. 4 Thomas in the first round.

The latter is aiming to crown a successful season with victory in Atlanta after recording five wins this year including a maiden Major title at the PGA Championship.

Like Spieth, the American could win the FedExCup title with a top-three finish this week, depending on how his rivals fare.

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson will aim to make up for his near-miss last season, when he was pipped to the title by Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy.

The American won the opening leg of the FedExCup when he beat Spieth in a play-off at the Northern Trust in New York last month and is third in the points race.

Like Spieth and Thomas, Johnson as well as Australian Leishman and Spaniard Jon Rahm - who complete the top five - are guaranteed the FedExCup title with a victory this week.

"Played it pretty well last year for, I don't know, 63 holes maybe. The last nine I didn't play so well on it," said Johnson, who settled for a share of sixth place here last year after a final round three-over 73.

"But I'm right where I want to be (now).

"I feel like the game is in good form and I am looking forward to this week."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2017, with the headline 'Playing it safe not for Spieth'. Print Edition | Subscribe