Brandt Snedeker played one of his best rounds this year at just the right time Saturday, making tough putts and relying on his short game on his way to a 6-under-par 64 that gave him a share of the lead with Justin Rose in the Tour Championship in Atlanta.
If Snedeker wins Sunday at East Lake, he will claim the FedEx Cup and its $10 million prize, the richest payoff in golf.
The same goes for Rory McIlroy, who was only three shots out of the lead, and Tiger Woods, who was four shots behind.
The Tour Championship has never had so much at stake for so many top players.
"It's going to be one of the most exciting Sundays of the year," McIlroy said after shooting a 68. "Great to be in the mix."
McIlroy, who won the past two FedEx Cup playoff events, had his 11th consecutive round in the 60s. Woods salvaged an important par after his shot ricocheted off a Georgia pine and wound up with a 67.
Snedeker and Rose were at 8-under 202. Ryan Moore spoiled his round with a bogey on the 17th and still had a 65, putting him alone in third at 6 under.
Jim Furyk, the 36-hole leader, was tied for the lead until he pulled his tee shot into the water on the 17th, hit the next tee shot into the gallery, his fourth shot into a bunker and made a triple bogey that sent him tumbling to a 72. He was still in the mix at 205, along with McIlroy and Bubba Watson.
Typical of the FedEx Cup playoffs, there was plenty of star power in contention, with
For now, the attention shifts in a big way to the $10 million payoff.
"My first goal for this week is achieved," Snedeker said. "And that is to have a chance going into Sunday. It should be a lot of fun."
Snedeker also shot a 64 in the second round of the British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, though he rated this one as better. There was no wind at Lytham, and the conditions were relatively soft. East Lake demanded a crisp game as the wind rustled pine branches and the greens became firm.
"It was so tough today," Snedeker said. "The wind made it so hard to hit the fairways here, because the wind seemed like it would move the ball 4 or 5 yards one way or the other, and these fairways might be 15 yards wide. Just every iron shot has to be hit so crisply to control your distances, and I did a great job of that today."
Woods made two birdies on the back nine to stay in the chase, though no shot proved to be as valuable as the par on the 16th. From deep in the woods to the right of the fairway, Woods saw a tiny gap in the trees and was only concerned that with his ball sitting down in the rough, it might come out low or high. He forgot about the direction, pulled it slightly, and it caromed off the tree and sideways into the fairway. From there, he stuffed his third shot to within 12 feet and holed the putt for par.
Woods, McIlroy and Snedeker could win the FedEx Cup by finishing second, depending on how the others fare. There's even one scenario in which Woods could finish alone in third and McIlroy could be alone in fourth, and they would be tied in the FedEx Cup and go to the par-3 18th to play off for the $10 million title.
All three are thinking more about winning than mathematical equations.
"My goal tomorrow is to shoot as low as I possibly can," Snedeker said.
LPGA: Stacy Lewis shot a 7-under 65 to take a two-stroke lead over Angela Stanford in the Navistar LPGA Classic in Prattville, Ala., while second-round leader Lexi Thompson fell to five shots behind.
Lewis birdied four of the first five holes in her bogey-free round for a 15-under 201 total.
"I think going into today I knew I needed to make birdies just the way the scores had been all day, and you don't know if you're ever going to start off like that," Lewis said.