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Brandt Snedeker, Justin Rose tied for Tour Championship heading to final round; Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods lurking

Rory McIlroy tees off on the 18th hole to finish off a round of 68 that puts him three back of the lead in the Tour Championship and in contention for the FedEx Cup crown.

Associated Press

Rory McIlroy tees off on the 18th hole to finish off a round of 68 that puts him three back of the lead in the Tour Championship and in contention for the FedEx Cup crown.

ATLANTA — Brandt Snedeker gave himself the opportunity he wanted in the FedEx Cup. He also has the company he expected.

Snedeker played one of his best rounds this year at just the right time Saturday, making a collection of tough putts and relying on his short game to pick up a couple of other birdies on his way to 6-under 64 that gave him a share of the lead with Justin Rose in the Tour Championship.

He now only has to win today at East Lake to claim the FedEx Cup and its $10 million prize, the richest payoff in golf.

So does Rory McIlroy, who was only three shots off the lead.

Ditto for Tiger Woods, 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 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 67.

Snedeker, McIlroy and Woods were among the top five seeds coming into the Tour Championship, giving each the best shot at the $10 million because they only have to win the tournament no matter what anyone else does at East Lake.

They won't be the only players with a chance to win at least one trophy — the Tour Championship — today. Rose will be in the final group with Snedeker, and though it's unlikely he will win the FedEx Cup, the Englishman surely would settle for his second win of the year.

"I have the advantage of just playing the Tour Championship," Rose said. "The whole year, we've been grinding for the FedEx Cup, and it's still possible. It's not an easy golf course. Things can happen out there. But for me, it's about one tournament."

Snedeker and Rose were at 8-under 202. Ryan Moore spoiled his round with bogey on the 17th and still had 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 and his fourth shot into a bunker and made triple bogey that sent him tumbling down to 72. He was still in the mix at 205, along with McIlroy and Masters champion Bubba Watson, who had double bogey on the 16th and shot 70.

Typical of the FedEx Cup playoffs, there was plenty of star power in contention, with 11 of the top 14 players on the leaderboard headed to the Ryder Cup next week. 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 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 (Saturday)," 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 side. Just every iron shot has to be hit so crisply to control your distances, and I did a great job of that (Saturday)."

LPGA: Stacy Lewis shot 7-under 65 for a two-stroke lead over Angela Stanford in the Navistar LPGA Classic in Prattville, Ala., while second-round leader Lexi Thompson fell five behind. Lewis was at 15-under 201. Seminole's Brittany Lincicome shot 68 to move to 6 under.

Brandt Snedeker, Justin Rose tied for Tour Championship heading to final round; Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods lurking 09/22/12 [Last modified: Saturday, September 22, 2012 9:57pm]
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