ATLANTA — With the biggest round of his career, Brandt Snedeker won something far more valuable than money Sunday.
He proved to himself he could beat the best in the world.
Snedeker knew his best chance to be the FedEx Cup champion was to win the Tour Championship, no simple task with East Lake as tough as ever and Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods going after the same prize.
Snedeker was the only player in the last five groups to break par.
He answered the final challenge with three birdies on the back nine, building such a big lead that his final tee shot sailed into the grandstands to the left of the 18th green and it didn't matter. Snedeker still closed with 2-under 68 to finish at 10-under 270 for a three-shot win in the Tour Championship and a $10 million bonus for winning the FedEx Cup.
But this was never about money.
"I think it solidifies what I already know," Snedeker said. "I think when I play my best golf, my best golf is some of the best in the world. I've never had more confidence in myself than I have the last five weeks, and I made sure that I kept telling myself that all day. I am one of the best players in the world. This is supposed to happen. It's okay to feel nervous, and no matter what I feel today, everybody else in the field feels exactly the same way I do.
"So go out there and get it done. I did a great job of that."
McIlroy, the best player in golf this year and the No. 1 seed going into the Tour Championship, faded early by dropping four shots in a four-hole span on the front nine. So did Woods, who already was 3 over on his round before making his first birdie on the par-5 ninth.
Snedeker wound up topping Justin Rose (71) to earn his second win this year and a trophy that came with $1.44 million. Add the FedEx Cup bonus to make it the richest payoff in golf.
The 31-year-old from Nashville, Tenn., calls that kind of money "crazy talk … like winning the lottery." Far greater perspective came from a 30-minute hospital visit Sunday morning with Tucker Anderson, the son of his swing coach who was critically injured in a car accident and is in a responsive coma.
"I asked him if he thought I was going to beat Rory McIlroy, and he gave me a wink," Snedeker said.
He beat McIlroy out of the FedEx Cup and everyone else in his way at East Lake.
Ryan Moore was tied for the lead with birdies on the 14th and 15th holes only to make bogey on the last three for 70 to tie for third with Luke Donald (67).
McIlroy had won the past two playoff events and three of his past four tournaments dating to his record eight-shot win at the PGA Championship. He still is virtually a lock to be voted PGA Tour player of the year, but he had to settle for second place — and a $3 million bonus — in the Cup.
And so ends the most successful year yet in the Cup: four wildly entertaining playoff events packed with the biggest names, even if the No. 1 player in the world wound up at No. 2.
"I'm a little disappointed, but at the same time, Brandt really deserves to win," McIlroy said. "He played the best golf out of anyone. He knew what he needed to do. He needed to come in here and win. He controlled his own destiny, just like I did. And he was able to come and do that. So because of that, he really deserves it."
How can Snedeker explain winning the Cup over a player who won twice during the playoffs?
"Life is all about timing," he said, grinning.
Snedeker won for the fourth time in his career and moved into the top 10 in the world for the first time.
It also was his first time winning with a share of the lead going into the last day. In his previous three wins, he came from five, six and seven shots behind, the last at Torrey Pines this year.
That's what made Sunday feel more valuable than the cash. That's what he takes to the Ryder Cup next week at Medinah, where no one can question why U.S. captain Davis Love picked him for the team.
"I'm a lot better under pressure than I gave myself credit for," Snedeker said. "I learned that over the last four weeks. I've had a lot of pressure the last four weeks and a bunch of different stuff going on in my life. To be able to focus in and do what I did was pretty impressive."
LPGA: Stacy Lewis won the Navistar LPGA Classic in Prattville, Ala., for her third victory in five months, closing with 3-under 69 to finish at 18 under and beat defending champion Lexi Thompson (66) by two strokes. Seminole's Brittany Lincicome shot 69 to finish tied for 21st at 9 under.