Rory McIlroy's aspirations of landing at the Ryder Cup with a $10m confidence boost were dashed by one of the players he will face later this week at Medinah.
Brandt Snedeker closed out victory by three shots at the Tour Championship, the first time he has won having led with 18 holes to play, and secured the lucrative FedEx Cup play-offs title in the process. In total the 31-year-old from Nashville collected $11.44m for his weekend's work.
Snedeker could have picked no finer moment to engineer his fourth PGA Tour success. If such timing is an indicator of things to come, Europe have cause for concern. The fans who chanted "U-S-A" by the side of East Lake's 18th green clearly believe in the value of momentum.
Some will argue the flawed nature of the FedEx event worked against McIlroy, who won two of the play-off events to Snedeker's one but could fare no better than tied 10th at this tournanament. But to his credit the Northern Irishman was not willing to add his voice to those criticising the FedEx minutiae after signing for a 74. Heading into Sunday, McIlroy had carded 11 consecutive rounds in the 60s.
"I have got to stay positive. It has been a great year," McIlroy said. "I'm a little disappointed but at the same time Brandt really deserves to win.
"He needed to come 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."
It is a long time since money was a topic worthy of serious consideration by McIlroy. Nonetheless he left Georgia for Illinois at least with the comfort of the $3m for finishing second in the FedEx rankings. If the Northern Irish property market permits, the upcoming sale of his home will earn McIlroy another £2m to soften the play-off blow.
McIlroy's Atlanta challenge started to falter on the par-three 6th, where he dumped his tee shot into water. A double bogey, a further dropped shot on the 7th added to missed birdie opportunities on each of the next two holes meant the 23-year-old realistically needed others to halt Snedeker. There never seemed much likelihood of that, which owed plenty to a brilliant display of under-pressure golf from the American.
In 18 holes Snedeker supplied the perfect counterpoint to any concerns surrounding his position as one of four rookies in the United States Ryder Cup side.
"I had complete confidence in what I was doing," Snedeker said. That point was endorsed by his performance.
"It's just unbelievable for everybody in my team and it gave me calm that this is not the most important thing in my world."
The much hyped duel between McIlroy and Tiger Woods for the FedEx bounty never properly materialised. Woods fared only slightly better than the world No1 in his final round here, with a 72, and closed in a tie for eighth.
"Considering where I was last year, it's nice to be where I am now," Woods said. "I was obviously struggling with my health last year and I have been able to turn it around, playing some pretty good golf this year, which has been good."
Unexpected cheer for José María Olazábal, Europe's Ryder Cup captain, arrived from Luke Donald. As has become his specialism, the Englishman passed tired horses in the final stages of this tournament in scoring 67 and tied third.
Donald, who has regarded Chicago as his adopted home since attending university there, will relish Medinah more than most.
"Some of my best moments in golf have been in the Ryder Cup," Donald said. "And obviously with it being in Chicago, the place I have lived for the last 15 years, it will be pretty special to just drive down the road and play.
"It is going to be a unique experience for me. Hopefully I can take away a small percentage of the home support. The USA will be heavily supported but obviously having a few people there that I know, I'll get quite a few of them on my side."
Justin Rose had looked the most genuine threat to Snedeker and ultimately finished alone in second, three shots back. Like Donald, Rose is entitled to head to the Ryder Cup in fine spirits. "It's probably as strong as ever between the two teams," said Rose.
The reality is that Snedeker, McIlroy, Woods, Donald and Rose will be afforded little time to reflect on events at East Lake. One of the greatest spectacles in sport has suddenly homed into view.
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image: © Ed McDonald