LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Buckle up.
There are two races on tap within the main race to the winner’s circle as the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club north of Chicago heads into Sunday’s final round.
While Marc Leishman has a stranglehold on the feature race, leading his rivals by five shots after a solid 3-under-par 68 Saturday, the other two races might not be decided until the final shot is played in the final round.
In addition to the contest to determine the BMW Championship winner, there’s also the race to the top five in the FedExCup Standings heading into next week’s postseason finale, The Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta. If any of the top five win next week, they automatically win the $10 million bonus.
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As it stands, the top three players in the standings — Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson — are assured of a top-5 placement.
The other two spots, however, are in flux. Leishman, who opened with rounds of 62-64 and is at 19 under through 54 holes, has pulled himself inside the top five and is No. 4 in the projected standings. Jon Rahm remained fifth. Hideki Matsuyama, who started the week No. 4, is projected at No. 7. Rickie Fowler, who is in joint second with Jason Day at 14 under, is No. 6.
Justin Rose shot 66 to move into fourth on the BMW leaderboard and is a long shot to move into the top five from his position in 12th.
“I don’t want to get defensive,” said Leishman, who won the Arnold Palmer Invitational earlier this year. “I don’t want to be out there trying not to make bogies, I want to be out there trying to make birdies and that’s more conducive to good golf rather than trying to be defensive.”
Others might have to be in attack mode from the get-go. At the conclusion of the BMW Championship, only the top 30 in the standings move on to the playoff ender. Not only will every player in Atlanta have a chance to win the FedExCup and the $10 million bonus, but each will get some big perks.
The top 30 all receive one-year exemptions into the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and Players Championship. They also get into two World Golf Championships events — the Mexico Championship and HSBC Champions. And they get playing spots in the following invitational events — the CIMB Classic, Arnold Palmer Invitational, RBC Heritage, Dean & DeLuca Invitational, the Memorial Tournament and the Quicken Loans National.
Gary Woodland is the bubble boy at the moment at No. 30. Masters champion Sergio Garcia is No. 27, Brendan Steele 28th, 2013 FedExCup champion Henrik Stenson 29th.
Jason Dufner is just 14 points behind Woodland in 31st place. Phil Mickelson, who has only missed The Tour Championship twice since the inception of the FedExCup in 2007, is 33rd. Not that he sounds too worried about it.
“I had a really good start and didn’t take advantage of the birdie holes and it was a little disappointing,” said Mickelson, who shot 69 and is 10 shots out of the lead. “Played well and hit a lot of good shots. I’m feeling good with the putter. I’ve got a good round in me. Playing too well not to go out and shoot a number and get to next week.”
Phil Mickelson reacts to making a birdie putt on the 2nd hole during the third round of the BMW Championship golf tournament at Conway Farms Golf Club. (Photo: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)
In addition to having a chance to win his first FedExCup, he’ll also stay in playing shape heading into the Presidents Cup, which is played in New Jersey the week after The Tour Championship.
“I’d like to stay sharp heading into the Presidents Cup. I’d like to compete,” Mickelson said. “I’m also playing well enough to get in contention and win again and I want to get in that field because I think, if I do, I think I’ll have a really good shot of it. … I know I’ve got to probably shoot 4-, 5-under par. Like I said, I’m playing well enough to do that with ease. I let a lot of shots slide today.
“I’m going to go out tomorrow and shoot a good number. It will be plenty.”
At one point in Saturday’s third round, Chez Reavie was No. 30. Now he’s No. 35. He won’t let his focus get blurred by the possibility of making it to Atlanta. Instead, he’ll play his hand and see how his cards stack up.
“I’m just going to play,” Reavie said. “I’m outside the number so I need to go play well and nothing is going to change for me. There’s definitely something else there, right, it’s something I play for, my goal at the beginning of the year always is to get to the Tour Championship, but I just have to go play well and kind of see where I shake out. A lot of it depends, too, on how the guys play that are between me and that number, anyways.
“A lot of it is out of my hands.”