The Tour Championship: Does the money matter or not? Two views

Billy Horschel and Rory McIlroy are tied for the 54-hole lead of the Tour Championship at 9-under par. Horshel got there by shooting 1-under to McIlroy’s 3-under. They have a 2-shot lead over Jim Furyk and 3 over Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose and Jason Day.

The singular advantage that Horschel and McIlroy have is that they came into the tournament in the top 5, the group that automatically wins the $10 million FedExCup if they win the Tour Championship:

  1. Chris Kirk
  2. Billy Horschel
  3. Bubba Watson
  4. Rory McIlroy
  5. Hunter Mahan

The picture is becoming a little clearer on the eve of the fourth round: Kirk has faded to T7 and 4 strokes back, Watson has faded to 11th and 6 shots back and Mahan has had a difficult week at T25 and 16 shots back. 

The lowest round of the day was a 7-under 63 by a distant Gary Woodland which moved him up to 13th. That was followed by Adam Scott’s 5-under which still left him at 10th. So that would suggest the scoring possibilities for Sunday. Plus, rains have softened the course making conditions a little easier.

So with Horschel and McIloy on the brink of $1.44 million for winning the Tour Championship and $10 million for the FedExCup, their media sessions turned to the money. Everybody always says they are just trying to win the tournament and all of that would be taken care of. So why bother thinking about it during the tournament? Why not just play?

Horschel says he’s trying but it’s not easy:

“Honestly, you know, I’ve been honest with you guys this whole week, it’s tough.  It’s not the easiest thing in the world.  You know what all that money can do for you and it can do for my family and everyone else that’s near me, but at the same time whenever I think about that, I’ve gotta understand that for me to reach that goal, I have to win the Tour Championship.  That’s my mindset, I have to win the Tour Championship to win that 10 million dollars.”

“So all I’m trying to focus on is trying to win another golf tournament, and you know, divert my focus back to the Tour Championship and not the FedExCup and the 10 million dollars.”

And that same sort of excitement applies to just playing that final round. He almost sounds like somebody will have to tie him into his bed Saturday night:

“Yeah.  Can we just go ahead and tee it up right now?  I mean seriously.  I’m serious.  I would love to go tee it up right now.  It would help me out a lot.”

“But listen, it’s going to be exciting.  I’m going to have fun out there.  It’s going to be an exciting day.  Like I said, I hope — I know there’s some other guys in the mix that are behind us, but they gotta come catch us.  We got, I think, a two‑shot lead over Furyk maybe and a three‑ or four‑shot lead over some other guys.  So we got somewhat of a cushion and hopefully we can put on a great show.  Hopefully we can shoot some really low scores and see what happens on 18.”

McIlroy, seems to be a little more adapted to the “blinders” strategy with regard to the money:

“You know, I’m sort of just looking at it as I’m just trying to win another tournament.  I’m just trying to win my tenth PGA Tour event, I guess it is, and my fourth of the season.  But obviously I know what comes along with the FedExCup and cash and all the rest of it.”

“But you know, I just want to win.  I just want to — just want to get myself back in the winner’s circle again, even though it hasn’t been that long.  It’s been three events, but I’ve got a very good opportunity to do it tomorrow, and playing against not just Billy.  There’s a lot of guys that are in form on that leaderboard, Jim Furyk, Rickie Fowler.  But it’s just another chance to win another big tournament, and I really want to take advantage of that.”

But when you start talking about that, inevitably the conversation turns to the money:

“That’s the great thing about the Playoffs.  You just need to get yourself in and you can have a great stretch of golf and compete tomorrow for ten — well, 11.4 million dollars.  You think about the first prize here as well.”

McIlroy explained why it might be a bit easier for him to not think about the money: he never thinks about the money on the golf course and he’s not all that jacked up about it when he’s off the course:

“I’m not sure I ever — I ever thought about if I had have holed that putt, it would have meant another 70 grand.”

“I don’t know.  I mean it’s always nice — you know, like you go into your — you know, you draw some money out of the ATM and you’ve won the week before and you check your balance and it’s nice, yeah.  (Laughs).”

“But I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever thought about money on the golf course.  I don’t think that’s ever really — I can’t say I ever have thought about money on the golf course.”

And his history with money goes back a long way:

“I mean, money’s never been the biggest deal to me at all.  You know, it’s never — and even my closest friends and family will tell you that.  I mean I really don’t — I mean it’s nice to have it, and you can do a lot with it and you can help a lot of people with it, but it’s never been one of my main focuses or priorities about becoming a professional golfer.”

“I mean, I remember a couple of weeks after I turned pro, I did well at the Dunhill Links, and I checked my bank balance the next week and it was like (indicating large).  I mean I’m 18 years old, and just — most of my friends are just going into their first week at university.”

“I checked my bank balance, it was —  I don’t know, I did well.  It might have been like 180,000 pounds in there.  I was like oh my goodness.  It’s crazy to think about now.”

“The money is obviously nice, but no one at the end of your career remembers how much money you’ve won.  They just remember the titles that you’ve won.”

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