CARMEL, Ind. (AP) – Rickie Fowler strolled from the 18th green to the scoring tent, hoping a brief smile would shroud anyone's doubts about finally making the Tour Championship. Turns out, he did it anyway Sunday at the BMW Championship.
Scott Piercy walked away with a quizzical look, worried about whether two bogeys on the back nine and a two-stroke penalty Saturday might end his dream of playing in the Tour Championship. They didn't.
Bill Haas, last year's FedEx Cup champion, tossed his glove and attempted to sneak away after missing a 7-foot par putt on No. 18. The errant putt kept him out of the playoff finale.
Yes, the toughest thing Fowler and the rest had to contend with at windy Crooked Stick Golf Club was their own nerves.
“Are you sure?'' Fowler asked when he was first told he qualified for Atlanta, long before the rest of the field finished.
A few minutes later, Fowler stood over a computer just to make sure, then beamed with glee.
The man dressed in his trademark Oklahoma State orange from head to toe was one of the lucky ones. He shot a 74, and finished at 4 under to get a spot at East Lake in two weeks.
But Fowler also understands the pain of those who missed out.
He entered the playoffs ranked No. 19 in 2010 and No. 28 in 2011, failing to qualify in the top 30 either time. This year, he was No. 18 and managed to stabilize his play with a birdie on No. 15 after making a double bogey at No. 8 and bogeys at Nos. 12 and 14.
He finished the round with three straight pars – barely good enough.
“My three goals (this year) were to win, to get to the Tour Championship and make the Ryder Cup team,'' said Fowler, who learned last Monday he wouldn't be playing for the Americans later this month. “I think we're going to fall one short, but two out of three is not bad.''
Those who finished strong – like the fist-pumping Ryan Moore and a relieved John Huh – qualified. Moore's eagle on No. 9 helped him finish with a 70 and put him 28th in the points. Huh produced a solid round that included only bogey en route to a 69. He's 26th.
Those who struggled over the closing holes, not surprisingly, came up short.
Haas kept the defending FedEx Cup champion jinx alive by bogeying four of the last five holes, including a short par putt that slid just to the left of the hole on No. 18. It gave him a 6-over 78 and left him 32nd – one shot short.
“I did not (know that),'' the upset Haas said when asked about it. “I didn't think I was even close. That's even more frustrating.''
None of the six Tour Championship winners has made it to Atlanta to defend their title.
Kyle Stanley, who came into the tournament 30th and was on the bubble all weekend, also bogeyed No. 18 for a final round 75. He finished in the dreaded No. 31 slot.
And even Vijay Singh, the second-round leader and third-round co-leader at Crooked Stick, struggled under the pressure. He bogeyed Nos. 14, 16 and 17 for a 73. He finished five shots behind winner Rory McIlroy.
Those miscues opened the door for guys like John Senden, Moore and Piercy, who all looked as if they might miss out earlier in the day.
Nobody was more upset about that possibility than Piercy, who incurred a two-stroke penalty Saturday for moving a white out-of-bounds stake after hitting his tee shot far to the left on No. 14.
“It sucks because I've been playing good all year, and if I do get there, I'll be ecstatic,'' he said after finishing his round. “It's enough to push me over the edge right now. I'm tired of qualifying for majors, or trying to qualify.''
Taking the 30th and final spot means Piercy won't have to qualify for those tourneys next year.
If any of the top five players – McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Nick Watney, Phil Mickelson or Brandt Snedeker – win at East Lake, they'll also take home the $10 million bonus.
Who else made it in?
Moore, who did a double fist pump after a birdie at No. 18 put him in the No. 28 spot; Senden, who flew home rather than waiting around to learn he got the No. 29 slot; Hunter Mahan, who shot 13-over 157 over the final two days; McIlroy and Lee Westwood, who will make their first appearances in the playoff finale in two weeks; and Fowler, who finally erased the stinging memories of missing out each of the past two years.
The result gave Fowler a boost of confidence – and a much needed sense of relief.
“I just kind of had to stay in the moment, made sure I stayed focused and kept going through my routine,'' Fowler said when asked if he felt the pressure midway through the round. “I didn't miss very many shots today, and the score doesn't reflect the way I was swinging and hitting the ball. … It's going to be nice to have a week off, figure out the scoring a bit and get ready for East Lake.''