LEMONT, Ill. — It’s not quite the “fifth major” for Justin Rose, though it’s a big deal. He spent last week at the “J.R. Challenge,” named after himself and involving seven of his best friends from childhood who meet each year for a week of golf.
They went to Long Island and settled for a rotation of Sebonac, Garden City Men’s Club, National Links and Friars Head. Using the Stableford format and a cumulative score through four rounds, Rose was a runner-up for the miniature trophy.
“They play me off a plus 7 — plus 7 and a little bit hungover, so that’s not a great combination,” Rose said Saturday. “But I did tie for second, so I worked pretty hard.”
Among the top 70 on the PGA Tour at the BMW Championship, Rose seems to be having a much easier time.
Even as Cog Hill played tougher under sunshine and swirling wind, Rose made only one bogey as his top challengers fell apart. He wound up with a 2-under 69 and built a four-shot lead going into the final round at Cog Hill.
He attributes his best golf of the year to cleaning up his swing with coach Sean Foley this week, keying on one swing and playing as though he has nothing to lose. At No. 34 in the FedEx Cup, Rose is virtually assured of making it to the Tour Championship next week, and he might even go to East Lake with a win and a real chance at the $10 million bonus.
“It would certainly be a huge win at the right time,” said Rose, who was at 13-under 200.
The closest player to him was John Senden of Australia, who needs to win to have any chance of making the Presidents Cup team. Senden had a rugged start, but had four birdies on his last eight holes for a 70.
Mark Wilson, who started the day tied for the lead, played a five-hole stretch in 5 over on the back nine and shot 77. He played the last hour unsure if he would get a two-shot penalty for grounding his club in the bunker at No. 14, although he was cleared because his club was placed in the sand to keep his balance as he replaced his ball. Wilson still shot 77 and fell eight shots back.
Webb Simpson was in contention until going from a bunker into the hazard and making double bogey on No. 17. He shot 73 and was six shots out of the lead.
Even with Rose looking like a runaway winner, there was plenty at stake for two cups — the FedEx Cup that pays $10 million to the winner next week at East Lake, and the Presidents Cup in Australia that doesn’t pay a dime.
The latter means more to Geoff Ogilvy, who grew up in Melbourne and now has a home on the 14th hole. He put himself into position for a shot at both of them with four birdies late in his round for a 68, leaving him in a tie for third at 8-under 205.
A week ago, he was on the verge of being eliminated from the FedEx Cup playoffs until making a birdie on the final hole to finish at No. 69, when only the top 70 advanced to Cog Hill.
If he can stay no worse than a two-way tie for third, he will go to Atlanta and qualify for the International team at the Presidents Cup.
“I’m trying not to think about anything other than just play good golf, but it creeps into your mind every now and then,” Ogilvy said. “It’s a bit more complicated than your normal tournament.”
He was tied with Bill Haas, who was within three shots of the lead until a bad break on his tee shot at the 16th led to double bogey. Haas, who is No. 12 in the Presidents Cup standings, had to settle for a 69 and was five shots behind.
If he can hold his position, Haas would make the team.
Rose is 1-7 on the PGA Tour when he has at least a share of the 54-hole lead. A year ago, he lost a three-shot lead in final round at Hartford and barely hung on with a four-shot lead a week later in Philadelphia.
“I’ve been there a little bit last year — won one, lost one when I was in a situation like this,” he said. “So I’ve got some good experience on which to count on. Just keep seeing good shots and keep playing one shot at a time. I don’t think you can get defensive. A four-shot lead isn’t really a big enough lead to waste holes.”
It was enough to give Senden some hope.
“I’m going to go out there with the idea of shooting a good score because Justin Rose is in great control, and who knows what could happen?” Senden said. “It’s a funny game. Anything could happen Sunday afternoon.”
Luke Donald, the world No. 1 who was an NCAA champion at Northwestern, is kicking himself for the way he started. He opened with a 75, yet followed that with rounds of 66 and 67 and was tied for seventh, although eight shots off the lead. The only other player with a 67 Saturday was Sergio Garcia, who broke a club in anger along the way. Garcia also was tied for seventh.
Jim Furyk, holding down the No. 9 spot in the Presidents Cup, had a 70 and was tied for seventh. He is narrowly ahead of David Toms, who is narrowly ahead of Brandt Snedeker.
They all took turns making a run, though Toms and Snedeker shot 73s and were tied for 14th.
“It’s hard not to look at the scoreboard and see how things are going,” Furyk said. “I would have liked to have a shot a better score today. I need to go out and fire a good number tomorrow. That’s the only thing I can control.”