Last player into the field, Piercy starts strong with 67
ATLANTA – We’re not sure if it came after the birdie at the par-4 14th or in the wake of his up-and-down to birdie the par-5 15th. But surely, by the time Scott Piercy stuffed his approach from 152 yards to 9 feet at No. 16 for a third consecutive birdie, those collective moans were coming from the critics.
The 30th and final player to qualify for the tournament was 5 under, leading the Tour Championship, and you know the lobby that has never, and will never, embrace the FedEx Cup playoffs, was muttering something to the effect of, “How can that guy win the FedEx Cup?”
Settle down, bogey breath, because fact is, even with a two-stroke lead headed to the 17th tee, Piercy was not projected to win. Not with Rory McIlroy playing well enough to stay closer to the top than the bottom, a scenario, by the way, that was quite all right with Piercy.
“Rory’s played so well, you should just give it to him,” Piercy said. “My chances are slim to none.”
Then the 33-year-old smiled and added, “I think slim’s about to leave the building.”
Piercy was referring to the way his day had ended, a double bogey at the par-3 18th that opened the door for Justin Rose to come along three pairings later and seize the first-round lead at 4-under 66.
Now the fact that Rose came into the week 24th in the FedEx Cup standings and was for a brief time projected to be the FEC champion wasn’t much of an improvement on the prospects of Piercy winning. Great and consistent play has tossed McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker into the mix at the top of the standings, and it’s likely fans would feel deprived if the biggest prize didn’t fall into one of those hands.
In other words, Piercy and Rose were not exactly following the script fans would have requested.
Then again, who cares? In this, the sixth year of the FedEx Cup playoffs, there is one thing we have come to realize about the early rounds: To maintain your sanity, ignore the projections. Just enjoy the golf and wait till Sunday for it to all shake out.
In the meantime, appreciate that there are storylines elsewhere that offer slivers of interest, Piercy’s being one of them. Eighteen tournaments into the season, Piercy had recorded just one top 10, and the FedEx Cup playoff field was not exactly on the radar, never mind the finale. Then he went third, first and T-19 in successive tournaments, and next thing Piercy knew, he was 15th in the standings headed into the opener, The Barclays.
But as proof that there is volatility in these playoffs, Piercy plummeted so that by the time he closed his fourth round in the third event, the BMW Championship, he was 32nd and on the outside looking into the Tour Championship.
What followed that Sunday, Sept. 16, was 3 1/2 hours of waiting, watching, hoping, and pretty much living and dying with every shot. Until the end, that is, when virtually everything that unfolded worked in Piercy’s favor: Bill Haas’ back-nine collapse, bogeys at 14, 16, 17 and 18; Kyle Stanley bogeyed 18; then Vijay Singh limped home, bogeys at 14, 16 and 18 costing him, too.
When all the numbers had been crunched, Piercy was the 30th and final player to qualify for the Tour Championship.
“We got help, but that’s OK,” said Piercy’s caddie, Darren Woolard. “We had laid down a bunch of times in the past (to give others help).”
Clearly in embrace of the reality of the situation, Piercy didn’t come to East Lake with allusions of a $10 million bonus dancing in his head. “I feel like I probably couldn’t win the FedEx Cup,” he said. “I need so much to go in my favor to do it.”
What he’s here to do is try and win the Tour Championship and all the money and perks that go with it. He was cruising along beautifully, six birdies against just one lone bogey, way back at the opening hole, when he left his tee shot wide right at the demanding par-3 18th. The gnarly Bermuda is at its worst in that area.
“We had nothing,” Woolard said of Piercy’s ball, which sat down in the thick and wiry grass. “I said, ‘Just give me a look at par, even if it’s 40 feet.’ "
Piercy’s shot landed more than 40 feet away, but it jumped into rough through the green. When he failed to get it up-and-down, Piercy fell back to 3 under, but worse yet, he was projected to be 14th in the FedEx Cup standings.
But again, Piercy couldn't care less.
He’s still in the hunt for the Tour Championship and quite appreciative of the fact that he even got into the field for the most happenstance of reasons.