Luke Donald rode golf’s big dipper all the way to the Fed-Ex Cup finale this week. Five birdies in six holes on the back nine at the BMW Championship at Conway Farms on Monday propelled Donald into the top 30 of the Fed-Ex rankings and a place in the PGA Tour’s final event of 2013, the Tour Championship at East Lake.
Donald started the week in 54th spot with only an outside chance of progressing. He was still well adrift with seven to play but, after dipping the putter in rocket fuel, raced through the field to claim 28th spot with a round of 66.
Donald is a month into his relationship with a new long-game coach, Chuck Cook, as he strives to halt a slide that has resulted in him dropping out of the world’s top 10, after becoming world No 1 in 2011.
Such was the rapid nature of the unfolding situation, Donald was not certain of his place until Charl Schwartzel bogeyed the last. The South African was one of six with Donald on 11 under par before finding a plugged lie on the last.
Brandt Snedeker and Steve Stricker also obliged by dropping shots to ensure Donald would hold on to a tie for fourth behind the winner, American Zach Johnson. The overnight leader Jim Furyk was unable to resist Johnson’s charge and closed in third place.
Tiger Woods could do no better than a 71 to finish outside the top 10, but advances to East Lake in pole position to claim the $10m (£6.3m) jackpot for finishing at the top of the Fed-Ex rankings.
That prize is beyond Donald, but not Justin Rose, who carded a 72 to move to ninth in the rankings.
The Fed-Ex play-offs were introduced to add excitement to the end of the season, as Dustin Johnson discovered. He completed his final round on Sunday before a weather delay forced a Monday finish. He then fluctuated between being in and out of the Tour Championship as players made birdies and bogeys, before edging through at the expense of Harris English, who bogeyed the last.