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McIlroy keeps his eye on the big prize


Rory McIlroy hoped he had saved his best for last as the battle for a $10 million (£6m) payday went down to the wire in Atlanta.

McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Brandt Snedeker and Nick Watney came into the final week of the FedEx Cup play-offs knowing the massive payout would be theirs if they won the Tour Championship here.

And it was Snedeker who emerged as the most likely to do so yesterday with a third round of 64 to share the lead on eight under par with England's Justin Rose.

American Ryan Moore (65) was alone in third on six under, with McIlroy sharing fourth place on five under with Masters champion Bubba Watson and Jim Furyk.

McIlroy's 68 was his 11th successive sub-70 score, but the 23-year-old world No 1 knows he could need an even better round today to deny Snedeker and claim the huge bonus himself.

The Northern Irishman, who had two bogeys and four birdies in his round yesterday, admitted that saving par on the 18th from a greenside bunker could prove crucial in the final reckoning.

"It depends on how I play tomorrow," he said, looking ahead to the final showdown. "I wanted to make it [the par putt] because I didn't want to give a shot away right at the end."

He added: "I felt like I played pretty solid but you have to stay patient. It's one of those courses where I don't think anyone is really going that low. I might need one and hopefully I have saved it for the last day."

Certainly McIlroy quickly dealt with any problems he found on the outward half. He made a poor start by missing the green at the first and almost fluffing his chip, but he responded to the resulting bogey with a birdie from five feet on the par-three second.

Another poor chip from the apron of the seventh green cost McIlroy a shot, but again he quickly hit back courtesy of a two-putt birdie on the par-five ninth after he had managed a 367-yard drive.

On the inward half, he kept his challenge ticking over with birdies at the 10th and the par-five 15th amid a sea of pars.

Furyk, who lifted the big prize two years ago on the eve of the last Ryder Cup, seemed to be heading for a similarly controlled round to protect the position he had created for himself on Friday when he went to the turn in 29 on his way to a 64.

However, after one birdie and 15 pars left him in a share of the lead on the 17th, the Ryder Cup player ran up a triple-bogey seven after finding water off the tee.

Woods is four off the lead on four under after a 67, with Luke Donald a shot further back after matching that score largely thanks to holing his second shot to the 14th for an eagle two.