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Johnson aims for big 'splash' in season finale

Zach Johnson of U.S. poses with the trophy after winning the BMW Championship golf tournament at the Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest,
Zach Johnson of U.S. poses with the trophy after winning the BMW Championship golf tournament at the Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest,

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

ATLANTA (Reuters) - Fresh from a two-stroke victory at the weather-delayed BMW Championship in Chicago on Monday, Zach Johnson would dearly love to end his 2013 PGA Tour campaign with "a splash" at this week's Tour Championship.

Not only is another tournament win on the line at East Lake Golf Club in the season's finale, but also FedExCup playoff honors and the eye-popping $10 million bonus that comes with it.

Every player in the elite field of 30 has a mathematical chance of claiming both titles but only Johnson and four others are automatically guaranteed the overall playoff prize by winning the Tour Championship.

"That's the point of the FedExCup is you want to get in contention coming into Atlanta," Johnson, who is ranked fourth in the points standings, told reporters at East Lake on Tuesday.

"And fortunately, I'm in that position now where one really good week has significant incentives. The beauty of that is that we've got a great competition here to try to get to that point, and I love it.

"I love everything this course demands. Certainly, the field's great. It's just a fantastic tournament to kind of make a splash at the end of the year. I'm excited to come back here."

Though thrilled with his game after charging to the 10th PGA Tour victory of his career with a closing six-under-par 65 at Conway Farms in the penultimate playoff event, Johnson knows the slate will be wiped clean this week.

"I've still got a lot of work to do," the 37-year-old American said. "It was a fantastic week (at the BMW) from start to finish, something that hopefully I can somewhat continue into this week and beyond.

"This is arguably one of the best tournaments we have for sure, if not the best. It's a tournament that encompasses the whole year, so you've got to have good, steady play."

BIG NUMBER

As for the mind-boggling $10 million bonus, Johnson conceded that such a big number was difficult to grapple with.

"That type of incentive is hard to just wrap your mind around," he smiled. "I can't imagine. I hate to say it, but it is just money.

"Fortunately, I'm in a position professionally where I don't think that's going to change me or my family at all, the hypotheticals," added Johnson, whose has piled up more than $30 million in career earnings on the PGA Tour.

"When things of that nature and that magnitude have hit us before, there's a huge filtering process, and there's a team of individuals that we consult with on what to do and how to do things. I don't see it being any different in that regard."

Any of the top five players in the points standings would secure FedExCup honors by winning this week's Tour Championship - and that quintet comprises Tiger Woods, Swede Henrik Stenson, Australian Adam Scott and Americans Johnson and Matt Kuchar.

"I'm in a position just like the other four guys in the top five," said Woods, the FedExCup champion in 2007 and 2009 and winner of a season-high five titles on the 2013 PGA Tour. "Top five you control your destiny.

"You win the tournament, you win it outright. Sneds proved that last year," he added, referring to fellow American Brandt Snedeker, who clinched the 2012 Tour Championship and FedExCup honors after starting the week fifth in the standings.

Only 30 players have qualified for the last of the four playoff events after 125 started out at the Barclays tournament won by Masters champion Scott at Liberty National last month.

Each of those 30 has a mathematical chance of winning the FedExCup, with the points having been reset since the BMW Championship. However that likelihood diminishes the lower down the standings the player sits going into this week's event.

Long-hitting American Dustin Johnson, ranked 30th, needs to win the Tour Championship with overall points leader Woods finishing no better than 29th, along with several other scenarios.

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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