The 2021 Tour Championship has been all about two golfers for the entire week, and they're the same two golfers who on Sunday will play in the final pairing for the third consecutive round. Patrick Cantlay (-20) and Jon Rahm (-18) both shot under par again on Saturday and are beginning to lap the field as they seek the grand prize that comes with winning the FedEx Cup Playoffs.
There will be $10 million at stake when these two tee it up in the last round of the 2020-21 PGA Tour season as the winner receives $15 million with second place taking a nice parting gift of $5 million. Anyone else in this tournament sneaking into one of those top two spots would truly be a surprise given how well both Cantlay and Rahm have played over the first 54 holes. Justin Thomas is the closest player to either of them, and he trails Rahm by three strokes and Cantlay by five going into Sunday.
"I hope [it doesn't take a 62 or 63 to win]," said Thomas. "But again, I can't do anything about what they are doing, and for my sake, they have unfortunately played some really good golf. In this format, starting ahead and them playing good golf, it's tough to catch."
Let's take a closer look at all three of their rounds and who the other chasers are as we head into the last round at East Lake Golf Club as 30 golfers sort out a total purse of $46 million on Sunday afternoon.
1. Patrick Cantlay (-20): BMW Championship Cantlay was back on Saturday as he poured in everything he looked at and made up for some shaky approach play with a hot putter. Most of his damage was done on the front nine, and it started with a 15-foot par putt at the first. He went on to make three more putts from more than 10 feet to shoot 3 under on that side, which he mostly maintained on the second nine. Then he went full Stephen Curry with a 23-footer at the last hole for birdie and the 67 to retake a two-stroke lead over his playing partner.
Rahm is a freight train coming downhill, so Cantlay's tank will be on empty no matter what when this thing is over, but he has the game and the mind to withstand an onslaught in the last round. With contrasting demeanors, this should be -- just like last week's playoff between Cantlay and Bryson DeChambeau -- really fun to watch over the last 18 holes.
2. Jon Rahm (-18): Like Cantlay, Rahm did not have his best stuff from tee to green on Saturday, but also like Cantlay, he got it done with his putter. If Cantlay is going to keep hitting 20- and 25-footers, there's not much the U.S. Open champion can do. It also might be a tell that Rahm has been lousy with his iron play this week, despite a good tee-to-green number. Certainly, he'll bring it on the last day with that amount of money at stake, not to mention a second win and possibly the PGA Tour Player of the Year on the line. But that last birdie bomb by Cantlay was not insignificant, and it seems like it's going to take something special from Rahm to grab his first FedEx Cup.
3. Justin Thomas (-15): J.T. mostly did what he needed to do to have a chance on Sunday. His 65 on Saturday included, at one point on the back nine, five 3s in a row. He got away with a shot through a tree on the 18th but three-putted for a bad bogey at that last hole that he may regret late in Round 4. If he does pull off a wild win in the final round on Sunday, it will likely be because a putter he's struggled with off and on throughout this year got hot at the very end of the season (despite that late 3-putt). Thomas has gained strokes with his putter in every round this week after losing strokes in three of four rounds last week at the BMW Championship. He said on Saturday that the money at stake on Sunday won't affect him.
"I just want to win the golf tournament," said Thomas. "I mean, I really do. I mean, obviously the money's great and I would rather have it than not have it, but to me, to say that I won the FedEx Cup and won the tournament is plenty for me. Maybe it's because I've been fortunate enough to play well and make a lot already to where I don't feel like I need to think about it. I don't know, it's just the way that I'm driven and motivated by, I guess."
4. Kevin Na (-13): Na is actually T2 behind Rahm if you take away the staggered starting scores, which is an impressive achievement for him given the quality of this field. Na has been really good for a long time, but winning a Tour Championship would certainly be the biggest win of his career (even if he doesn't technically win the FedEx Cup, he would still get an official OWGR win on Sunday if he finishes with the lowest 72-hole score for the week). Na hasn't made a bogey since the 15th hole in the first round and has been nearly flawless everywhere except for off the tee. He's likely playing for third (just as everyone behind him is as well), but when third is $4 million, that's a good thing to be playing for.
T5. Billy Horschel, Abraham Ancer (-10): Horschel was asked about the potential of playing his way into a Ryder Cup captain's pick, and he gave a really interesting answer. "As I said yesterday, I think at the beginning of the week, I think I wouldn't have got picked," said Horschel, who is T4 on the leaderboard sans starting scores. "I knew I had to play well this week. But if I didn't play well, I mean, I'm going to go play Wentworth next week. I mean, I'm not going to go home and just stay in my room and cry about not making a team. But now, now I think I've got an opportunity. At least my name is going to be mentioned, possibly, at worst, for how I played the last few days. Does that mean I'll get picked? I don't know. At the end of the day, I can only go play good golf, and hopefully maybe they see something that I can bring to the team or match up, pair up with somebody."
T7. Viktor Hovland, Bryson DeChambeau (-9): Hovland continues to lead this event in strokes gained from tee to green, just ahead of Cantlay and Rahm. Given that he's made less than $10 million on the PGA Tour in his short career, he also has a lot to play for on Sunday. None of these three have a chance of catching the top spot, but Na in fourth and Thomas in third are within reach. DeChambeau had a wild day that ended with him purposefully playing up the wrong hole off the 18th tee and getting a free drop because somebody picked up his ball. He hit his next shot on the green on the par 5 and two-putted for birdie to get in the house at 2-over 72. A very normal Bryson birdie.
T9. Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele (-8): Again, nobody in this group will be winning, but this placement is notable because the top eight in this field all earn at least $1 million. All three of these guys will also be on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, and this will be the last time we see them before Whistling Straits. I'm not sure there's momentum to be had three weeks before a team event, but with the way Collin Morikawa has been playing (not great), Brooks Koepka's withdrawal from this event on Saturday (wrist) and everything surrounding DeChambeau (which is a lot), it would be nice if Steve Stricker could look at these three for some steadiness against Europe.