Justin Rose: World number one stands on brink of play-off glory

Justin Rose is hoping to emulate Rory McIlroy’s 2016 Tour Championship win

There might be no more fitting climax to the PGA Tour season than a Justin Rose victory to wrap up the play-offs and deposit a further $10m in the Englishman’s burgeoning bank account.

Having reached the summit of the world rankings through relentless consistency, Rose can tick off one of the few golfing accomplishments to elude him so far if he wins at this week’s Tour Championship in Atlanta.

The 38-year-old achieved his world number one goal earlier this month. He has also won a major (the 2013 US Open), is the reigning Olympic champion, and twice a Ryder Cup winner, having landed the European Tour’s Order of Merit back in 2007.

Now he wants the American equivalent. Lying second behind only Bryson DeChambeau in the FedEx Cup list, his destiny lies in his own hands at East Lake this week.

If Rose wins, no-one can prevent him from winning the season-long PGA Tour spoils. Indeed, a top-three finish is likely to be enough to land this cherished accolade, which comes with the most lucrative cheque in the game.

Rory McIlroy, in 2016, is the only other UK winner in the 11 years of the play-offs. Unlike the Northern Irishman, who can go on devastating streaks of form, Rose makes his mark less spectacularly but much more consistently.

In 17 PGA Tour events this season, Rose has won twice and finished in the top 10 on 10 occasions with only one missed cut. His rise to world number one came off the back of successive runner-up finishes in the past two play-off events.

He has also achieved top-10 placings in five of his past six Tour Championships and his share of the runners-up position in 2015 shows a genuine affinity for the historic Atlanta course.

“I’d hate to round out the season with three seconds, but that could be good enough,” Rose said. “You just never know. Good couple of weeks; what can I say?

“Obviously the play-offs are very definite. That’s why they’re sudden death. You win it or you lose it.”

England’s Tommy Fleetwood qualified automatically for the Ryder Cup, while Paul Casey was chosen as a wildcard by Europe captain Thomas Bjorn

In a wider context, would a Rose victory be a big boost for Europe’s quest to win back the Ryder Cup? On the face of it, beating a field containing 11 of the 12 American team members in their own backyard should help fuel continental hopes.

But wins can have draining effects, even after a week off celebrating world number one status. There might be a chance of the home side’s most in-form player running on empty by the time he arrives in Versailles.

“I always think the FedEx Cup can be a bit hard with the Ryder Cup coming straight after it for those guys doing really well,” Europe’s captain Thomas Bjorn told the BBC’s The Cut golf podcast.

“You’ve got to time manage them, you’ve got to manage their energy levels and they have got to be very good at looking after themselves for what is a very tough and hard period.

“Emotionally they go through a lot of things and when you get to world number one, you have got to look after yourself and keep pushing through the next few weeks.

“And Justin’s a full-out professional and you can be very sure that he is capable of doing that. You’ve got to take all the positives from one of your players going to world number one.”

Five other members of Bjorn’s team will be appearing in this week’s PGA Tour showdown: McIlroy, Open champion Francesco Molinari, Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm and Paul Casey.

The captain will be watching most closely Casey’s progress after the Englishman pulled out of the rain-affected BMW Championship with a back injury.

Of the US dozen who will be heading to Le Golf National next week, only Jordan Spieth has failed to make it to the Tour Championship. Like Rose, DeChambeau, Tony Finau, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas reside in the top five of the standings.

These are the players who know that a win this week will bring them that bumper payout for becoming the PGA Tour’s number one player.

The chances of Tiger Woods winning the FedEx Cup for the third time are pretty limited. Twentieth in the standings, he would need to win, have DeChambeau finish outside the top 15 and have other leading contenders falter to have any chance.

But the fact that Woods has made it to the season finale is a massive achievement in itself. This will be his 18th start of the campaign and only once since turning 30 has the 42-year-old played as many tournaments.

Woods’ return to the Ryder Cup, for the first time since 2012, will be parked in the back of his mind for this week at least.

The same can be said of the 17 players who will make the journey from Atlanta to Paris – most notably Rose, the man currently on top of the golfing world.