Jordan Spieth heads into the final round of the TOUR Championship with the 2015 FedEx Cup title in the palm of his hand. He holds a one-stroke lead over Henrik Stenson at eight-under par, and a victory by either golfer would crown them as the playoff champion.
Spieth and Stenson are joined by Rickie Fowler (T-3rd), Bubba Watson (T-8th) and Jason Day (T-10th) as players who can claim the championship outright with a win at East Lake Golf Club. If somebody else wins the season finale, the title scenarios become far more complicated.
Let's check out how the top of the leaderboard shapes up following Saturday's third round. That's followed by a recap of the action and a glance toward Sunday's play.
The field posted some terrific scores Thursday, headlined by Stenson's 63. East Lake has provided a far greater challenge over the past two days, however, which has caused the field to bunch up heading into the final round.
Rex Hoggard of Golf Channel noted tournament officials implemented lift, clean and place for Round 3 as rain continued to fall in the Atlanta area overnight. The ruling didn't do much to help scores as the water-logged course continued to provide a stern test.
Jason Day, who won four times over his past six starts and looked borderline unstoppable coming into the event, sits at just even par after three rounds. That along with the fact he's still tied for 10th illustrates the tricky nature of East Lake.
One player who quietly managed to climb the leaderboard Saturday was Rory McIlroy. He's struggled to find top form during the latter stages of the season, which allowed the spotlight to shift toward Spieth, Day, Fowler and, so far this week, Stenson.
He started to find a rhythm on the back nine Saturday just to remind everybody he's still a serious threat every time he tees it up. The PGA Tour highlighted part of his birdie barrage, which helped him move into third place:
Fowler, one of the aforementioned players who can capture the FedEx Cup outright with a win this week, also moved into the top five. He thrived on the back nine, posting four birdies and no bogeys to reach four-under overall.
The result was the day's best round, per the PGA Tour:
At the top, the battle between Stenson and Spieth intensified over the final handful of holes.
The 22-year-old American came up with a clutch par save on the 16th by rolling in a 22-foot putt to stay within one stroke.
He then got back level on the 17th courtesy of a Stenson bogey. The Swede hit a terrible approach shot into the greenside bunker and couldn't make a sand save. It led to his fourth bogey of the day and third on the back nine.
Both players left themselves long-range birdie putts on the closing hole. Stenson came up short before Spieth gave the crowd reason to erupt, via the PGA Tour:
The clutch putt gave Spieth the solo lead heading into Round 4. Jason Sobel of ESPN commented on the fan reaction:
Gary Van Sickle of Golf.com provided some analysis after Saturday's duel for the lead:
It's a common theme when those two square off, as Justin Ray of Golf Channel explained:
Looking ahead, the forecast looks more promising for Sunday. The Weather Channel projects just a 20 percent chance of rain with a high of 74 degrees. The course might not completely dry out, but it should at least make conditions during the final round more manageable.
Given how much is on the line, from the championship to the huge payday, the test will be just as much mental as it is physical. This course has proven it can do some serious damage to a scorecard if the wrong decisions are made or a player's ball-striking is a bit off due to nerves.
Spieth showed throughout the season that he embraces the challenge on the sport's biggest stages. It wouldn't be the least bit surprising if he comes out firing and earns himself another marquee victory to cap an outstanding 2015 campaign.
That said, with a star-studded group of players in contention, including Stenson, McIlroy, Fowler and Open Championship winner Zach Johnson, there's only one thing golf fans can definitely expect during Sunday's final round: drama.