September 20, 2017 / 9:54 PM / in a month

Golf: Top-ranked Spieth primed for $10 million bonus at East Lake

(Reuters) - Jordan Spieth feels good about the quality of his game heading into the season-ending Tour Championship starting in Atlanta on Thursday, even if he is not holing as many long putts as when he won the event in 2015.

Sep 14, 2017; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Jordan Spieth tees off on the 4th hole during the first round of the BMW Championship golf tournament at Conway Farms Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Spieth will tee off at East Lake in top spot in the PGA Tour ranking, his sights set on staying there and finishing FedExCup champion to collect the $10 million bonus awarded to the winner of the season-long points race.

A final round 65 at the BMW Championship on Sunday came too late to challenge for victory at that event outside Chicago, but it was a welcome tonic.

“I was pumped to have the round I had on Sunday, to maintain the number one spot,” British Open champion Spieth told reporters at East Lake.

“I was a little off to start the week in my striking. I feel now close to the way I was hitting it the first two playoff events. If it was a major I’d feel very pleased with where things are.”

The top five players in the standings -- Spieth, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Marc Leishman and Jon Rahm -- control their own destiny, meaning that if they win the tournament they also win the FedExCup.

The other 25 in the elite field all have a mathematical chance of being crowned champion, but it would take a freak confluence of circumstances for those outside the top 15 to do so.

Spieth struggled with his swing when he won in 2015, but his short game was sublime.

“It was one of my worst ball-striking rounds of the year,” he recalled. “I just chipped and putted so well I was able to win.

”I don’t want to emulate that at all. That’s a lot more stressful and I haven’t been making putts from outside 10 feet like I did that year consistently, so I can’t rely on that.”

Fellow American Rickie Fowler, sixth in the standings, is also playing well, coming off a tie for second behind Australian Leishman last Sunday.

Fowler thinks a score of 14 or 15 under par might be needed to win at East Lake, his prediction made with the proviso that rain or strong wind could alter his thoughts.

“You can’t fake it at East Lake,” Fowler told Reuters in a telephone interview on the tournament’s eve. “There’s some rough there but the course is playable.”

Rory McIlroy shot 12-under before winning in a playoff last year, while Spieth won with nine-under in 2015.

McIlroy has endured a lean season, and this week offers him a final chance to taste victory on the PGA Tour in 2017.

Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Toby Davis

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