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  • Associated Press Paul Casey of England tees off the fourth hole during the third round of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta on Saturday. Casey has a two-shot lead going into the final round.

Sunday, September 24, 2017 1:00 am

Casey close to elusive title

Hasn't won since '09; takes 2-shot lead into final day

DOUG FERGUSON | Associated Press

ATLANTA – Paul Casey had an easy time keeping it simple even as he was presented all the scenarios, projections and possibilities of winning $10 million for the FedEx Cup.

“They went in one ear and out the other,” Casey said. “All I know is that none of them matter if I don't win. So I have to win.”

And for a guy who has gone more than eight years and 143 starts on the PGA Tour since his last victory, winning the Tour Championship was his sole objective when he left East Lake on Saturday evening with a two-shot lead.

Casey closed out the front nine by twice having to get up-and-down for bogey, and then he kept a clean card the rest of the way. He holed a 40-foot birdie putt from the back of the 17th green that carried him to a 5-under 65, giving him another chance to finally have something to show for his stellar performance in the FedEx Cup playoffs.

He lost a three-shot lead at the TPC Boston a year ago. He ran into Dustin Johnson at Crooked Stick. Six times in his last eight FedEx Cup playoff events, he has finished among the top five. And he's still trying to earn that first PGA Tour victory since the 2009 Houston Open.

At stake in the final round today is not only a chance to end the drought, but to take home the richest payoff in golf – a $10 million bonus, with $9 million paid out immediately.

“It would be amazing,” the 40-year-old from England said. “Yes, I have given that thought. And then I try not to think about it.”

Casey was at 12-under 198.

Kevin Kisner had a 64, his best round at East Lake by three shots, and still rued too many birdie chances that burned the edge of the cup. Also two shots behind was Xander Schauffele, the PGA Tour rookie from San Diego who shot a 65.

The top five seeds in the FedEx Cup only have to win to claim's golf's biggest payoff, and those numbers are dwindling.

Justin Thomas, the No. 2 seed and a five-time winner this year, had two birdies over the last three holes gave him a 70, and he was still in the mix at five shots behind. Jordan Spieth put together three birdies to salvage a 69. Jon Rahm, the No. 5 seed, had to settle for a 70 and was six shots behind. Johnson (No. 3) also had a 69.