ATLANTA – For the second consecutive day, no one has a better score than Jon Rahm at the tour championship. This is exactly what he needed to make up Patrick Cantlay going to chase a weekend for $ 15 million.
Rahm lined up his last three holes for a 5-under 65 on Friday. Cantlay birdied his last two holes for a bogey-free 66 to hold one stroke ahead.
It’s not really a two-man race for the FedEx Cup, with 36 holes yet to be played at East Lake, though that was a possibility. Bryson DeChambeau was the closest player, and his 67 lost field Friday. He was six shots behind.
“We definitely feed each other,” Rahm said. “And that’s probably why you’re seeing the difference in the scoreboard at the moment.”
Cantlay seem to be protecting a lead, often playing to the fat of the green. It was more a product of respect for an East Lake track that punishes even minor missions on the wrong side of the hole. He hit 16 of 18 greens, and only twice did he reach putties of about 5 feet.
“I play very well, and I think I play the golf course the right way,” Cantlay said.
Cantlay started the tour championship at 10 under par because he was the first number in the FedEx Cup. Rahm starts four shots back.
Asked if the idea was to take the lead, Rahm replied, “What other strategy is there?”
“Once we kick off, it doesn’t matter,” he said of the four-stroke deficit. “A lot of golf has to be played, even now.”
The reason for Cantlay’s advantage before the tournament was in Caves Valley last week.
Cantlay and Rahm played alongside DeChambeau in the final triathlon and entered the BMW Championship this weekend. Cantlay finished 66-66 and won in a playoff game. Rahm closes with 70-70 and finishes for ninth place, falling to the number 4 seed.
It seems like a long time ago now.
The touring championship feels somewhat normal.
Cantlay was at 17 under. He and Rahm will be in the last group again.
DeChambeau has more work to do, just like Justin Thomas, who made two bogeys and failed to bird the par-5 18th in his round of 67. He was seven behind.
” A place like this, there’s not really a lead that is safe on how hard it can play, ” Thomas said. “But at the end of the day, I can ‘t worry about what the other guys are doing. I just have to go out and try to make some birdies and stop making mistakes.”
Harris Engels made his mistakes with five bogeys in his round of 69, which left him in the big group at 9 under.
So too Jordan Spieth. He was working on his fourth straight birdie to get into the mix, with a 10-foot hole on the 13th hole. He lost three putts, lost momentum and a 67. Spieth, Rory McIlroy (66) and Louis Oosthuizen (67) was at 8 under.
The low scores of the first FedEx Cup playoffs, at rain-soaked Liberty Natitonal and Caves Valley, are over, with players on every lane having a putt at 59. The best anyone on East Lake, still slightly gentle from rain and light breezes, was a 65.
So it’s harder for players to make up a lot of ground unless the leaders come back, and there’s little indication that Cantlay and Rahm are going to do that.
Cantlay watched the birdie a lot and did not hear many calls from “Patty Ice” because not many of the wells went in. He climbs up and down a bunker on the par-5 sixth. His wedge in the 13th turns back to an inch from the cup.
Rahm took a 35-foot shot from the green on the 13th, with a bad drive back to the right on the next hole and closed the gap to a shot with a 10-foot birdie on the 16th.
The last two holes felt like a duel, even for a lazy Friday afternoon.
Rahm throws in a 25-foot birdie on the 17th, and Cantlay passes his 15-foot birdie, the first time he has made a putt longer than 5 feet all day.
On the locker hole, Rahm jumps out of the front bunker to reach the range. Cantlay chopped down the slope and with the grain – one of the few times he was out of position – and watched it run 8 feet down the hole. He made it to regain the lead.
“If you have someone like him who played a round with very few errors – you could argue that it could have been much lower – it just motivates me to do a little better,” Rahm said. ‘Although I want to focus on myself, you know he will not stop, and he still keeps it in the fairway and on the green and in the fairway and on the green.
“It can increase your level of play a little bit,” he said, “as well as increase his level when I make birds.”