For the second day in a row, no one did better than Jon Rahm in the Tour Championship. That’s exactly what it took to make up ground for Patrick Cantlay, who went hunting for $ 15 million over the weekend.
Rahm made birdie for 5 under 65 on his last three holes on Friday. Cantlay made his last two holes birdie for a bogey-free 66 to keep one shot ahead.
It’s not exactly a two-man race for the FedEx Cup with 36 holes yet to be played at East Lake, although it turned out to be a possibility. Bryson DeChambeau was the next player to lose ground on Friday. He was six shots behind him.
“We definitely feed on each other,” said Rahm. “And that’s probably why you’re seeing the difference on the scoreboard now.”
WATCH l Cantlay retains Tour Championship lead before the weekend:
Cantlay retains his lead at the Tour Championship before the weekend
Cantlay looked like he was defending a lead and often played with the fat of the green. It was more a product of respect for an East Lake course that penalizes even slight failures on the wrong side of the hole. He hit 16 of 18 greens and only twice par putts from the 5-foot range.
“I play really well and I think I’m playing the golf course right,” said Cantlay.
Cantlay started the Tour Championship at 10 under par because he was number 1 in the FedEx Cup. Rahm started four shots back.
When asked whether it was a question of taking away the lead, Rahm replied: “What other strategy is there?”
“As soon as we tee off, it didn’t matter,” he said of the four-shot deficit. “There is still a lot of golf to be played now.”
The reason for Cantlay’s pre-tournament advantage was his last week in the Caves Valley.
Cantlay and Rahm played together with DeChambeau in the last three that went into the weekend at the BMW Championship. Cantlay finished 66-66 and won in a playoff. Rahm finished at 70-70 and finished for ninth place, falling to No. 4 seeds.
That seems a long time ago.
The Tour Championship now feels normal to some extent.
Cantlay was 17 years old. He and Rahm will be in the bottom group again.
DeChambeau was busier, as was Justin Thomas, who made two bogeys in his round of 67 and finished 18th.
“Not really a sure track”
“In a place like this there is no really safe lead when you can play that hard,” said Thomas. “But at the end of the day I can’t worry about what the other guys are doing. I just have to go out there and try to do some birdies and stop making mistakes.”
Harris English made his share of mistakes with five bogeys in his round of 69, leaving him 9 under in the big group.
So does Jordan Spieth. Wanting to get right into the mix with his fourth straight birdie, he faced a 10-foot putt on the 13th hole. He made three putts, lost his momentum and shot a 67. Spieth, Rory McIlroy (66) and Louis Oosthuizen (67) were 8 under.
Lone Canadian Corey Conners of Listowel, Ontario fired a 2 over 72 and dropped to 2 under course by the weekend.
Gone are the low scores of the FedEx Cup playoff events in rain-soaked Liberty National and Caves Valley, where players on each seat had a putt with a 59 light breeze was a 65.
As a result, it is harder for players to make up a lot of ground if the front-runners don’t come back and there has been little sign that Cantlay and Rahm will.
Cantlay had a lot of birdie looks and didn’t hear many patty ice shouts because not many of those putts came in. He came from a bunker on the 6th. His wedge in the 13th turned back to an inch of the cup.
Rahm punched a 35-foot putt from the green on the 13th, returned it to the right on the next hole with a bad shot, and closed the gap in one fell swoop on the 16th with a 10-foot birdie.
The last two holes felt like a duel even for a lazy Friday afternoon.
Rahm put in a 25 foot birdie putt on the 17th, and Cantlay adjusted his birdie from 15 feet, the first time he had putted more than 5 feet all day.
At the final hole, Rahm burst from the front bunker within reach. Cantlay was chopping down the slope and with the grain – one of the few times he was out of position – and watched it go eight feet from the hole. He did this to regain leadership.
“When you have someone like him who has played a round with very few mistakes – you could argue that it could have been a lot less – that only motivates me to do a little better,” said Rahm. “Even if I want to concentrate on myself, you know that he will not let up and keep laying on the fairway and on the green and on the fairway and on the green.
“It can raise your level of play a little,” he said, “just as I can raise his level when I do birdies.”