Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama grabbed a one-shot lead at the BMW Championship by setting a course record with a 9-under-par 63 at Medinah Country Club outside of Chicago on Friday.
Scoring conditions weren’t quite as favorable on Medinah’s No. 3 course as they were when Justin Thomas and Jason Kokrak tied the course record with 65s on Thursday, but that didn’t slow Matsuyama, who sank seven putts outside of 10 feet in carding nine birdies.
He holds a one-shot lead at 12-under 132 over Tony Finau (66 on Friday) and Patrick Cantlay (67). Thomas is another shot back at 10 under, with a half-dozen players another shot off the pace: Lucas Glover, Chez Reavie, Xander Schauffele, Canada’s Adam Hadwin and Corey Conners and Slovakia’s Rory Sabbatini.
World No. 1 Brooks Koepka managed only a 1-under 71 on Friday and is seven shots back in a tied for 25th at 5 under. However, he is still projected to hold the No. 1 spots in the FedEx Cup rankings entering next week’s Tour Championship in Atlanta, where the top-seeded player will hold a two-shot advantage and begin the tournament at 10 under.
Patrick Reed, who won last week’s The Northern Trust, is also at 5 under and projected to fall three spots to No. 5, with Matsuyama projected to vault to No. 2, followed by Cantlay and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, who is tied for 11th at 8 under at the BMW.
Tiger Woods saw a promising round derailed by a pair of late bogeys. He shot a second consecutive 71 and is tied for 48th at 2 under. Likely needing to finish 11th or better to qualify for East Lake and defend his title at the Tour Championship, Woods is currently projected to drop seven more spots to No. 45.
Other big names who currently sit outside of the top 30, the cutoff to qualify for East Lake, include Jordan Spieth (No. 48), Phil Mickelson (No. 51) and Australia’s Jason Day (No. 55). Reigning FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose of England is tied for 40th at 3 under and is projected to drop to 15th.
Matsuyama birdied his first hole of the day en route to his lowest round of the year. He made the turn in 5-under 36, then poured in four more birdies on the back nine.
“It seemed like every time I had a birdie chance today that I made the putt,” Matsuyama told the Golf Channel through his interpreter. “You add it up, and that’s what I got.”
Matsuyama has fallen to No. 32 in the world rankings and is without a victory since 2017, when he ended the year No. 5, but he has posted a third and four other top-10 finishes in 20 events this year while missing only two cuts.
Cantlay has been going the other direction, breaking into the world’s top 10 for the first time in his career with a victory at the Memorial following ties for third at the PGA Championship and RBC Heritage and a tie for ninth at the Masters.
He had five birdies on a bogey-free card Friday, including salvaging par after driving it into the water on the par-4 15th hole.
“I played really solid today,” Cantlay said. “I don’t think you can play your way perfect around this place. Eventually, you will have to get up and down, just because it’s long and if you get out of position you need to leave yourself fat side.”
Finau, who is searching for his second PGA Tour victory, also had a bogey-free card that included four birdies over a five-hole stretch on the front nine.
“I mean, I feel like a win is around the corner. I felt that way all season,” Finau said, per Golfweek. “Coming off the Ryder Cup, I feel like I got some great experience there. Had a couple good looks at majors this year and haven’t got it done, but one of these times I know it’s going to be my turn. And hopefully that’s Sunday.”
Finau is also currently projected to move from 10th to No. 8 in the Presidents Cup standings, bumping Bryson DeChambeau to No. 9. The top eight following this week will automatically qualify for the United States team captained by Tiger Woods.
Woods also will have four captain’s picks.