COURSE LEAVES NO MARGIN FOR ERROR
MCILROY, CANTLAY SHARE LEAD IN U.S. OPEN-LIKE CONDITIONS
Rory McIlroy doesn’t need fans to keep his head in the game at the BMW Championship. Olympia Fields is so tough that it won’t allow anything but his full attention on every shot.
McIlroy and Patrick Cantlay made their share of mistakes Friday but shrugged them off because that’s bound to happen on the toughest test the PGA Tour has seen this year.
By the end of another steamy afternoon south of Chicago, they were the sole survivors to par.
One week after McIlroy admitted to going through the motions without spectators around to provide the cheers, he shot a 1-underpar 69 to share the 36-hole lead with Cantlay.
Cantlay holed a 50-foot chip for birdie and a 50-yard wedge for eagle. He also missed the green on three of the par-3s, the last one leading to a double bogey. He finished with a 40-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole for a 2-under 68, matching the best score of the round.
They were at 1-under 139, one shot ahead of Hideki Matsuyama and Dustin Johnson, who were going in opposite directions when it was time to sign their scorecards. Matsuyama, the only player to reach 4 under at any point in the first two rounds, dropped four shots in his last 10 holes for a 3-over 73. Johnson finished birdiebirdie to match McIlroy’s 69.
The phrase ‘‘U.S. Open’’ is being heard a lot more than ‘‘FedEx Cup playoffs’’ this week.
‘‘I think the test is what’s helped me focus and concentrate because if you lose focus out there for one second . . . just one lapse in concentration can really cost you around here,’’ McIlroy said.
‘‘I think one of the big keys this week is just not making big numbers. If you hit it out of position, get it back in position, make sure that your worst score is bogey and move on. Honestly, bogeys aren’t that bad out here.’’
Cantlay doesn’t expect to hole out twice a round with wedges and hopes he can sharpen his game a little. Still, he said he loves the idea of having to think and plot his way around the course.
‘‘It’s about as stiff of a test as you would want,’’ Cantlay said. ‘‘It’s very, very difficult . . . . The greens have so much slope on them that you really need to be putting uphill. And so if you’re in the rough, it gets exponentially harder to do that.’’
For those playing well — anywhere within a few shots of par in this case — it was an enjoyable challenge. For everyone, regardless of the score, it was a grind.
‘‘I don’t know if any rain will matter, really,’’ Kevin Kisner said after a bogey-bogey finish ruined what looked to be a good day and gave him an even-par 70, leaving him three shots behind. ‘‘I think even par wins the golf tournament.’’
Doesn’t 280 always win the U.S. Open? That’s what Arnold Palmer used to say. And this feels like a U.S. Open.
It’s a massive change from last week, when Johnson won by 11 shots at 30-under 254.
‘‘Last week was fun,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘But this week is more of a grind, that’s for sure. Every single hole out here is difficult. You’ve got to really be focused on every shot that you hit.’’
The conditions have been plenty tough for Tiger Woods, whose season appears to be two rounds from being over. He didn’t hit enough good shots to atone for his bad ones, and he had to make a 35-foot par putt on his final hole to shoot a 5-over 75, leaving him nine shots behind at 8 over.
Woods was tied for 55th in a tournament in which he needs to finish around fourth to be among the top 30 who advance to the Tour Championship in Atlanta. ✶
Rory McIlroy plays his shot from the sixth tee during the second round of the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields Country Club.
Patrick Cantlay hits his approach shot on the 15th hole Friday.
Tiger Woods mops his brow on the 18th green Friday at Olympia Fields Country Club. He shot a 5-over 75.