Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - BY DOUG FER­GU­SON As­so­ci­ated press

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.

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