The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
Cantlay keeps lead as Rahm closes gap
ATLANTA — For the second day in a row, no one had a better score than Jon Rahm at the Tour Championship. That’s just what he needed to make up ground on Patrick Cantlay going into a weekend chase for $15 million.
Rahm birdied his last three holes Friday for a 5-under 65. Cantlay birdied his last two holes for a bogey-free 66 to keep one shot ahead.
It’s not quite a two-man race for the FedEx Cup with 36 holes still to play at East Lake, though it was shaping up as a possibility. Bryson DeChambeau was the next closest player, and his 67 lost ground Friday. He was six shots behind.
“We definitely feed off each other,” Rahm said. “And that’s probably why you see the difference in the scoreboard right now.”
Cantlay looked as though he was protecting a lead, often playing to the fat of the green. That was more a product of showing respect to an East Lake course that punishes even slight misses on the wrong side of the hole. He hit 16 of 18 greens, and only twice did he have par putts from about the 5-foot range.
“I’m playing really well, and I think I’m playing the golf course the right way,” Cantlay said.
Cantlay started the Tour Championship at 10-under par because he was the No. 1 seed in the FedEx Cup. Rahm began four shots back.
Asked if the idea was to chip away at the lead, Rahm replied, “What other strategy is there?”
“As soon as we teed off, that didn’t matter,” he said of the four-shot deficit. “There’s a lot of golf to be played, even now.”
The reason for Cantlay’s pre-tournament advantage was because of last week at Caves Valley.
Cantlay and Rahm played in the final threesome, along with DeChambeau, going into the weekend at the BMW Championship. Cantlay finished 66-66 and won in a playoff. Rahm closed with 70-70 and tied for ninth, dropping to the No. 4 seed.
That now seems long ago. The Tour Championship, to a degree, feels normal now.
Cantlay was at 17 under. He and Rahm will be in the final group again.
DeChambeau had more work to do, as did Justin Thomas, who made two bogeys and failed to birdie the par-5 18th in his round of 67. He was seven behind.
“A place like this, there’s not really a lead that’s safe with how tough it 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 English made his share of mistakes with five bogeys in his round of 69, leaving him in the large group at 9 under.