Patrick Cantlay leads Jon Rahm by one at Tour Championship

Rory McIlroy is nine shots off the lead on eight under par after second round

Jon Rahm and Patrick Cantlay on the 18th hole after the second round of the 2021 Tour Championship. Photograph: EPA

Jon Rahm and Patrick Cantlay on the 18th hole after the second round of the 2021 Tour Championship. Photograph: EPA

 

Patrick Cantlay and Jon Rahm appear to have made the Tour Championship a two-man race.

Cantlay shot a bogey-free 4-under 66 Friday to hold the lead for a second straight day at the PGA Tour’s season finale, while the world No. 1 from Spain fired a second consecutive 65 to narrow the gap to one stroke entering the weekend at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

Cantlay is 17 under for the tournament after starting the week at 10 under via a staggered start that favours those with the most FedEx Cup points. After Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau (67) is in third place at 11 under, six off the lead.

Rory McIlroy is nine shots off the lead on eight under par after recovering from playing his first four holes in two over par to return a 66, the two-time FedEx Cup winner finishing in style with three straight birdies.

The winner earns not only the 2021 FedEx Cup, but also a tidy $15 million prize. Because of those stakes, Cantlay said he was doing his best to make it feel like any other week on tour.

“Everything that I’m telling myself is just to stay totally present and shoot the lowest score I can every day and not get ahead of myself,” Cantlay said. “Sunday will feel like a normal Sunday, I’m sure, but until then, I think it’s really important to stay present and I’ve done a good job of that so far.”

Cantlay is seeking his fourth win of the season, dating back to October 2020. His most recent triumph was last week’s six-hole playoff win over DeChambeau at the BMW Championship, which lifted him into the top spot in the FedEx Cup standings. Three of Cantlay’s four birdies Friday came on the back nine, and he finished with 16 greens in regulation.

Rahm drained three straight birdies to close out his round, including a nearly 26-foot putt on the 17th. He came up just shy of holing out from a greenside bunker for eagle at the 18th, which would have landed him in a tie with Cantlay.

“If I could each week choose when I’m going to play my best golf, I would always choose the back nine, especially the last few holes, but obviously you can’t choose that,” Rahm said. “I think it just happened to be when I hit some really good shots and make the birdies.”

Cantlay and Rahm were playing partners in the final pairing Friday - and they will be side by side again for the third round Saturday.

“You definitely feed off the other player,” Rahm said. “When you have somebody like him who played a round with very few mistakes - you could argue that it could have been a lot lower - it only motivates me to keep doing a little bit better.

“Even though I want to focus on myself, every time you see a score, you know he’s not going to let up and he keeps putting it in the fairway and on the green and in the fairway and on the green, you know, kind of raises - it can raise your playing level a little bit as well as much as me raising his level when I’m making birdies.”

DeChambeau made five birdies and two bogeys to move into sole possession of third with his 3-under round. Justin Thomas shot 67 for the second day in a row to move to 10 under and solo fourth.

Thomas got a boost early in his round by reaching the green at the par-5 sixth hole in two shots and making a 10 1/2-foot eagle putt. He was 5 under for his round through 14 holes, where he sank a 60-foot birdie putt, but missed par putts at both the 16th and 17th for two of his three bogeys on the day.

“To finish the way I did was definitely disappointing,” Thomas said. “But to be even 5-under with how I was driving it was pretty impressive. I just really, for as good as I drove it yesterday, and I felt as in control as I was, I hit some really squirrely drives and (will) try to go figure that out on the range here this afternoon.

“I’m in a good spot going into this weekend. Obviously I would like to be a little closer, but there’s nothing I can do.”

Tony Finau (67), Kevin Na (67), Norway’s Viktor Hovland (68), Australia’s Cameron Smith (68) and Harris English (69) are tied for fifth at 9 under.

Collated second round scores (USA unless stated, Par 70):

17 under — Patrick Cantlay

16 under — Jon Rahm (Spa)

11 under — Bryson DeChambeau

10 under — Justin Thomas

9 under — Tony Finau, Cameron Smith (Aus), Harris English, Viktor Hovland (Nor), Kevin Na

8 under — Jordan Spieth, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa), Rory McIlroy (NIrl)

7 under — Jason Kokrak, Billy Horschel

6 under — Dustin Johnson

5 under — Abraham Ancer (Mex), Xander Schauffele

4 under — Brooks Koepka

3 under — Sam Burns

2 under — Sung Jae Im (Kor), Corey Conners (Can), Scottie Scheffler 67 72, Sergio Garcia (Spa)

1 under — Stewart Cink

Level par — Collin Morikawa

1 over — Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn), Daniel Berger, Patrick Reed

2 over — Joaquin Niemann (Chi), Erik van Rooyen (Rsa)

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.