The 27-year-old Matsuyama rode a hot putter, making 165’8” feet of putts including birdie putts of 23’5” and 30’2” on the 17th and 18th holes respectively to snatch a one-shot lead in the second of three FedExCup Playoffs event on the PGA TOUR.
It was the third time in his impressive career that the highly talented Japanese, who is bogey-free through 36 holes, has taken the halfway lead on the PGA TOUR as he chases a sixth career win and his first title in over two years.
Americans Patrick Cantlay and Tony Finau share second place with 2017 FedExCup champion Justin Thomas lying a further shot back.
Korea’s Si Woo Kim carded a 67 to move up to T15 as he bids to keep his Playoffs hopes alive. The 2017 PLAYERS champion needs to finish fourth this weekend to have any hope of progressing into next week’s TOUR Championship, which will reward the FedExCup winner with a bumper US$15 million payday.
It was another day to remember for Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan, who carded a bogey free 67 to outscore playing partner and idol Tiger Woods by four shots as he moved up to T21. Pan needs a projected 12th place finish to advance to Atlanta while he is also fighting to maintain or improve his eighth place position on the International Team standings for the Presidents Cup when the top-8 qualifying race concludes on Sunday.
Matsuyama, Japans’s most successful golfer on the PGA TOUR, was delighted to speed his way to the top of the BMW Championship leaderboard heading into the weekend rounds. A good week here will move him into next week’s Playoffs Finale, exclusive to the top-30 players, where he is currently ranked 33rd.
“I did make a lot of long putts and that was the difference,” said Matsuyama. “It started yesterday during my (first) round … I was able to halfway through kind of see what I was doing wrong on the greens and it carried over today. I was able to fix it and it carried over.”
“I'm really happy with my position. It's been a long time since I've been in contention. Hopefully I can play well. I've been struggling for a while this year. Hopefully that can turn around and I'll have a good weekend.”
Pan free-wheeled his way to five birdies against no bogeys to eclipse Woods. After a jittery start on Thursday, Pan’s five birdies at Medinah for a two-day score of 6-under 138 gives him a fighting chance to qualify for his first FedExCup Playoffs Finale, the TOUR Championship next week and also secure a maiden appearance in the Presidents Cup in December.
“It was a good day. Five-under and I was definitely more normal, you know, playing with Tiger compared to the first round. I wasn't as nervous. I played really good, played solid, just hit a couple bad shots but I was able to bounce back right away and make some birdies,” said Pan, who trails leader Hideki Matsuyama of Japan by six shots in T21.
If not for a cold putter early on, Pan could have been an even better day as he missed several makeable birdie chances early in his round which attracted large galleries at Medinah’s Course No. 3.
“Yeah, first four holes, I had chances from within 15 feet. Hit a lot of good putts. Just misread a couple times,” he lamented.
Pan needs a projected 12th place finish to advance into the Playoffs Finale which the FedExCup champion will bag a cool US$15 million. He also needs to ensure he stays within the top-8 of the International Team standings for the Presidents Cup when qualifying ends on Sunday.
“I feel good about my game. There are a couple things I think I can do better which I will improve. I just want to play good golf and hopefully that will take care of everything,” said Pan.