Fourth-ranked Patrick Cantlay finds himself in a familiar position in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, atop the leaderboard.
Cantlay, the defending champion, posted a 6-under-par 65 and will take a one-stroke lead over sixth-ranked Xander Schauffele and Scott Stallings heading to the final round of the BMW Championship, second event of the playoffs, at Wilmington Country Club in Wilmington, Del.
The top 70 players in the FedEx Cup point standings were eligible for this tournament and the top 30 after Sunday will advance to the Tour Championship, which begins Thursday at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, where Cantlay will try to become the first player to repeat as FedEx Cup champion.
“I hit the ball really well today, but I left a few out there,” said Cantlay, from Los Alamitos and UCLA, who missed several short putts. “It was all about my bounce-backs. I made a couple of mistakes, but both times I made bogeys, I came right back with a birdie on the next hole and that helped keep my momentum going into tomorrow.
“I’m sure it will take a lot more good golf tomorrow to win this tournament. You have to drive the ball in the fairway around here because the rough is thick, and you have to keep the ball below the hole because there is a lot of slope on the greens.
“This was my goal coming onto the week, to have a chance to win on Sunday.”
Cantlay, who also won the Tour Championship last year, made three birdies on each nine against his two bogeys, and holed out from 104 yards for an eagle on the 14th hole while recording a three-round score of 12-under 201 after opening with two 68s.
Schauffele, the 2021 Olympic Gold Medalist from La Jolla and San Diego State, sank a six-foot eagle putt at No. 3 en route to a bogey-free 66, while Stallings made for birdies on the first eight hole on his way to another 66.
“I know how he hits the ball, he knows how I hit the ball,” said Schauffele, who played together in the 2019 Presidents Cup and teamed up to win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans earlier this season. They will be in the same foursome Sunday for the fourth straight day.
“If I flush one or he flushes one, it sort of is extra information that we can use. I like to use that as an advantage, and we’re good friends, so it’s a very sort of easygoing pairing even though we’re trying to beat each other.”
Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler was right behind Cantlay before making bogeys on the 16th and 17th holes but closed with a birdie to shoot 68 and is two shots back in a tie for fourth with Adam Scott, the 36-hole leader who had a 69, while eight-ranked Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge and Cal collected seven birdies in a 65 and is three down in a tie for sixth with Aaron Wise of Lake Elsinore, who sank a 16-foot eagle putt at No. 14 in his 67.
Joaquin Niemann of Chile had four birdies against a single bogey in a 68 and is one more down in a tie for eighth with Corey Conners of Canada, who made two late bogeys in a 70, while third-ranked Rory McIlroy had four birdies on the back nine to salvage a 70 and is five strokes behind in a tie 10th with Denny McCarthy, who birdied three of the first four holes on his way to a 66, Sungjae Im of South Korea and Taylor Pendrith of Canada, who both came in at 67.
Fifth-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain is tied for 18th after a bogey-free 65, seventh-ranked Justin Thomas struggled to a 75 and is tied for 51st, and 10th-ranked Viktor Hovland also stumbled to a 75 and is tied for 64th.
Ninth-ranked Will Zalatoris, who took over the FedEx Cup points lead by winning the FedEx St. Jude Championship last week, was forced to withdraw after three holes because of a lower back injury. If Zalatoris is able to play next week at East Lake, he will enter the tournament at either second or third in the point standings.
For complete results and projected FedEx Cup point standings, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html